My buddy Jason and I really wanted to explore a pretty important creek in Southern California. This system supported native peoples for hundreds (if not thousands) of years. There are glyphics and tribal anecdotes which confirm this. In fact, it’s possible that this system contains a native trout “unknown” to the powers that be. There are native trout through Baja and western Mexico. It’s reasonable to assume that ancient trout would have found there way to the Salton Sea (before it became a brine soup of agricultural runoff and evaporation) and eventually to small head water streams to spawn. Inevitably this could have created small resident populations of inland trout. These small waters would not have had commercial or touristic value meaning that stocking external (sport) populations would be extremely unlikely. There is evidence of stocking but the likelihood of those stocks being of an alternative heritage is unlikely.
Anyways, this is not a blog trying to defend my fanciful hope and vision for a 13th native trout to CA. Then again, I could contend that there is legitimate justification for 16-18 native species or subspecies. But that’s for another day.
Jason and I hit the road early and by 8:30 were on the trail head. It would be a multi-hour journey which would then split off from a trail. The ensuing crazy scramble-of-a-descent over probably 1/2 a mile while losing hundreds of feet of elevation was wrought with dead ends, ankle eating jagged rocks, and plenty of perfect perches for western diamondbacks. Thankfully we did not encounter of these friends. We knew water was at the bottom of the gorge and after navigating through many circuitous routes we heard and saw water. Finding a steep waterfall, we moved upstream because that cascade was a definite obstacle to any later introduced/stocked fish. The mountain range was younger than was the period of time when trout could have entered the system. Thus, the upper reaches could sustain a trout that, regardless of stocking practices, could maintain its genetic integrity.
We were so excited to see so many nice fish in the pools.
Jason strung up his Tenkara setup and I used my trusty small water rig. We were immediately onto the fish. And my goodness they were absolutely gorgeous. Unfortunately in the excitement over one of the larger fish we didn’t realize that Jason’s iPhone slid down a rock face right into the creek…but we didn’t realize it. I’d wanted to capture photos and videos with a newly procured GoPro. It wasn’t until hours later that we realized what had happened but had no clue where the missing phone was. Ironically in one of the b-roll GoPro shots you can see the phone clear as day at the bottom of one of the pools just before the large(ish) waterfall. The waterproof case meant that we could later track the exact GPS coordinates to confirm what the GoPro already showed us.
I must say that I was disappointed by the quality of the still frame images from the GoPro. Lesson learned. I will never again use it for photos, only video. Nonetheless, the fish were amazing.
As a biologist Jason has the ability/permission to take fin samples for scientific research. We have submitted a request/inquiry to the powers that be to see if they are interested in having us do so. Fingers crossed.
Regardless of whether or not we ever ascertain the true genetic profile and status of these fish one truth remains: it’s one now of my favorite fisheries and will likely remain so for a very long time. I plan to return in 2017 once my wife and I are back from Kenya. Maybe by then we’ll have made some scientific progress!