Hemlock Dam (Southwest WA) Is Coming Down.

“Damn!” The voice came from my left. I was coming up the hill with two five-gallon buckets holding RBT smolts and fingerlings for the data area. He was standing on the bridge over the creek and dam with his son and wife. “Guess they’ll be no swimmin’ THIS summer!” His voice boomed above the pumps to make sure I would hear, then gave that “phffffftt” look and shook his head.

Not everyone’s life revolves around flyfishing. Not everyone gives a rip about the condition of fisheries. A body of water, in whatever state it takes, becomes a backdrop, a stage for certain acts in a person’s life. In other ways, it’s a relation, a trusted friend, always there in good times and bad.

Even though Trout Creek always was a “moving” body of water, man saw the power generation potential and threw up a dam, which in turn, created the lake. And now, after 70 years, give or take, the dam is silted and can no longer serve its intended purpose, and people can only remember the lake. A local woman walked up smoking a cigarette and leaned on the guardrail while I was shooting some images of the workers. “I raised my two girls on this lake,” she said, gazing out over the dry gravel bed. “Walked a pony out on the ice one winter when it froze up…,” her voice trailed off.

A hoot rings out from the hole below the dam where a group is chasing fish into the recesses. Male, 73 cm, two visible tags behind the dorsal, clipped already. The data is entered. We drive the holding tanks upstream about a mile above the work area, then carry them to the stream and gently release a couple more. They swim into a cool clear pool and pull up next to some rocks to chill.

Within the first hour of my first day, I found a secondary flight feather from an Osprey on the shoreline. I see this as conformation of the good deed before us, an omen of sorts. The fish gave up free passage in this system for 70 years–the good deed, the right deed, was to give it back now. As I write, the concrete that was Hemlock Dam, is coming down.


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