Friday, April 3, 2015

Mayfly March

Every part of the stream is amazing. Fish, invertebrates, even the geologic architecture that composes much of the stream complexion and personality. Insects on the underlying geology dominated this snorkel and while not the trout I was searching for, provided an incredible experience. As soon as I dropped my head into the water, an Ameletid mayfly larvae took off and disappeared again. I tried to follow its path, and found two more hanging onto the lip of a rock with their long tails waving in the current. These are the building blocks of trout, and they indicate relatively clean water. Elbow Branch really isn’t much to look at from the surface. It is a small stream that runs just feet off a dirt road. But it flows clear most days because the land that drains into the creek is still forested. The abundance of mayflies here confirms that Elbow Branch supports decent water quality. Everywhere I look I see Ameletids, and other species of mayfly larvae. They cover every hard surface, and small clouds of them leap from rocks as I approach. They are a beautiful insect and have long frilled white and dark brown banded tails. The intricate grey, chestnut, brown and white design on their body reminds me of contour lines on a topographic map. Translucent wing buds hold the promise that this animal will someday metamorphose from a bottom dwelling aquatic organism to an air breathing delicate flyer. Mayflies are here because of good water quality, which is due to the forested nature of the land that drains to this tiny creek. The trick is to replicate the water cleaning action of a forested watershed in urban and suburban landscapes, so we can have beautifully intricate mayflies in all of our rivers and streams.

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