The fish pictured above are rainbow trout. Oncorhynchus mykiss isn’t native to the east coast, but there are plenty of clean, cold spring creeks that sustain wild reproducing populations of the fish. The creek I was fishing in Northern Virginia is one such creek.
The fish pictured above are not from that creek.
I didn’t catch any fish in that creek, which means that I didn’t catch any trout anywhere near my hometown in Virginia. And I’ve moved back to New England, which means that I won’t be catching any trout anywhere near my hometown in Virginia anytime soon.
But before I get too introspective, let me explain what happened after I stumbled and fell and sweated and grimaced my way to the mouth of this creek.
The stream was beautiful. The banks were lush, the bottom was gravelly, and the water was moving along in a good riffle/run/pool cadence. There were Japanese beetles and flying ants everywhere, so I was plopping a generic little foam terrestrial in every possible fish holding spot. I worked methodically, making sure all the likely and maybe-likely feeding lanes were covered.
I saw sculpins and dace, turtles and frogs. No trout. Each pool I fished looked better than the previous one, but nothing took notice of my fly aside from the aforementioned baitfish – their telltale dimpling rises barely making the fly move on the surface of the water.
From beginning at a place of complete solitude at the creek mouth, I began to sense my isolation waning. Vehicle noise was faint but present. The tree line grew thinner, and there was mowed lawns on either side. The tops of large houses were visible just over little hills. Then, I heard the sound of people and knew I was getting too close for my conscience. Nothing was posted, but I was also aware that I was in a grey area when it came to access. I didn’t want to fight that battle from an “asking for forgiveness is easier than asking for permission” position.
Plus, these were rainbows. It would be fun, but it wasn’t brook trout. They were wild, but they weren’t native. It would be fun, but not what I wanted with this whole Trout Quixote thing.
There is a small stream with a reproducing population of brook trout in Northern Virginia. It is a little further from my hometown. I know precisely where it is, where the fish are, and the story of the watershed. But it is fragile, small, and not something that I want to mess with just so I can check off a box on my angling wish list.
Again, just having the knowledge that there are trout within close proximity is captivating. And once more, I’m back in New England where I did find a small spring within a fifteen-mile radius which has a flow that holds a native population of brook trout.
What else could I ask for? They are fish; this is my home; that should be enough. If it isn’t, that is a me issue – not the burden of some against the odds project to locate trout that have hung on by an ecological thread while the vast majority of their species has been extirpated.
So here is me being introspective: This trout quest was fun. It was a challenge. It got me fishing, thinking, and exploring. It didn’t end like I thought I wanted it to, but it did end. And it ended like I really wanted it to: me and some brook trout, living in close proximity to one another.
This post represents the last installment of the Trout Quixote story. If you haven’t read from the beginning, I’d encourage you to do so! Here is a link to the first post.