Ok, better make that trout water, and it wasn't so much a hatch (something only eggs do) or even an emergence that I created, and the response was not in fact exactly instant either... but that thread title conveys the general idea. Yesterday while clearing out some items stored outside, I started to unroll a big hammock that was leaned up against a big green ash tree. Apparently the environment inside was just what those big black carpenter ants like, as they'd established the mother of all ant colonies (another half-truth, but there were half a gazillion of them at least).
At first I rolled it back up and carried it to a far corner of the back compound at the edge of the woods, intent on releasing them by dragging the unrolled hammock over the recently mowed lawn. I'm thinkin, "No need to kill them all, but I'd rather they eat downed logs than our guest cottage.". The hammock was folded in half lengthwise prior to being rolled up, so there were lots of Formicidae still 'inside' even after allowing the grass to sweep them off the 'outside'.
I was all ready to reverse the fold and liberate the other half of the colony when I realized that here I had more and bigger ants all in one convenient place than at any time prior, and the remaining half were very transportable, even without a bunch of soldier ants crawling up my arms and nipping away, all P.O.'d over their being disturbed. Then too, I had a bunch of wild brookies that would likely appreciate the windfall opportunity this presented, should I opt to 'liberate' the remaining ants upon the pond surface instead of the lawn. After all ants are still rather common; wild brookies not so much. And after all, the first emergence of pale yellow craneflies is now wound down, and the first of two generations of callibaetis mayflies are barely even started. That leaves mostly midges on their menu, and tiny ones at that, which must grow tiresome after a while, like a steady diet of nothing but sunflower seeds, in the shells would be for us.
Besides these things ants are just about the sweetest trout candy imaginable. I think of them as trout
Dorito's, extra tangy. Mayflies may be filling, but offer less taste. You can eat them and find out that this is no exaggeration... they are every bit as bland as the water they come from, and while offering nutrition there cannot be any othwr pleasure derived from them. Ants, otoh, are plainly relished by fish.
So I carried the 'ant roll' pondward and confirmed which direction the air was moving. Fortunately it was headed up-pond, away from the ,ittle pier where I like to teach casting. With two people it would be a simple matter to eject the ants mostly onto the pond's surface, but by myself this woukd be trickier, as this was a big, heavy, designed for two, sleeping hammock and no backpacker's model. Fortunately I was able to secure the metal ring at one end to a cleat and quickly unroll the thing and keep it tight and in the vertical p,ane while also kicking off entire rafts of trout delights, and very few didn't get wet!
Of course the commotion of my doing the above had put the shy brookies off their surface feeding, and it took maybe five minutes before the first dink felt secure enough to start snacking, but as the sight and sound of its eager and repeated rises drew the attention of others and larger of its kind, they systematically began to reduce the number of terrestrials.
Funny thing about brookies that swts them apart from rainbows or browns, though. If either of them happen upon a richly set table, they'll stay on top, cruising from one snack to the next. Not brockies! They rise from, and return right back down to, the security of the depths between every bite. I presume it wouldn't pay for the vividly-finned char to fill up more efficiently on the ants, but in the process draw the attention of an osprey or kingfisher.
Anyway, from my chikdhood I've always been fascinated by the trophic moment when a fish consumes some other, live food. Maybe that's a little creepy, but there it is. The sight of a pack of lions dining on a zebra or whatever doesn't do a thing for me... their prey is pretty much dead before the feast even begins. Not so with most carnivorous fish. In a flash, and only energetically speaking, a free-living insect or crustacean or a smaller fish is suddenly 'changed', at least in part (the process is not of course 100% efficient) into another, 'superior' predatory creature... The replication of which probably provides 8/10's of my entire desire to fish. 2/10's of that incentive is just admiring my catch briefly, up close. The rest (the fight, the food, the search) is all really of secondary importance to me.
How 'bout you?
Oh yeah, my wife found me not working away just about the time the fish got working intently, so I missed the main event... ARGGG!
Long and fascinating story, but yes these are totally wild, all natural, free foraging fish, spawned the old fashion way by twelve consecutive year classes of parents. Except for the occasional batch of ants and every Japanese beetle I can find, I add no food but instead create good habitats for forage items.
Oh, and yes, you become a member of the Streams & Dreams chapter of the Polar Bear club, if you can spend even one minute in this special little body of water. Sometimes I don a wetsuit for various management purposes, and still can't remain submersed for very long at all.
In the fall these brookies make a spawning run, and you can observe the proceedings nose to nose if you wish, literally right at your feet while sitting in a lawn chair. Maybe later I'll remeber to try and attach a pic or two. Folks who've done this tour will often say they leave inspired, or ask what I am paid by the state, or that I should be the recipient of some national award or something. What they don't usually say is how crazy I must be to have poured so much of my time and effort on this private conservation/preservation effort. There are a few wild rainbows, but I had to get rid of the wikd browns, as they grew too well on a diet of brook trout!
