Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Few Hours Apart

I was here last night just as the sun was setting to test out a new camera system. I didn’t see any fish and it didn’t work very well, but as usual, it was still an interesting swim. They always are. I returned the next morning with my trusted system, slipped into the cold water and hoped that a few hour difference would mean the presence of life. I saw a few fish as soon as I got in. They weren’t anything spectacular like brook trout or some kind of rare or colorful darter - the kind of fish that get people excited. They were just some non-descript minnow, common shiners. But even though they were common, and non-spectacular by most people’s standards, they kept me mesmerized. The water is getting cold, it’s about 45 today, and things should start to slow down. But these fish held in the current faced upstream, and watched for food morsels to pass within range. Their caudal fins beat hard against the flow of water to keep them in the same spot, but their heads barely moved except to nab something from the water column as it flew past. I am always amazed at how efficient fish make it look, as I clumsily try to hold position in the same spot. My feet get sucked through a chute and it takes all of my strength to claw back upstream. But the fish just swim in place with incredible grace compared to my awkward flailing. I pull around a large boulder and watch another minnow hold in the eddy, a little more sluggish than the two in the current, but still beautiful. A crayfish crawled in the lee of a rock that split the incredible hydraulic force at the base of a short falls. I am just as amazed by the crayfish as I am by the common shiners. I played with them as a kid, caught them by the hundreds from the stream behind my house, any they still hold my fascination. How did it come to be here in one small pocket of refuge from the torrent in one of the most violent places in the stream? Where will it spend the winter? Life amazes. Basin Run is settling down for the winter, but life is still abundant. Pretty incredible what a difference a few hours can make.

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