Energy Considerations: The Flow Of Life Through
Trout habitat encompasses not only the river
itself, and the banks with its tangle of trees, bushes and other
assorted plant life, but also the entire watershed
that produces steady flows of water into it. Nevertheless, it
is the banks of the river we are most familiar with, and travel
along as we search for the next secluded pool. The waters’
edge of most rivers flowing through hardwood forests have in their
understory, among the crowded assemblages
of plant life, a surprisingly wide variety of shade
tolerant flowering annual and perennial plants. For those
of us who anticipate and revel in their arrival each year, the
fishing season is defined into sub-seasons according to the flowering
cycle of each species.
Late April is when the Red Trillium and Dutchman’s
Britches bloom along the path along many of the rivers in the
Northeast. Both of these flowering plants show off their wares
and roughly coincide with the hatching of Hendrickson mayflies.
In early July, gaudy orange patches of day lilies follow the gentle
course of the West Branch of the Delaware River, signaling the
emergence of the delicate Dorotheas. The annual cycle of familiar
wild flowers and stream insects reassures us, whether we are conscious
of it or not, that we are emotionally linked to these seasonal
patterns of renewal. That is probably why many of us choose to
be there in the first place.
The banks of all rivers are an ecotone,
and collectively support a diverse community
of plants and animals. Because the stream bank is so rich in wild
flowers and other foliage, as well, riverbanks serve as gathering
places for animals. Some come to slake their thirst, while others,
like toads and other amphibians, are temporary visitors, requiring
water in which to lay their eggs.
The discovery of a wild flower, often hidden
away in the shadow of a rock or sapling, never fails to delight.
Ants clinging to Ductchman’s Britches and emerging flowers
pushing their way through the dead, dry leaves of last year’s
fall thrill the careful onlooker. In Robert Frost’s poem:
The Hardwood Groves, he tells us that the forest floor leaves:
“....must be pierced by flowers....”.
The poet’s eye remains sharp and clear, guiding us to truths
if we have the patience to look for them.