Water in Climbers Run was the clearest in the region, but it still had a pale haze to it, so that I could barely make out the bottom of the four foot hole. Not likely I would be able to see any brooks in these conditions. If I can’t see them first and stealthily move closer, they sense my presence and are gone long before I know they are here. But that doesn’t matter right now. The architecture of the creek is incredible. Huge scalloped bedrock spires lay on their sides. Water piles clean orange, red, blue and white gravel behind them. Woody debris collects in the slower spots and the water moves in deceiving directions with a strong upstream push on the far bank, that looks like downstream current from the shore.
An Appalachian brook crayfish darts back into her burrow when she sees me pass nearby. If I had clearer water, I would have seen her first, and been able to watch from a distance and maybe creep up on her. This stream, like most in the Susquehanna Riverlands region, seems like it belongs in western Pennsylvania. Hemlock and rhododendron grow in the bottom of the steep sided gorge and shroud the stream as it tumbles from bedrock shelf to pool and over the next shelf.
A large stone fly gets swept out from under a rock, and it scrambles to gain a footing on the slick schist slab it lands on. The insect has an intricate tan lined design on its head and thorax that interrupts the deep chestnut of its body. There aren’t many other noticeable benthic macroinvertebrates here. Every stream has its own signature, its own look. This one seems to have its nutrient load in balance. Lots of algae that supports lots of grazing caddisflies, like most of the streams I snorkel, are over fertilized. This one is clear of visible algae, and there are few caddis. But is has a few large stoneflies instead. Stoneflies indicate really clean water and are the building blocks of a healthy native trout fishery. But this stoney is so much more than a water quality canary or trout food. It is a beauty and a wonder in its own right.
I push back up into a chute that forces the water into a strong flow, through as much current force as my mask will tolerate and still stay on my face, and land in a deep side eddy. I barely notice a dark trout through the haze as it darts under me. A second one ambles away from under the tangle of branches lodged in a bedrock cleft, but this one is still just a little too far to get a good view and shot. These were brooks, I am sure of it, and I will be back to watch them when the water is clearer. I am happy with this short visit to a wonderful stream, and the beautiful stone fly made the trip worth it. Stone flies are so much more than trout food.