For the longest time the effort was called the Secret Creek Project, and it has taken much toil and sweat to perfect, or nearly perfect... but the natives themselves approve, via thriving. Some have grown to 14", but most top out around a foot. I'd settle for just being left alone to do what is necessary for the fish, but some entities have a problem with that, believe it or not. The same entities responsible via enablement for destroying brook trout and much more. We live in a crazy world, let me tell you.
Sweet! I'm assuming the time and effort has paid off. I wish as much effort was put toward conserving native trout species as has been spent creating fisheries that that has been detrimental to the same. want to start "native trout unlimited"?
After reading your post concerning "Momma Mayflies" or Road kill bugs,--- I had an unusual oppurtunity to admire some "Hellgramites"
One afternoon last week while walking my Beagle in Wiles branch park, (Middletown MD) I happened across 4 Hellgramites crossing the parking lot.
These were all large individuals about 3" ea. Catoctin creek was about 200' from the area where they were strolling and they were seperated by about10 to 15'. The parking lot was dry and fairly warm, indeed I found a small Northern Water Snake warming up in the same lot.
The Beagle took a quick sniff and started sneezing, deciding quickly that Hellagramites are not that interesting anyway.
I have read that hellgramites leave the water to pupate, but that seems a bit far over dry ground for an aquaic insect not yet capable of flight.
Additionally do hellgramites emit a protective odor when threatened.
Your postings concerning other aquatic insects were quite informative, and therefore I thought to pose these questions to you. I am too lazy to research it myself.
I personally would'nt know a Green drake from a Mayfly, but my father was an avid fly fisherman and had a few books on "Matching the hatch"
I caught the Fish bug but not the bug it self.
While I was checking out the first Hellgramite I came across that day, a young man in his early teens came by, saw the hellgramite and called for his friends to come see this "Totally serious Bug".
Maybe a budding Entomologist ! at least they were not stomping on it.
It doesn't seem like fish come in first very often at all, when there are competing interests for the things they depend upon, and even when they have demonstrable economic value. Trouble is, those values are spread far and wide throughout any community or region, and so not easily 'tapped' for political ahhh, 'leverage.' OK, so society at large naturally values jobs and energy and raw materials, and the authorities the taxes and campaign support of course, more than they do wild fish. An ounce of prevention that would allow eating and having our 'cake' too is worth a ton of cure, but you are right... its usually not until after a fishery is F'd up that any money is expended to try and fix the problems... problems that would have largely been avoidable had only those who'd exploited our environment for profit (nothing wrong with that, now) been duly motivated (via a real threat of grown-up fines if reasonable permit conditions were violated) to run a tight environmental ship, instead of maximizing their profit - at public expense. In many cases the risk of getting caught in violation of even the scantiest of standards s acceptable, plus the wrist slap that would result makes 'good business sense' compared to doing the right thing. Damn tree huggers interfering with the American Way (greed, to a large extent), you know. Our natural resources belong to everybody in general and to nobody in particular, and so are put on the chopping block again and again. I've seen my home river's trout population greatly altered (not by big biz, but by the DNR itself, trying to manage the river for incompatible goals), and so as a result the phone doesn't ring too often anymore with fishers looking to make reservations. The new goal (incompatible with trout) here generates no marginal, objective societal benefits at all. If it did, I'd be in a great position to benefit from it.
But back to my project. Just this past week I was pleased and surprised to see that although the number of spawners was about as low as can go, we also have wild rainbow fry... something that doesn't happen every year. I have also observed that one of only two wild brown trout in my project has begun to reach proportions where it can start to do more than just thin the herd, and so am considering removing that big girl. In the past, when brown trout recruitment in the Hoyes Run still seemed to be limping by, I wanted to conserve their genetics too, but they interfered with survival of the other two species. Now adult browns are like hen's teeth in the stream, so its hard to say what the best thing to do might be - because its hard to say where this female could do the most good at perpetuating her kind before she becomes (like the rest) just another meal around spawning time in November and December.
I don't yet know how to get my pics onto the Ipad I'm using to post this, but will try and find out (or do a work-around) and share a pictorial announcement of the blessed event on the rainbows.
