Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Brook

     The first time there, a woodcock fluttered up and away. That was eleven years ago and it seemed like a pretty good omen. Barbed wire buried inches beneath the bark of softwood trees told it once was a pasture. In places, remnants of old fields still border the stream, but alders and poplar are squeezing the grasses away.
     Every year the stream changes when the spring runoff chews away at its banks and tumbles trees. One favorite bend around a narrow gravel bar has grown to nearly the size of a tennis court in size. The stream is a property bound and someday it will be interesting to sort out who owns what, but that isn’t a worry now.
     On the north side of the stream, softwoods cover the flat valley bottom. Soft needles and moss muffle footsteps, and moose and deer keep a path well trampled. In places the ferns are waist high, easily tall enough to hide dwarfs, elves, and forest creatures. It is a magical place. Farther from the stream, the land abruptly climbs and the forest changes to mixed hardwoods. Along this edge is where the exploding ruffed grouse live.
     Brook trout hide in the stream’s shadows, beneath undercut banks and fallen tree trunks. In the fall they slip up some of the tiny feeder streams to reproduce, sometimes in places that are so shallow their backs are out of the water. It is best to give them some privacy then.
     Fishing downstream, sinking flies in the deeper holes or among the shadows along the banks, brings you to alder flats. Come October, when the weeds finally lay flat, the woodcock will be found feeding in the soft soil. Some great memories linger in that tangle. But by mid-November the place feels as empty as a ghost town.
     Downstream a bit, beavers keep trying to dam the stream, but always disappear after the dams get started. Possibly someone traps them out, but the abandoned barriers create lovely tranquil pools. There, a dry fly often coaxes a trout into doing something stupid, or at least showing its location. The trusty old green woolly bugger usually catches the biggest fish.
     Most of the trout are gently put back into the stream. A whooper would be as long as the spread of a man’s hand, but those are rare. Occasionally, a couple medium sized ones will come home to be cooked in bacon fat for breakfast. A kingfisher might protest, but he can catch his own trout.

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