This brook trout was caught within its species’ historic range. You might respond with very little excitement, as that is precisely where one would expect to find any animal. Or, you could appreciate the fact that the historic distribution of char up and down the East Coast has been greatly diminished to the point where there are relatively few populations remaining.
Let me tell you something: this trout is unremarkable in the first sense and very special in the second. But there is much more to this fish than either of those things.
Tbis brook trout is an urban brook trout. it was caught just outside of city limits. Cities, as you know, have been the bane of nature for as long as development has existed. While we can absolutely be good stewards of the creation that is around us, it is totally impossible to not have any negative impact. Some species, and some ecosystems, are much more fragile than others. They feel the brunt of modernity much more quickly and much more pointedly.
Spring creeks and salmonids are up there when it comes to fragility. That is why this brook trout is special.
So, why even fish in a place like this? Isn’t it a bit hypocritical or counterintuitive to stress an already stressed creature and habitat?
What if the reason why this urban fishery even exists, why it has slipped under the radar for decades, is because it is peotected? Yes, protected by regulations and laws. But more than that, protected by the fact that it is hidden. So inconspicuous, so small, so unnoticeable that there hasn’t been any reason to molest it with a road, culvert, or dam.
And if the stream survives, the trout will survive too.
I generally don’t brag about the fish that I catch. If you do that, then you are opening yourself up for critique or ridicule when you don’t catch fish. And trust me, that happens to me from time to time. But this fish, this urban trout is impressive. For thr stream, it is a trophy. For any small stream, it is a trophy.
In a world (even a flyfishing culture) that often falsely equates bigger with better, this fish might not measure up. Like an offensive lineman who never scores a touchdown or gets a highlight on television but excels at his position and makes the whole team better, some things are not quantifiable by “normal” standards.
This fish is encouraging to me. I hope it is encouraging to you. There are undoubtedly fish like this in streams like the one that it lives all over the country. We often spend so much time lamenting how many watersheds have been lost, that I wonder if we really appreciate those which we still have.
This fish should encourage us to protect our urban streams, but also explore them. We don’t know what will find, we don’t know what we will experience. Sadly, more than neglecting fish, fly fishers neglect the fact that adventure is part of our historic range.