Trout habitat encompasses not only the river itself, and the banks with its tangle of trees, bushes and other assorted plant life, but the entire watershed (Figure 15) that produces steady flows of water into it. Nevertheless, it is the banks (riverine environment) of the river we are most familiar with, and travel along as we search for the next secluded pool. The waters’ edge of most rivers flowing through hardwood forests have in their understory, among the crowded assemblages of plant life, a surprisingly wide variety of shade tolerant flowering annual and perennial plants. For those of us who anticipate and revel in their arrival each year, the fishing season is defined into sub-seasons according to the flowering cycle of each species (see: Trout Flies & Flowers by I. L. Mahoney and V. Crozer).
For me, late April-early May is when the blooming of Magnolia trees in my neighborhood corresponds to finding Red Trillium or Dutchman’s Britches along the path to one of my favorite pools on the Willowemoc Creek in New York State. Both of these flowering plants show off their wares and roughly coincide with the hatching of Hendrickson mayflies. In early July, gaudy orange patches of Day Lily follow the gentle course of the West Branch of the Delaware River, signaling the emergence of the delicate Dorotheas (another mayfly). The annual cycle of familiar wildflowers and stream insects reassures us, whether we are conscious of it or not, that we are emotionally linked to these seasonal patterns of renewal. I am also convinced that is why many of us choose to be there in the first place.
The banks of all rivers function like an ecotone, and collectively support a diverse community of plants and animals. Ecotones are interfaces where two or more ecosystems come together. At their junctions, the kinds of life forms that accumulate are usually more diverse that those found in the ecosystems on either side of it. Because the stream bank is so rich in wildflowers and other foliage, as well, riverbanks serve as gathering places for animals. Some come to slake their thirst, while others like toads and other amphibians are temporary visitors, requiring water in which to lay their eggs. Seeing a deer or muskrat assures me that everything is still all right with that part of the world, at least.
The discovery of a wildflower, often hidden away in the shadow of a rock or sapling, never fails to delight. I usually depend on my naturalist friends for the final identification of most wildflowers that I have photographed. Enlarged, their features are easily observed, and I am surprised, as ants cling to Ductchman’s Britches (see: Galleries, Wildflowers) and emerging flowers push their way through the dead, dry leaves of last year’s fall (see the Gallery section). In Robert Frost’s The Hardwood Groves, he tells us that the forest floor leaves "..... must be pierced by flowers...." (Figure 43). The poet’s eye remains sharp and clear, guiding us to truths if we have the patience look. More and more I have taken to lying on my stomach and staring through my macro lens (Lyme Disease be damned), never quite knowing just what it is I have captured until I view them at home.