Basking in a creek's resilience

By Mark Taylor

I drive by the little creek often.

And I wonder, “How is that thing doing?”

I used to fish it fairly often, because it’s pretty close and the fish were pretty accommodating.

But I hadn’t fished it for a while.

Like so many creeks in Appalachia, this one has a road that runs adjacent to it. A few years back a truck hauling some kind of chemical crashed into the creek, decimating its aquatic life.

There was no reason to fish it, at least from the crash site downstream, because there weren’t any fish.

But nature, as we know, can be pretty resilient if we give it a chance.

Yesterday seemed a decent day to find out how well the stream was recovering.

The weather was relatively mild for February, flirting with 50 degrees. This creek is a freestoner, but it’s got some spring influence so I expected water temperatures to be decent enough to allow me to dredge up a few fish on nymphs, if there were actually fish there.

There were fish there, and I didn’t have to fish nymphs to figure this out.

Reaching the first pool I was pleasantly surprised to see a few tiny mayflies in the air, and the occasional dimple on the pool’s surface.

Back when I fished the creek more regularly, one of the things I enjoyed was that its wild rainbows weren’t super sophisticated. The ones that have repopulated the once-dead section of the stream still aren’t.

My little parachute Adams wasn’t a perfect match for the blue-winged olives that were popping, but it was good enough.

Wading upstream it was satisfying to see familiar pockets. To catch fish in spots that used to produce fish. And to not catch fish in spots that never were productive, though they seemed like they should be.

The creek was back.

And I was happy to be back, too.

Mark Taylor is Trout Unlimited's eastern communications director. He lives in Roanoke, Va., in the heart of Blue Ridge trout country.


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