Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Deer Fly Float Trip

Fly Fishing - Small Stream Brook Trout

The clear-cut bakes, in the afternoon sun. Jewelweed wilts. A doe arises from her bed. She is thirsty and heads toward her favorite water source; a spot where water drips from a rock outcropping. She doesn’t have her pair of fawns to worry about. They were consumed by coyotes shortly after birth. She carefully moves downhill, through a blackberry thicket. Stopping near the edge of the logging road, she allows a trio of four-wheelers to pass. They disappear, she hurries across the road, nearing the sound of a swift flowing stream. She doesn’t water here, the water smells odd and has an acrid taste. She crosses the hemlock- shaded shallows. Deer flies swarm around her, she makes her way across the water. One fly is stunned by her flicking tail. The fly lands on its back and begins a downstream journey.

The northward flow takes her through swift, boulder strewn rapids. She emerges from the hurried current and swirls into a deeply shaded pool. She can see a patch of blue sky, as it peeks through the hemlock canopy. Onward she bobs, through a series of pools and rapids. Floating in the cool water, bobbing and swirling, she has by now been on her journey for a mile downstream. Riding the swift flow, she shoots between two huge rocks and glides into a long deep pool. The depth of the pool is nearly 10 feet deep, even at the summer’s low flow. She floats onward , seeing nothing except the shimmer on the water and an occasional water strider. She is stuck in a small mat of hemlock needles. The water’s velocity picks up; she starts into swifter water. The gradient is less now, her last quarter of a mile is through gently flowing riffles. The stream is getting wider and slightly warmer. She passes the legs of a Great Blue Heron, a muskrat sits on the muddy bank. The water course is changing directions, flowage is hitting her from the east, as she is being carried to the north. Slurp! She is consumed by a baby smallmouth .

Why was the journey of our fly so lengthy? The fly’s travels were in Roaring Creek, a tributary of the Tygart River, in Randolph County, WV. Roaring Creek is dead. Downstream from Coalton, aquatic life is nonexistent. I can remember, stories from old-timer’s of the past; they were “old-timer’s”, in the 1960’s. Stories of 16-inch native brook trout and meals of crayfish from the Roaring Creek waters. The water that once provided sustenance is no longer a producer of anything, except acid mine drainage to the Tygart River.

The Roaring Creek drainage area is the western slope, on the northern end of Rich Mountain, Randolph County, West Virginia. This area is also home of the Rich Mountain Battlefield civil war site. Native brook trout are present in some of the tributaries and some sections of Roaring Creek, above the community of Coalton. The lower section, downstream of Coalton, has the appearance of a quality trout stream. The only thing lacking is water quality. The fact that trout are present in the upper sections; leaves hope that Roaring Creek is not a lost cause. The stream could be a poster child for reclamation. The WVDEP,CVI, WVDNR and Trout Unlimited, could combine their efforts to bring back a waterway that has been in its grave for a century. What an accomplishment and story that would be. Deer flies wouldn’t have a extensive journey, prior to consumption either.

This article first appeared in Tale of the Pool. The newsletter for the WV Chapter of Trout Unlimited, in 2008.

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