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Beauty and the bugs in a little meadow stream in central Washington

By Troutnut on July 28th, 2019
On Sunday July 28th, I drove 2-3 hours each way (traffic got crazy) to spend about 3 hours fishing and sampling bugs in a favorite small stream on the east side of the Cascades, where a meadow in the middle of a hot burn from a few years ago has produced surprisingly large (meaning up to 10") and spectacularly colorful Westslope Cutthroat Trout. It could almost be called a spring creek, at least in the meadow reaches, although the same clear, stable, spring-fed water tumbles through a rocky forest for most of its length.



It is by far the smallest stream I routinely fish, and sometimes it's so narrow the grass overlaps the water from both sides and leaves nowhere to cast. With the combination of close quarters, tight spaces, clear water, and bright sun, it was a real challenge to sneak up on fish and present a fly without spooking them.

Every once in a while it opens up to a "large pool" like this one, which held the biggest fish of the day (about 8.5").



The larger fish I've caught previously were either hiding under the cut banks for the day or living in bigger water downstream. It's possible I've seen them up this high in the past because I fished it about a month earlier and they were up there spawning. I explored the forested reach below for just a little while and caught one still in spawning colors:




I was as interested in bug collecting on this trip as in the fish themselves, because I figured the altitude (around 5,000 feet) and spring-fed nature of the system might offer something new to find. It didn't disappoint. By far the most abundant large nymphs in my kicknet sample were Drunella coloradensis, and I collected my first adults of this species as well.



Among the dozens of nymphs of that species, I found a single specimen of a really unique-looking mayfly nymph that got me excited, the ultra-spiky Drunella spinifera:



I also collected my first adult of the extremely common caddisfly genus Rhyacophila:



And sweeping around the grass overhanging the stream turned up a few specimens of Dolichopodidae, or Longlegged Flies.

Photos by Troutnut from Mystery Creek #199 and Mystery Creek #250 in Washington

 From Mystery Creek # 199 in Washington.
Date TakenJul 28, 2019
Date AddedJul 29, 2019
AuthorTroutnut
CameraNIKON 1 AW1
 From Mystery Creek # 199 in Washington.
Date TakenJul 28, 2019
Date AddedJul 29, 2019
AuthorTroutnut
CameraNIKON 1 AW1
 From Mystery Creek # 199 in Washington.
Date TakenJul 28, 2019
Date AddedJul 29, 2019
AuthorTroutnut
CameraNIKON 1 AW1
 From Mystery Creek # 199 in Washington.
Date TakenJul 28, 2019
Date AddedJul 29, 2019
AuthorTroutnut
CameraNIKON 1 AW1
 From Mystery Creek # 250 in Washington.
Date TakenJul 28, 2019
Date AddedJul 29, 2019
AuthorTroutnut
CameraNIKON 1 AW1
 From Mystery Creek # 250 in Washington.
Date TakenJul 28, 2019
Date AddedJul 29, 2019
AuthorTroutnut
CameraNIKON 1 AW1
 From Mystery Creek # 199 in Washington.
Date TakenJul 28, 2019
Date AddedJul 29, 2019
AuthorTroutnut
CameraNIKON 1 AW1
 From Mystery Creek # 199 in Washington.
Date TakenJul 28, 2019
Date AddedJul 29, 2019
AuthorTroutnut
CameraNIKON 1 AW1
 From Mystery Creek # 199 in Washington.
Date TakenJul 28, 2019
Date AddedJul 29, 2019
AuthorTroutnut
CameraNIKON 1 AW1
 From Mystery Creek # 199 in Washington.
Date TakenJul 28, 2019
Date AddedJul 29, 2019
AuthorTroutnut
CameraNIKON 1 AW1
 From Mystery Creek # 199 in Washington.
Date TakenJul 28, 2019
Date AddedJul 29, 2019
AuthorTroutnut
CameraNIKON 1 AW1

