This is the second installment in a series. Here is a link to the first post. Be sure to subscribe on the right sidebar to get notifications when new content comes out!
When I go jogging outdoors, I like how I have an opportunity to think with minimal distractions. Call me paranoid, but having earbuds in seems like a great way to get hit by a car / mugged / mauled by a cougar. And being in the middle of a move and a job change requiring all sorts of contemplation, I could use a little bit of time to think. But getting lost in my thoughts leads to other kinds of getting lost.
Since I’ve moved from a rural location to more suburban environs, I’ve been exploring more and more on my daily runs. Saying that Northern Virginia has changed over the past decade would be a gross understatement. I have gotten lost more often than not. A road that used to terminate into a T-intersection now continues for miles. Thus, I run for a few miles more. And then I have to run back. It has led to great fitness, and a little bit of stress. Thankfully no one has called in a missing persons report while I’ve been exercising.
As I roughly sketch out these jogs, I do consider running along the many subdivision ponds and interconnecting streams. While it is an unfortunate reality that most of these waters are overfished and probably poached, I’m always on the lookout for a possible secret spot.
One particular day I was running alongside an incredibly busy trail. Cyclists, walkers, and other joggers were everywhere. I’d been on the path dozens of times over the years, and a few times in the past month. This time, for some reason, I noticed a little pool for the first time.
What caught my eye was the deep blue color. We had been in basically drought conditions, but this little creek was full. Additionally, the weeds were a bright green. The sight caused me to slow, jog in place for a few seconds, and then come to a stop.
Standing there, breathing heavily, I peered over the ditch and into the water. The color, the weeds, and the water level immediately made me wonder if I was looking into a spring. It wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. There were other springs in the vicinity. The thought then crept in: what if this spring had a trout in it? This spring, right down the road from me. Literally a few steps from where I used to live.
What are the chances? Well, if we’re honest, they are 50/50. Either there are the conditions that can and do support trout or there are not. How could a population have survived the pollution, predators, and people of suburbia? But fish – even trout – are much heartier than we give them credit for.
As I moved closer and closer to the pool, I did see a little bit of life. The characteristic frantic swimming motion of baitfish. Probably some small panfish, they were darting in and out of the weeds and the culvert I was standing over. I didn’t see anything else. So I performed the patented scientific exercise of spitting in the water.
I don’t know why I do this when I come to a stream. But I’ve had all sorts of fish respond. I’m not getting any sort of weird satisfaction of watching bluegills eat my saliva; deriving pleasure from fooling some simple organism into thinking my spittle is foodstuffs. It just happens to make fish reveal themselves.
After the minor faux feeding frenzy, I saw a larger silhouette dart from the tail of the pool into the weeds directly below me. It was dark, fast, and definitely more sizeable than the other fish I’d seen. Even in that quick moment, I saw mottling or spots or vermiculations on the back of the creature.
Could it have been a trout?
As I began to process that thought, the sound of a bicycle on gravel distracted me. A teenage boy was riding past me. And he had a fishing rod strapped to his backpack. Paranoid as any other angler out there, I began to run again. The last thing I wanted was for this kid to think I was looking at a fish – possibly a rare trout paradise in suburbia. Taking off the way I did was probably much more conspicuous than anything else I could have done, aside from yelling “there might be fish in here!”
I continued to jog, and my thoughts were consumed with the idea of this being a place I could fish. Of what I saw being a trout. I ran feasibility studies in my head, skewing every variable in my favor. I debated when and how I’d fish the pool. At night? In a rainstorm? Wearing camo? The last thing I’d want would be to clue someone else in on this little secret.
My thoughts lead me to get lost again. Lost in the maze of compounding suburban sprawl (my jog went on a few extra miles). Lost in my ill-advised quest to find trout under my nose and also under the radar of the fishing public.