I'm fishing down south to take advantage of 60 degree daytime temps. The creek is running clear. My first surprise is that all the fish have cleared out of the lower stretches. Hmmm. I think they must head up higher to spawn as this is a rainbow trout stream.
Here and there I'll spot a flash, but after just one splash at my dropper and fishing for way too long to a fish that turns out to be dead and belly up on the stream bottom I take a break and sit on a nice log.
From this vantage I can tally up a long list of changes to the stream over the years (4 years now).
The road in has gone from being a nicely graded dirt track to a deeply rutted, muddy slip and slide with side scraping branches from the oversized dwarf ash. If I hadn't lifted my suspension on the Honda, I would have had to hoof it up the first mile to get to the first good run. The only other tracks in were from ATVs and horses. In another season I won't be able to get my truck up there.
The beaver dams that used to form an acre wide marsh have blown out and the marsh is dry now. The flows are about the same but the water level in the runs above the dams are just a hair shallower.
A tall cottonwood has fractured and the heavy limbs are collapsed into the stream. This was the run where I first got a chance to sight fish to rising trout. Now the pool where they would casually rise shaded from predators is hit by a bright spot light through the canopy that an osprey could drive a truck through. No fish, today.
The Log Jam pool went from holding a dozen or more good trout to a shallow gravel bar after massive spring runoff last year. Today it has deepened again and some new logs have reinforced the dam. There are even a few smaller trout holding below the spillway. I feel like that's progress.
When I finally take a trout, it turns out to be a brown.
This is only the second brown trout that I've come across. Where have all my wild rainbows gone? Upstream, I hope.
But hey, the trout took my dry fly - a little purple hopper that I treated with the homemade fly gink to keep it floating high. A leap year surprise.
Without an ATV or a horse, I have to call it a day and so I trudge back to the Honda. I actually came prepared for the road to be impassable and hitched my mountain bike to the truck. But, I found my bike's rear tire has gone flat on the ride down. And in the chaos of packing the car in the dark, I left the bike pump in the garage. I would be angry at myself for my lapses except today the sky is a deep blue which makes the red rock cliffs glow and there is a bald eagle cruising upstream.