Saturday, April 11, 2015

They Paved Paradise.........

When Vincent and I finally drove away from Saucon Creek today, I was a little depressed at what has befallen this wonderful little limestone spring creek in Pennsylvania.  Just two short years ago, this creek was full of wild browns that rose almost daily to the blue-winged olives and other small flies that typically hatch here.  And it's also the place where I first met Douglas, his mom, and his friend Shawn a little over two years ago to fish for our first time together, and where over the next four or five months, Doug worked very hard to develop into the successful angler he is today.  We fished this creek hard every weekend for the entire spring, catching dozens and dozens of trout, Doug almost exclusively on nymphs using competition methods, and I on nymphs and dries, depending on the mood of the river.

In my 40+ years of fly fishing, it was one of the most memorable springs on the water for me. Working with Doug and seeing him develop and improve every week was wonderful, and the richness of this creek gave him the opportunity to do just that.  And we literally experienced the change of seasons from late winter, to early spring, to spring and finally to summer; it was like the best time-lapse real life slide show one could have.  It started in the starkness of late winter when the natural world is chilly and dull, and then as the weekends passed nature slowly awoke; buds formed, wild flowers bloomed, birds came and nested along the river, and after a few nasty thunderstorms, the trees turned green and full.  And every weekend we caught fish, often fishing both days.  (Check out my posts from spring 2013 to see our spring).

Fast forward to the last few weeks. I have been to the creek a number of times, and something has changed.  The fish are not there, but the hatches are, which is a good indicator of the water quality. Both Doug and I have seen plenty of bugs, but no fish rise to take them off the surface, which we first thought was because the water was too cold. We have fished the pools and runs to little or no avail, and walked the banks looking into pockets and holes where we would typically see plenty of wild browns hanging just above the bottom and where now we are seeing maybe one or two fish......and often none.  And word has gotten around; the stream was empty today of anglers.  Normally on a bright early spring day like today we would see a number of other anglers fishing the stream, many casting a blue-winged olive imitation to the numerous fish rising to naturals along the far bank in the park.

So what has happened to this little gem?  The wild browns are still in there, only in far fewer numbers than there were last year and the year before.  The bugs are still there. I have seined the creek a few times in the last few weeks, and there are good numbers of nymphs, larvae, and other aquatic insects. Last week I saw high numbers of blue-winged olives hatching, and the week before quite a few were also coming off.

I don't know what has happened, but what I think may have happened, is that the hard winter we just experienced negatively affected the resident trout population, and perhaps last year's drought - July through November - and the resultant low water levels created water temperatures above what trout need to survive. The low water also significantly reduced the amount of suitable submerged gravel beds for the trout to spawn last year. I've heard a few anglers, Doug included, comment that they did not see any redds last fall.

Where does that leave us?  We are hoping that many of the fish headed down stream to the Lehigh River, and that over time they will return.  And that this fall there will be plenty of water in the creek, and that the fish that are there will successfully spawn. And with luck and the help of nature, the creek will heal and return to its old, reliable self.

I have a season of wonderful memories on this creek, and I hope beyond what may be reasonable, that it will recover to give many others what it has given me.

I'm betting it will. don't know what you got 'til it's gone.

1 comment:

Mr. Q said...

Haven't been there in two years, sad to hear....I'll bet it re-bounds nicely due to the amount of springs and bugs least above that nasty park....