There is a deep pool in a small stream that I suspected held big trout for years. A large beech stands on an undercut bank and its roots hang down into the pool. Large boulders form dark recesses on the opposite bank. Lots of hiding places for big fish.
Visions of brook trout danced in my head as I got into the clear water. It was unlikely but possible that I might see the only native trout in this region. More likely were the two nonnatives. Even if I didn’t see any fish, this view of the underwater architecture of the stream, slightly tainted aqua marine in the distance was worth the submersion.
I crawled upstream slowly, careful not to disturb the bottom. I peeked under the first boulder overhang and startled a large trout as much as it startled me. We stared at each other in surprised amazement or a few seconds then it decided to rocket upstream. I thought I lost my opportunity to get a positive ID but I was pretty sure it was a brown, maybe a rainbow. It was a light colored trout with dark spots, and around here those are the two light colored choices.
Neither are native. Rainbows are put and take fish stocked from hatcheries to be fished out. They can’t reproduce in the wild here. Browns are European fish that are stocked and have established wild breeding populations.
I continued to ease upstream in the current. A large brown, possibly the same one I scared out from under the boulder, held in the current out in the open and watched me crawl closer, unfazed by my presence. It knew it was the biggest fish here and simply held in the middle in the open with an air of arrogant confidence. It swam against a stiff current with strong grace and seemed to have a wisdom that comes from really knowing an area. This fish knew this hole better than I ever could, and it would use that knowledge to evade me when the time came. The fish seemed to know I was out of my element.
It watched me watch it. A smaller brown quickly swam downstream. I focused on getting the perfect shot of the large brown trout when a dark trout shot past, so fast it was as if the fish vaporized and replaced with a a puff of sediment. Could that have been a brookie? Brook trout are special because if they are here, they were born here. And because they are climate change sentinels. They require clear, clean, cold streams and so are the ultimate aquatic canary for water quality.
I can’t be sure if this dark shadow was a brookie, but it is possible. The only fish that fits the brief visionary profile is a brook trout. I will need to return to confirm their presence. Visions of brook trout dance in my head, and one might have just shot past.