This is an anxious time of year for me. I worry about the return of migrants to our streams. When our creeks should be exploding with life and they’re not, I worry that this might be the year the herring and shad don’t return. I worry that the eggs that are placed on the lee of a rock in the middle of a Deer Creek rapid every spring might not appear. This time of year I anxiously wait to see who arrives so that I can either celebrate their return, or lament their loss. I have been in Deer Creek every day this week looking, hoping, praying, that the shad and herring will reappear, but the rapid is still empty, and the eggs still aren’t placed.
I inadvertently flip over a rock as I struggle upstream and dislodge a huge stonefly. It is a beautiful insect with grey flanged thorax mottled with faint dull red. Its eyes were obvious, and its antenna probed its newly exposed environment. The presence of this insect makes me feel a little better – they are signs of good water quality. I swim into the middle of the pool and head downstream, headfirst through the rapid. Boulders appear suddenly, and I am tossed like a leaf in the current, over and around the rocks. I fend most of them off with my forearms, but really just survive the flush through the rocks rather than actually navigate a selected course. Even though the migrants haven’t arrived, Deer Creek is still amazing. Snorkeling through a rapid gives a completely different view on the river. And the stone fly gives hope. Hope that the water quality is here to support a restored shad and herring run. Hope that the moratoria placed on their take will work to restore their once glorious numbers. Hope that maybe their absence has nothing to do with declining numbers or water quality but rather just a colder than usual spring. Either way, this is an anxious time of year for me, until I see the silver return to our streams.