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Trout Stream Reflections

The oak leaves rustled beneath foot steps in passing a grove of white pine along the over grown path down to the stream. The way was steep and progress was noticed by ravens that cronked overhead as wood ducks flushed and cried on their way upstream. In its valley, between spring-soaked banks, the stream meandered downstream pushing through gravel deposits carving bends and scouring holes that harbor trout. The low gray clouds occasionally dripped but not in a chilling way because this day was one of those first spring days when a warm southerly wind moved through the woods.

This was not a social visit and many of us are well practiced in this fashion of distancing ourselves from the pressures of the rest of our lives. We have been doing this for as many years as we can recall. There is a feeling of connectedness to a larger presence when we place ourselves along a trout stream. Perhaps it is the perception of consistency and foreverness that attracts us. Flowing water has been a feature of our landscape ever since there was water and land; some of the oldest habitats in the world are native to running waters. We have coevolved with flowing water. Therefore, it is understandable that we are drawn to what is innately familiar to us when we seek a place of rejuvenation and transformation.


Sitting on the bank, dangling boots in the current, washed the stresses of the morning away and made room for planning the approach to catching native brook trout. The conditions were favorable as clouds dampen the brightness of the afternoon and the warmth of spring water enhanced the trout’s appetite. Fishing in an upstream direction was appropriate and the good fortune of clear casting lanes enabled casts long enough to reach trout without disclosing our intentions. The water was gin clear and flowed at a graceful pace. The prevalence of submerged logs and roots inclined the fisher to choose dry flies with capability to support a shallow weighted dropper fly. A dark colored dry fly, mimicking a fluttering winter stonefly, worked well for a short time. Later a light tan dry fly provided more visibility and coupled with a small silver beadheaded black and red wet dropper fly, enticed more brook trout to surface. Soon the Grannom or Black Caddis will hatch to the delight of fishers. Picking a few rocks from the stream bed revealed their strength in numbers by the many cased larvae clinging to the surface of the rocks.

When visiting a trout stream, fishing is not necessary. Perhaps it is just an old habit or a way of explain ourselves if anyone happens by. In such places our minds fill with memories of past trips here with friends and with the knowledge of the significance that certain streams possess. This stream, in particular, is the setting where foundational research establishing best practices for trout stream rehabilitation occurred more than 40 years ago by Robert L Hunt (Wis DNR). His work is set forth in the book Trout Stream Therapy.


Today the title of the book “Trout Stream Therapy” has an expanded meaning for us in that it is the therapy of trout streams that we as humans seek and find in our local trout streams. We are blessed with hundreds of miles of coldwater streams along which there is ample room to distance ourselves.