The Thaw

The East Branch Delaware entering Crooked Eddy on a bright, twenty-one degree Sunday morning. The debris field in the foreground is the ice deposited by Friday’s high water, piled several feet above this morning’s flow.

Along my river walk this morning I was impressed by Nature’s handiwork once more. There is a bit of a thaw that began with Thursday’s rain, was subdued by the past two days of frigid temperatures and will be expected to continue during a warming trend through the coming week.

The Beaverkill watershed contributed a healthy dose of runoff, with the river peaking at 5,000 cfs on Friday. The discharge recording gage on the receiving East Branch at Fishs Eddy is still iced, but the gage height readings show a rise of nearly five feet from Thursday’s rainfall. I knew the Beaverkill had spiked but was surprised at the amount of ice piled along both banks here at Crooked Eddy. Though the mountains were not wearing a coat of deep snow, there was enough added to the melting rainfall to push a lot of water and ice through the system.

An ice sculpture I happened upon this morning: sculpted by flow!

Certainly, there was a bump in my heart rate when I first saw the advance forecast, though I dare not let too many thoughts of fishing get a foothold in my daydreams. If the thaw continues, and the winds remain civil… well, we will see.

I wonder what damage this thaw might have caused to the riverbed, and the cost paid in nymphs, larvae and trout eggs? I remember an April steelhead trip to Ohio’s Grand River. The guide that had offered the trip during a chance meeting at West Branch Angler told me that he floated the river at least twice before he fished it each spring, simply to study the dramatic changes the moving ice had wrought, where it had made, and where it had eliminated holding water and spawning gravel.

I will not learn the answers until spring, when my feet will gradually measure the changes to the structure of the rivers. The abundance of the mayflies and caddis will say much, though it will be the end of the season before all the costs of Nature’s sculpture are revealed.

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