Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Stayed In Way Too Long, and It Wasn’t Long Enough

Climbers Run is a complicated stream. Its bottom is a collection of exposed bedrock, rock slabs, extensive mounds of gravel and sand bottomed eddys. The currents reflect the complexity of the architecture and Climbers water flows in unexpected directions. I am not familiar with Climbers. This is a new stream for me, so I don’t have enough experience in its waters to establish normal, if there is such a thing for a steam. The complicated structure and diverse habitat results in lots of diverse life, and lots of places to search. I start in a downstream pool and slowly swim upriver. A juvenile trout of some kind holds over a gravel flat. Its caudle fin beats like the wings of a hummingbird just to keep position in the river yet its body stays motionless, and it reminds me of an excited puppy, wagging its tail as fast as it can. A school of stonerollers glides over the bottom then darts when they encounter my shadow. A group of common shiner huddle just to the side of a strong current, in a bowl framed by flat rock slabs. Their iridescence always takes my breath for a minute. Common doesn’t do this fish justice. I worked each pool in this fashion, downstream to up, side to side, main flow to eddy and back, and I never explored all of the crannies of even one pool. I enter into one last pool. I am shivering, and my hands barely hold the camera. A black nosed dace shoots under me, followed by a brook trout, way too fast for me to capture on my camera. I follow them upstream. I really want to get the brook trout image. Instead a large fish comes out of the shadows and follows the V fracture in the bedrock right at me, turns and retreats to the shadow before I can make an identification. It is a large fish, with what looks like a snout, and it is bold. It comes right at me quickly again, hovers in front of me, and heads back to the dark recesses under the snort falls that forms this pool. This time it is in my mask long enough for me to fire off a few shots and get a positive identification. It is a stone roller. A big one, and it is bold. It seems to think it is bigger than I am and wants to take me on. Maybe I am in its prime breeding spot, but it doesn’t have any breeding tubercles, growths males get on their head in breeding season. Maybe he’s just warming up. The stoneroller and I played for a while in this way, and the fish became used to my presence and let me get very close as it hid under the undercut stone shelf behind the short waterfall. It was hard to control my shivering so I reluctantly got out. My feet were painfully cold, and my hands were barely functional. I stayed in Climbers Run way too long, but it wasn’t nearly long enough to fully explore all of the diversity it contains.

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