Nervously, we took a step forward, certain that one false footfall would result in a face-full of frigid water. Shadowy tree stumps and submerged boulders, slick with algae hid beneath the murky water. But the turbid flow of Lagunitas Creek also promised the greatest prize of the day: Coho. Following a week rife with sightings along the creek, and even word that fish had jumped up the Inkwells and into San Geronimo Creek, we eagerly, albeit cautiously, plodded upstream.
Our sure-footed leader, Angie, from the National Park Service, alerted us to the “huge redd” from last week’s spawner survey, just ahead. We bumbled along the left bank, working to find a vantage point, when suddenly, “Fish!” Angie murmured excitedly. We strained our eyes, craned our necks, and tried to create fins and tails from the dark leaves beneath the water’s surface. In that split second, our Coho darted downstream and we were left to console ourselves by marveling at the enormous trench and mountain of rocks and fine sediment that comprised this redd.
As we debated how to begin measuring the nest, our fish reappeared in the midst of the rocky depression. She was long, streamlined, silvery and pink. Her white tail attested to the immense effort she expended in building her mammoth redd. We gazed with unbridled admiration and watched the ease with which she hovered mid-stream. Suddenly, she flipped on her side, a bright rosy flash, and pumped her tail: she was digging! Her tail suctioned the sand and let the current deposit it just downstream.
Ecstatic smiles painted across our faces, we backed off a bit, letting this fish continue tending her redd. “We’ll measure it next time,” Angie said, “Let’s let this lady do her thing.”