Approaching the familiar stream, in the familiar woods, with the familiar trail I approached a small stream I (and many others) love.
The water flows down cradled closely by two mountains. It's home to quite a few beautiful brook trout and many fond memories. After all, this is the first stream I caught a native brook trout in many moons ago, and one of the streams I frequent throughout the year.
Along these banks you find picturesque runs, riffles, and pools. However, on a warm summer day don't expect to find much solitude here as it's frequently crowded by swimmers. They never seem to factor in that this mountain water rarely gets above 70 degrees. A little too cold for me to enjoy.. unless I have a fly rod in my hand.
It's here that I've brought many friends who want to catch a fish on the fly. It holds fish, and doesn't have too many trees and bushes. And, let's be honest, fishing big dry flies to eager brook trout is just plain fun.
On this day, I visited the little stream with a friend who has rarely fished, nor hiked this trail. We ascended the familiar hill and started down the familiar trail, but noticed something strange. I've been to this stream more times than I can remember, yet I had never seen her in this state.
A thick layer covered her riffles, runs, pools, and falls from one side to the other. This ice made everything level. You couldn't tell a ten foot pool from a few inch run. It was strangely satisfying to walk right on places I usually cast my little fly.
For several years I've been coming here regularly, but I never knew I didn't know this system completely. Ice is, of course, not uncommon here on mountain streams, but for some reason every time I've ever been I escaped it's clutch.
As we walked through the trail an unfamiliar silence cried out. Not even a creak or crack was heard. A thrown rock caused a temporary echo that quickly evaporated in the wilderness. The usual sound of rushing, falling, crashing, and splashing water was silenced.
I guess winter has a strange way of making silence.
I carefully walked on some of the deepest pools, and looked down through the thick ice. Several feet down on the river bottom lay several brook trout. Resting side-by-side they slowly swept the the sandy bottom with their tails. It seemed their instincts were still operating though, when I walked directly over top of them they swiftly disappeared.
We continued meandered through the frozen trail and stopped to enjoy the unique beauty. It was a familiar face with a foreign look. Not a soul in sight, and not a sound to be heard.
We now know new stage of this river's life that is fine for a day, but I don't hope to see forever.