The Catskill Fly Fishing
Center and Museum

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August 5, 2003 2:41 PM

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Energy Considerations: The Flow Of Life Through The River

Wild Flower
Wild Flower Gallery

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.

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