First posted on 05-18-2012
I hadn’t wet a line in a while, so my plan was to ply the waters of Capps Creek for a couple of hours in search of a few rainbow or brown trout. Capps is a location where I’ve either had great success catching fish, or left without as much as a nibble. Yesterday, it was the latter.
Even a bad day fishing a creek is a good day to experience plenty of other activity happening along and in the water. I noticed that nearly every rock in the creek bed was home to several snails, most of which were of the gilled variety, a nice indication of a relatively clean stream.
The riffles were home to crayfish that ranged in size from little more than an inch to one that was well over six inches in length. That one was a female, and she tried disparately to fix her pinchers on the skin of my hand before I returned her to the water, where she swept her tail in an effort to put plenty of stream between the two of us.
Several aquatic insects hatched—stoneflies, caddisflies, and midges—touching the water briefly to deposit eggs. A couple of times, trout surfaced to catch a quick meal, and I decided I needed to take up fly fishing. Many of the insects escaped being consumed by fish only to find a similar fate with the swallows that swooped over the stream, oblivious to my presence.
Capps Creek is snakey this time of year, and well into the summer months. Brushy banks help support the snake population with cover and hunting grounds. Gravel bars provide them a warm, sunny place to adjust their body temperature as they awaken from cool spring nights. As I crept up to a gravel bar that was covered in vegetation and dragonflies, a two foot northern watersnake swam downstream, away from me and toward the safety of the opposite shore.
I turned to examine a spider web on a bleached log that had become a drift, planted at a steep angle into the cobble that lined the bottom of the stream. The sudden movement of an even larger northern watersnake froze me in my path as the long, thickly girthed creature wiggled into the hollowed log, vigorously shaking its tail at me as it did.
Most of the snakes I’ve seen at Capps Creek are non-venomous northern watersnakes, although there was that time I was pulling myself up the bank and came face-to-face with a coiled black snake that, at the time, I probably swore was a cottonmouth. Luckily for me, whatever brand it was, the snake was dead, a relief considering I was within easy striking distance.
Back on shore, I discovered a prairie ring-necked snake, content to lie still in the shadow of a small hill. I had never seen one of these secretive little guys before. They usually spend their days hidden among the rocks, searching for tasty slugs and small salamanders.
I enjoy fishing but on this visit, bluebirds, swallows, woodpeckers, colorful dragonflies, a few damselflies, quite a few butterflies and those snakes all took priority. The next time I fish Capps Creek, the trout may be biting and I’ll not take as much notice of the birds and bugs. Although I will keep an eye out for the snakes.
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