Photo By Phil Monahan
It’s a pretty little freestone stream that has suffered the same kinds of neglect as the area through which it flows, so it’s not odd to find an old car battery or lawn furniture half-buried in the gravel riverbed. But despite this evidence of man’s folly, the stream is home to beautiful trout—some wild, some stockers that have migrated from elsewhere in the system. I’d been introduced to the particular hidden stretch of water along Benmont by a couple of colleagues, who referred to the spot as “The Sh*thole.” But soon after, they moved on; one left the state, while the other became obsessed with warmwater fly fishing. For several years thereafter, this was my personal trout stream, which I fished several times a week, never encountering another angler.
When spring arrives in the Pacific Northwest, bright tender leaves unfurl, snowdrops and balsam root push up through winter’s brown blanket, and neighbors spill from their homes after holing up for the dark, damp months of the year. We awaken, stretch, and emerge; eager to reconnect after a winters-long hermitage.
In cold waters running from mountains to sea, another emergence is happening. From March through June, tiny salmon fry rise from gravel nests, their stomachs still distended yolk sacs. As they draw down their yolk stores, juvenile salmon begin feeding on the stream’s insect life. There are six anadromous salmon species in the Pacific Northwest — Chinook, coho, sockeye, pink, chum, and steelhead. As juveniles, each species specializes in a slightly different cuisine and method of foraging food, as well as the amount of time they spend in freshwater before heading out to sea.
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