Unfortunately, not everyone does (always enjoy my observations). On another site my impersonal criticism of some DNR decisions casts me in the role of a whiny know-it-all in the eyes of a few with touchy nerves on such things. I don't know it all. Neither does our DNR. No-one does! But I know more about a very few things than DNR is willing to give me credit, much less respect, for - its just that what I know doesn't happen to fit the agency PR script. So much for the proud claim of science-based management, I guess. Otoh, I'll admit freely that I bring a lot of flak on myself for making a compelling case in a passionate manner. Scientists are supposed to be dispassionate. Oh well. Nobody likes being put on the defensive and publically backed into a corner. Had anybody in authority the objective ears to listen and the intellectual capacity to question and perhaps even test their own assumptions, my failure to be more diplomatic would never have come about. Nobody likes being ignored or disrepected in their area of expertise, either.
Now, about the smell or taste of helgrammite adults - I am clueless. Smallmouth bass seem to find the larvae quite delectable, but most people find their adult appearance downright creepy, what with the sheer size and the big mandibles (which are used for mating, not for getting after anyone's jugular, btw). The fear of these long, menacing recurved 'jaws' is probably a carry over from the larvae's habit of drawing blood from uncareful handler's fingers, I'd say. Those are fearsome predators to be sure, and those jaws are definitely for chompin' other small creatures silly. But if I recall, like many adult aquatic insects, I don't think the hellgrammite even feeds in its winged stage. In any case, the males have the bigger equipment by far, and I gather they clasp the females with same during copulatoin. Next time I see a male, I'll have to take one for the team and test that assumption myself. I might have done so before with a stick once or twice, but its a foggy recollection unbecoming of a scientist. Can't say I've even given one the sniff test either, much less the taste test! There are some aquatic insects however which fail even the sniff test by a long shot... the October caddis coming to mind immediately. Its orange, and its really, really rank! So, you and your dog may be on to something here. My cats have never brought one home for dining or showing off, and they've collected just about every other sort of creature they can tackle.
Yes, the transition to the winged stage of this giant takes place on land, and they are not alone in how far they hoof it away from the water's edge. I find the exuvia (last pair of nymphal pajamas) of stoneflies at considerable distances sometimes, although others of their kind barely crawl above the water line on the back side of emergent boulders before shedding their skins. Green drakes are emerging right now from my project waters, btw. They are easy to ID, since they are among the largest of the more common eastern mayflies, and the spinner stage (nicknamed the coffin fly because of its distinctively formal undertaiker-appearing black and off-white outfit) sets it well apart from all the rest.
Also happening right now there is a 'mystery hatch' I first got curious about around Memorial Day last year. One trout will just go bonkers racing back and forth alternately searching the surface and running off other fish even bigger than itself just to be in the cat-bird's seat. For the longest time I could not figure out what was being sipped out of the film, or why the spatial extent of this activity was so restricted to one rather limited area. Found out eventually that this istsy-bitsy and very overlookable beetle falls out of a couple of serviceberry trees (speaking of undertakers, there's a historic reason for their name in the Appalachians) with hardly any ripples created. You can be looking right at one and not see it too, unless the sun is reflecting off its carapace. The trout claiming this riparian turf sure seems to burn up just about every calorie it could gain from the effort, even if optimal foraging theory holds water. The beetles aren't super abundant like say, midges, and are as stated crazy small, so my best guess is they must simply taste great AND be less filling since the one fish will go on and on for days in a row collecting them. Its bizarre. I'd just wallop a crayfish and belch and fart away the rest of my time in safety somewhere, and not risk so much exposure to other creatures. Like I was sayin' they must really, really taste fabulous... its the only thing that makes any sense.
Last edited by Don Hershfeld; 05-26-2012 at 02:47 PM.
Don: Thanks for your thoughts on Hellgramites, I am going to assume that they (Hellgramites) emit a defensive/irritating odor.
The reaction of my dog and her subsequent reluctance to re-approach said bug, plus not having evidence to the contrary makes me tend to believe they 'stink up a storm". She (the beagle) thinks Brown Marmorated stinkbugs make dandy toys.
Interesting point about the "October caddis" , some other animals that are toxic or taste bad in some way advertise with bright colors, could this "orange"
coloration be a warning ? The two pictures included with your reply are interesting, would one be the Green Drake of previous note.
As for the other I think I see white leading edges on the Pelvic and anal fins is that one a juvenile Brookie ? the Parr markings look like so many other salmonids to me I cant see any other thing to distinguish it.
Fascinating info about the mystery bugs that make trout so possesive/territorial. They either taste wonderful or are extremely addictive (maybe both).