Closeup insects by Troutnut from Mystery Creek #199 and Mystery Creek #250 in Washington

Male Drunella spinifera (Western Slate Olive Dun) Western Slate Olive Dun NymphMale Drunella spinifera (Western Slate Olive Dun) Mayfly Nymph View 8 PicturesIn a bucket full of Drunella coloradensis nymphs, this was the only specimen of Drunella spinifera (and the first one I've found anywhere).
Collected July 28, 2019 from Mystery Creek #199 in Washington
Added to Troutnut.com by Troutnut on July 30, 2019
Male Drunella coloradensis (Small Western Green Drake) Mayfly DunMale Drunella coloradensis (Small Western Green Drake) Mayfly Dun View 8 PicturesThe positive species ID on this dun comes from both the spinner that it (or possibly one other dun just like it) molted into and the overwhelming abundance of nymphs of this species in my kicknet samples from the same site.
Collected July 28, 2019 from Mystery Creek #199 in Washington
Added to Troutnut.com by Troutnut on July 30, 2019
Kogotus nonus Stonefly NymphKogotus nonus  Stonefly Nymph View 9 PicturesAlthough Kogotus and Rickeri nymphs may be difficult or impossible to tell apart, I captured an adult Kogotus nonus specimen in the air on the same day as several of these nymphs, and they are likely the same species.
Collected July 28, 2019 from Mystery Creek #199 in Washington
Added to Troutnut.com by Troutnut on July 30, 2019
Suwallia pallidula (Sallfly) Stonefly NymphSuwallia pallidula (Sallfly) Stonefly Nymph View 6 PicturesThis specimen keys out to Suwallia, for which I did not find any nymph species keys. However, I'm placing it in Suwallia pallidula because I caught a few adults in the same spot that closely resembled the abundant nymphs and keyed them out to species. Features I noted under the microscope when keying this specimen to genus included apical (Apical: Close to the apex; tip or end.) hairs of cercal segments that were directed at posterior (Posterior: Toward the back of an organism's body. The phrase "posterior to" means "in back of.") angles, and the longest apical (Apical: Close to the apex; tip or end.) hairs of distal (Distal: Far from the point of attachment or origin; near the tip.) segments were shorter than their following segment.
Collected July 28, 2019 from Mystery Creek #199 in Washington
Added to Troutnut.com by Troutnut on July 30, 2019
Female Paraleptophlebia (Blue Quills and Mahogany Duns) Mayfly DunFemale Paraleptophlebia (Blue Quills and Mahogany Duns) Mayfly Dun View 5 PicturesI hadn't seen an intact adult mayfly to catch all day, when suddenly I saw this Paraleptophlebia dun flying six inches in front of my face and nabbed it with my hand without even thinking. It has some sort of bright debris on it that probably comes from placing it in a transport container that hadn't been cleaned recently enough.
Collected July 28, 2019 from Mystery Creek #250 in Washington
Added to Troutnut.com by Troutnut on July 29, 2019
Female Ameletus (Brown Duns) Mayfly SpinnerFemale Ameletus (Brown Duns) Mayfly Spinner View 13 PicturesI found this female already spent (Spent: The wing position of many aquatic insects when they fall on the water after mating. The wings of both sides lay flat on the water. The word may be used to describe insects with their wings in that position, as well as the position itself.) and nearly dead, laying in the surface film of a very tiny spring seep (inch-deep water) in the valley of a very small trout stream.
Collected July 28, 2019 from Mystery Creek #199 in Washington
Added to Troutnut.com by Troutnut on July 30, 2019
Female Suwallia pallidula (Sallfly) Stonefly AdultFemale Suwallia pallidula (Sallfly) Stonefly Adult View 9 PicturesI collected a few of these throughout the afternoon. The positive ID on the adults allowed me to also put a species ID on the nymphs.
Collected July 28, 2019 from Mystery Creek #199 in Washington
Added to Troutnut.com by Troutnut on July 29, 2019
