This deep in November, the salmon are almost done for the year. They are still around in great numbers, but so ragged. Their sides, backs and tails are tattered from making redds and infected with fungus. No longer sea-silver or the deep, rutting red of the largest and most impressive fish, the salmon have faded into monochromatic black and white. This Saturday past I went for a long walk, first along West Fork, then down Deadwood Creek from the ford to the Summer Bridge watching and taking photographs. Here (left) you see the log emplacement set in by the Forest Service to create structure and habitat. The other photo is the view looking up West Fork from atop the logs.
There a single riffle between the driving bridge to our house and the two photos above. On my way home every day, I stop on the bridge to look at the creek. These past two weeks, I've been watching the salmon fight and squabble over the prime territory atop that riffle. Yesterday, I was able to sneak right up on the fish guarding the spot.
There is another really great spawning site at the ford. Between the ford and the confluence with West Fork, Deadwood Creek drops over a small log emplacement. This is an older structure than the one photographed above and uses a different architecture. The one photographed uses massive trees placed with a Chinook helicopter. The structure by the ford uses much smaller logs placed with heavy equipment (like a back-hoe.) The logs are held in place by steel cables attached to rocks or even the bedrock where possible. The problem is, steel rusts and logs rot. Two winters ago, one of the two logs forming the structure washed out, but in a surprising development, formed a really nice spawning site after the creek had washed away some of the silt to expose the gravel underneath. The dog and I spooked the fish, but I did get a picture of a completely spawned out salmon. Nice teeth!
The last spot I looked was down by the Summer Bridge. Here, the creek takes a long, looping bend and drops through a series of riffles and pools. There is a large (for Deadwood Creek) island with spawning sites on both sides. In a low-water fall such as we've had this year, the fish congregate in large numbers in the pools. Mostly, they laze in the current, but occasionally they squabble and tear around the pool with a great deal of fussing and darting. This year I saw over 20 and heard many more below where I was watching.
A giant redd, easily 15 feet in diameter. You can see the great sweep dug out by the fish and the ridge of throw-up gravel (one of three) running down the middle.