Yesterday I was fishing in the Brazos River, standing chest deep in clear clean water with a gravel bottom. There was a cloud of tiny little fish around me.
I think they are called "fry" at that stage of their life. Beautiful little creatures that reminded me a bit of Neon Tetras that I once had in an aquarium. Smaller than the Neons, but the same basic shape and with the sunlight hitting them I could see a bit of a stripe down their sides. When they turned just right they almost glowed.
Every place I went there were thousand and thousands of these little guys. They were in deep water and in shallow water. When I pulled my fly through a cloud of them, they would leap around on the surface, some coming out of the water to heights twenty times their body lengths - healthy critters.
I watched several times as they would come flying up out of the water where I assume a predator fish had come near. One in particular was amazing. It came up out, really high, then as soon as it hit the water's surface it went flying up again instantly, way way high. How it performed that I could not imagine but the amazing thing was that it did it over and over and over for at least, and I do mean at least with no exaggeration, twenty times in a row. It must have covered thirty or forty feet doing that.
Each time it landed back on the water I would think "this has to be it, how many times could it possibly do that" and yet it would keep going. I can not guess at the strength of that tiny little fella. There's no way possible any human could exert that level of effort. No way.
When I was wading through ankle deep water there were thousands of these guys everywhere. I stopped and watched them for a while. They were all around my feet. They paid me no mind unless I waved my arm rapidly - at which they would all dart around in fast bursts for a few seconds - and from their perspective my arm was as high as a jet at 10,000 feet is to us. It appears that the fish's fear of movement above water is genetic, these guys all had it, and they had not been alive long enough to have learned it. I continue to be impressed by how alert fish are to movement above the water - taking this into account is a key to catching them.
The river had been low for a couple of weeks at this point. When I waded out it was warmer than my skin surface, like stepping into a slightly warm bath tub. I saw several bluegill spawning beds with the bluegills in attendance on the beds. I'm guessing that the bluegills are spawning now because of the lack of current, the current has been strong daily for a long time up until this latest pause. I'm guessing that those little fish are bluegills freshly hatched - I didn't see any bass spawning signs - so probably these were all tiny bluegills.
There must be a million of them per every hundred yards of river right now.
I turned over several rocks and examined the bottoms. Each rock had a colony of aquatic insects in various stages of growth clinging to them. Some were still in egg casings and some were in the nymph stage. For each square foot of river I'd guess there would be five hundred forms of insect life. There's a lot of square feet of river. Probably there's a billion insect life forms for every hundred yards of river. It's a hell of a solid base for the river's eco system.
This is a HEALTHY river. Warm shallow water with hot blazing sun means moss growth, and there was plenty of that. The current was there, but it was a slow current. Clear water but some silt had accumulated due to the recent rains and lack of flow from the dam. Just enough to kick up a small mud cloud wherever you wade. It is a beautiful river, teeming - literally bursting and teeming - with life. Tons and tons of large fish. Buffalo, carp, drum, gar, bass, are more than plentiful - and bluegills? It seems like there's a large blue gill every three feet.
It is a HEALTHY river basin. There's a huge population of fishing birds. Herons and Egrets and Kingfishers and Hawks and even the occasional Bald Eagle are to be seen all over the river. The banks are covered with raccoon and deer and turkey tracks. Stay out there long enough and you'll see all of these guys too. At night you can hear coyotes all around.
They let water out of the dam later in the day for the first time in a couple three weeks - after I had returned home. This will flush out that bit of silt, and bring highly oxygenated water to the fish. It will also push those bluegills off of their beds, push their eggs way down the river where they may or may not hatch, and if they do hatch they won't have parental protection.
Fortunately I don't think it will matter, there's a very healthy crop of fry in there already. The eco system is in beautiful condition. This is a gorgeous river.