Male Serratella micheneri (Little Western Dark Hendrickson) Mayfly NymphMale Serratella micheneri (Little Western Dark Hendrickson) Mayfly Nymph View 9 PicturesThis specimen has tarsal claws (Tarsal claw: The claws at the tip of the tarsus, on an insect's "foot.") with 7 denticles (
The denticles on the tarsal claw of this Ephemerella nymph are highlighted in red.
The denticles on the tarsal claw of this Ephemerella nymph are highlighted in red.
Denticle: Small tooth-like projects, often appearing like serrations on the tarsal claws of certain mayfly nymphs.
)
and tubercles (
A few (not all) of the abdominal tubercles on this Ephemerella needhami nymph are circled.  They are especially large in this species.
A few (not all) of the abdominal tubercles on this Ephemerella needhami nymph are circled. They are especially large in this species.
Tubercle: Various peculiar little bumps or projections on an insect. Their character is important for the identification of many kinds of insects, such as the nymphs of Ephemerellidae mayflies.
)
on abdominal segments 4-7 only. It keys to Serratella micheneri, as do some other specimens from the same collection that lacked the dorsal (Dorsal: Top.) stripe.
Collected July 28, 2019 from Mystery Creek #199 in Washington
Added to Troutnut.com by Troutnut on July 30, 2019
Chironomidae (Midges) Midge LarvaChironomidae (Midges) True Fly Larva View 7 PicturesThis relatively large, olive-colored midge larva was very abundant in my samples from this little creek in the mountains.
Collected July 28, 2019 from Mystery Creek #199 in Washington
Added to Troutnut.com by Troutnut on July 30, 2019
Rhyacophila (Green Sedges) Caddisfly PupaRhyacophila (Green Sedges) Caddisfly Pupa View 3 PicturesThis was a neat, rare view into a Rhyacophila caddisfly just beginning to pupate, with the features of the larva still clearly visible inside.
Collected July 28, 2019 from Mystery Creek #199 in Washington
Added to Troutnut.com by Troutnut on July 30, 2019
Male Drunella coloradensis (Small Western Green Drake) Mayfly SpinnerMale Drunella coloradensis (Small Western Green Drake) Mayfly Spinner View 9 PicturesThis spinner molted from this dun, or possibly one other dun I had in the same container that looked just like it.
Collected July 28, 2019 from Mystery Creek #199 in Washington
Added to Troutnut.com by Troutnut on July 30, 2019
Ameletus (Brown Duns) Mayfly NymphAmeletus (Brown Duns) Mayfly Nymph View 2 PicturesThese two exuviae are my sad little consolation prize after collecting a couple of really cool, large, mature mayfly nymphs I didn't recognize from a tiny, probably fishless, spring-fed tributary of a slightly less tiny trout stream. I saw the nymphs in the kicknet samples and carefully transferred each one to my holding cooler before going to collect more samples. When I got home, I carefully went through the whole sample and couldn't find either one of them. Getting worried, I did it again and even more carefully. This time, I found both exuviae. By process of elimination, pretty much the only possibility is that both of them hatched out of my cooler and flew away during the 10 minutes or so that I had the lid off to collect more samples.

I was really excited about them for the whole three-hour drive home and seriously bummed that they disappeared. In the field I thought they might be one of the families of swimmer nymphs I don't have yet, like Ametropodidae, but keying the exuviae takes me to Ameletus, so at least I didn't miss some great rarity. Still, they were much larger and darker than any other Ameletus I've collected and probably a species I don't have yet.
Collected July 28, 2019 from Mystery Creek #199 in Washington
Added to Troutnut.com by Troutnut on July 30, 2019

Most recent comments on this post (latest on top)

MartinlfAugust 5th, 2019, 12:25 pm
Moderator
Palmyra PA

Posts: 2927
Interesting. Stunning photos. Thank you for sharing, Jason.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell

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