Mark and Seth and I spent a day letting down and loosening the fences in the mountains. It’s the last thing we do before winter so the snow doesn't break the wires. Seth took his fly rod because we knew there were brook trout spawners (adults laying and fertilizing eggs) in the creek this time of year. Seth is usually working at his day job, so this was a rare opportunity to combine ranch work and his first love, fly fishing.
When we had loosened the fences for a while, we made it to the creek. I held the dogs back as Seth crawled along the bank, strategizing. He selected a lure that would look like a little minnow under the water. He snagged three trout in short order, one a big one as brookies go. I have only gone fishing with him once and that day he didn’t catch any fish, so I was happy to get in on the fun and witness his expert handling of the line. Then, with more fence to tend, Seth packed up his gear for the day.
But before we left the creek, we walked a tiny tributary which lead to a spring nearby. The closer we got to the spring, the larger the spawners got. Seth ran back for his net and stood straddle of the creek and scooped up several copper hued beauties for us to examine up close. The creek had good flow and a clean gravel bottom with lots of weeds and bank to hide under. They’re so quick, just a flash in the water. What fun!
Brook trout are native to the Eastern U.S. and have proliferated here in the West since they were transplanted in the mid 1800’s. They can be quite competitive with our native cutthroat and rainbow trout. However, they spawn in the fall while the other two natives spawn in the high melt water of spring, so they don’t compete for the same spawning sites. Brookies may live all their lives in the creek, spawning in habitats that are suitable, like our spring, and living the rest of the time in deeper waters. Interestingly, their numbers are in trouble in the East because of habitat destruction and competition from introduced brown trout.
When we got back to the pickup and were eating our soup, I told Seth about the time when he was a little guy and brought his fishing pole along when we we went to the hills. He was just learning to fish and had never caught one, but he was confident enough to say, “Mom, you don’t need to bring lunch because we can eat fish.” I brought one just in case!
Mark and I have lived and worked in this country all our lives. We love seeing wildlife of all kinds, but we have never fully appreciated the fish story happening all around us. It took our cowboy-naturalist son to educate us. We now work towards protecting habitat along the streams in our pastures. We promised ourselves to head to the tiny creek early next spring to look for cutthroat.
On the way home, we stopped at another property to work on a crowding alley that Mark and Jesse had started. We planted some stout railroad ties and hung a gate to the Bud Box which is at a right angle to the alley leading up to the headcatch designed to hold individual animals. Before we were done, we were treated to a lovely sunset and Seth made good use of his headlamp.
Days like these are precious. I loved the company and the views - and the fish.
|Seth and Elsa|