The Current Magazine Summer 2018 - Page 48

Craig's Corner

by Craig Ballenger, CalTrout Ambassador

Forces of nature

Wading a river and hunting trout is also an up close opportunity to glimpse the world of life under and around the water.

The snakes capturing the sculpin and Pacific tree frog, for example, are Oregon aquatic garter snakes. Not to be confused with the eastern water snake which is an invasive species now taking over on the lower Sacramento and San Joaquin tributaries.

The stonefly nymphs from the Mount Shasta region are often called helgramites by locals, yet the true helgramite becomes the Dobsonfly, which as you can see, is quite a different creature.

The Northern Pacific rattlesnake also reflects some local myths. Herpetologists remind us that the number of 'rattles' does not always designate the age of the snake; only adding another each time they shed their skin, which may be more than once a year. As well, the beads break off, making the age of a snake often more vague.

Recently, working at the McCloud Preserve, we saw what is the first, for me, realistic rattlesnake bite to a guy traipsing along the riverbank. After he drove out to the hospital, he returned the next day, quite proud of his newfound notoriety. The report from nurses, combined with inspecting the wound myself, which was on his shin, led to the conclusion it was actually a dry bite. No swelling, no bluish color, only the two small blood red marks of the fangs.

A day on the river offers many windows into the riparian world. The existence

of trout and stoneflies are an easy measurement of the quality of the water in a river. Neither can tolerate fouled, warm, or low oxygenated water.

Hunting trout is really a trip to natures own outdoor zoo; each season bringing some new development to a river. A mountain river is always revealing new secrets for those who walk quietly and pay attention.