Yes, that was a very fresh out of the nymphal shuck green drake dun in the first pic. For a long time I tried to get a good video clip covering the transition from swimming nymph to flapping dun, but unless I were drifting alongside the emerger, that is a tall order to fill. They swim up rather quickly, and you never know where the next one is coming from, in order to pick up the action. And sometimes the adult will become airborne seconds after the nymph reaches topside. If and when the process takes longer, the wading videographer is forced to step along sooner or later, which disturbs the scene. Maybe a very good zoom and working with a spotter would let a guy pick up on the ascending nymph before the dun it'll become reaches a fixed camera position... the things merely fishing subsequently get's one interested in are incredible. Having watched, if not captured the process many times (for several mayfly species) over at least ten years, I am struck by how our stiff and static artificial patterns manage at all to fool picky trout, on slow placid currents during a 'hatch'. Often enough, they don't knock'em dead, and perhaps this is because the naturals are often animated to some degree.
The drake shown was adrift upon the current and managed to crawl up the side of the moss covered rock. Most normally fly off the water, if they don't become a meal first - and not just for a fish. Water striders relish them, and there can't be too many things larger on their menu plan. Kingbirds and cedar waxwings, and even robins will sometimes competitively key in on a productive stretch of water during the green drake emergence, and so help me there are times when it doesn't seem like they miss a single one of these big, slow, lumbering insects. Thus there would seem to be advantages for insects that either trickle or virtually pour off the water. The former don't attract so many sharply focused pairs of eyes, while the blanket 'hatch' results in predator swamping and/or satiation. Drakes can emerge from late morning right up to dark, with the peak seeming to occur around 6pm where I do most of my watching.
The various trout fry (rainbows, browns, and brooks) are all quite similar at first glance. I don't know whether the markings they bear up to the early fingerling stage are really parr marks, or just their precursors. Far and away, brook trout fry appear first, and so for at least a month or more in early spring the ID is a two-inch putt. They start off with bold, black, fairly simple marked white to silver flanks, appear to wear a black 'mustache', and a couple of weeks pass before any of their fins clearly begin to resemble the pattern of the adult stage.
In contrast brown trout fry are a dull buff color with a fairly simple pattern of darker, less-defined 'smudges', and perhaps their most distinguishing characteristic to the unaided eye is what I'll call a single thin uni-brow across the top and back of their heads, which are disproportionately large and to my eye sort of ugly, like... ET perhaps? Not that brookie fry win the cute baby fish contest either, but at least their noggins are about the size one might expect as a fraction of their total initial length of about 0.75" upon emergence (about the same as a swim-up stage brown). When wriggling 'on the fin' it can be difficult to discern between the merely white-tipped versus the white leading-edged anal and pelvic fins, btw. All these years later and I'm sometimes still taking minutes before confidently being able to assign an ID, depending on the light, the specimen's size, orientation, etc.
Now, as for rainbow fry (the one pictured is regrettably not the best model I've seen in these regards), they seem to start nektonic (free-swimming) life at closer to a full inch. Maybe their eggs are larger, dunno ( I don't disturb, much less excavate the redd sites to find out those things. The anal, pelvic and often the dorsal fins of a rainbow are a white-tipped, goldish yellow. They either have the biggest, or certainly the most boldly accentuated (via the pattern of head markings) eyes of the three, and their heads are relatively small and much more more like the adult's. Part way up the leading edge of the dorsal fin is a dark section of fin ray, and these alone have mottled hints on the balance of that fin, suggestive of the fine black dots rainbow dorsal fins will sport later on.
There are probably rather more positive distinguishing characteristics between the three species as fry, like fin ray counts and other meristics, but I am engaged in keeping all small fry as alive and well as possible (except in my digital camera memory, I don't collect specimens to put under magnification, in other words). One striking thing about rainbow fry is that they seem to prefer much faster flowing lies than either of the other, and their quick and vaguely tuna-like swimming cadence always reminds me of the classical 'Flight of the Bumble Bee' (if that is the actual title of the piece?). They appear positively frenetic compared to the much slower paced dance of the brook and brown trout fry. In fact, everything the little 'bows do is done faster and bigger than by the others, whether that is contending for space, attacking food items, or changing their locations. They appear born to speed.
I realize that all the above might paint an image of a bespectacled guy running wearing short pants, carrying a book in one hand, and waving a butterfly net around with the other. Butterflies are fine by me (we have and I dead-head no few b. bushes, just to draw 'em in for our guests' enjoyment), but they hold no more interest for me than carrion beetles. But I do find it fascinating to observe the young trout, and all those creatures with which they directly relate, at a scale in which its easy to follow their goings-on. Larger trout come near and then generally go elsewhere, requiring an observer to follow (blowing your cover in the process) whereas their young go about their business all day often not moving more than three or four feet, so one can take it all in from a fixed and therefore stealthy vantage point. What's more, you can pretty quickly manipulate their immediate environment and in ten minutes learn how they'll respond. Actually, messing around with fry and fingerlings like this can be every bit as much fun as fishing for their mature kin.
Last edited by Don Hershfeld; 05-28-2012 at 08:14 AM.