“There are supposed to be fish in there?" I remember asking incredulously as we arrived at Badger Creek. Usually, our task is to bushwhack to a remote stream to analyze its trout population. However, this morning, our task was a little different. We drove towards Badger Creek where we heard there was a puddle, not much larger than a queen size bed, where fish were struggling. In this environment, with shallow waters, high temperatures and too little oxygen for vegetation, we could not imagine we would have much luck finding fish.
This past Tuesday, I left the usual duties of the gang of HFF and FTR field workers and joined Matt Hively (one of the FTR crew) to perform surgeries on fish caught in Bitch Creek. The day before, Mike Lien and Matt had gone spin and fly fishing along the river and caught five fish: a few hybrids and one rainbow trout. Overnight the fish hung out in a pair of livewells—PVC pipes with caps and holes punched into the sides—and tied to some rocks within the flow. That day we were wading to these spots in order to surgically place radio telemetry tags within the fish.
Before I came to intern at the Foundation, I knew I would be helping out at something called Henry's Fork Day. All I knew, was that it was an annual event, was open to any member of the Foundation, and that I needed to mow and rake a football field worth of grass up to my hips for the event. So after Thacia, Christina, Natalie and I spent almost 20 hours mowing the site for the day, I was excited to see the field come to life.
Back on April 1, with snowpack and winter streamflow data in hand, I predicted that the spring of 2015 would be the driest in the last 35 years and quite possibly the driest since the extended drought of the 1930s. You can read my April 1 predictions at http://henrysfork.org/spring-2015-shaping-be-driest-record. So, how good were my predictions?
As the Environmental Modeling Intern, my time is split between field work and programming in R (a statistical computing language and software environment… think Excel but more powerful and with a lot more user driven direction). The first half of my summer has primarily consisted of using R to create graphs comparing the current water year to those of the past. When I was first given this task, my R skills were limited and the pressure was on.
The flow test at the Chester hydroelectric plant was completed successfully last week, although high levels of aquatic vegetation moving through the system made for interesting work conditions at Chester and stressed the trash rake beyond its limit. Additionally, an issue with transmission lines also caused the Island Park Dam hydroelectric facility to trip off early on the morning of the 22nd. This caused a reduction in flow for about two hours, but fortunately the effect was greatly attenuated by the time dip reached Chester.
Before this summer, when I pictured Idaho I thought of three things: snow, fish, and potatoes. Now that I am here, the images I associate with these words have changed dramatically. In the seed potato capital of the nation, with top-notch fly-fishing and altitudes so high that you get tan hiking on snow, I have learned more about fisheries, agriculture, and Idaho than I could anywhere else. The welcome to Ashton sign says, "Adventure starts here," and after my first few work weeks, I believe it.
Having grown up in rural Alaska and having just graduated, I was ready to leave the Silicon Valley suburbs behind and return to a place that felt a little more like home. Almost immediately, southeastern Idaho gave me that feeling. With a little over 1,000 residents, Ashton, Idaho is cozy. Agricultural fields stretching across rolling hills to the base of the Grand Tetons provide open space that is plentiful and welcoming. And then, of course, there is the Henry’s Fork – a river many claim as home to the best fly-fishing in the nation (if not the world).
Now that all of the interns have arrived in Ashton, Idaho, the blogging can begin! I, Natalie, the Colgate intern, have been here for 5 weeks so far. Abi, the Ashton intern, has been working since April. Maya, the Washington and Lee intern, just finished her fourth week. Finally, Christina, the Stanford intern, has been here a week and a half.
The Henry’s Fork Foundation was notified in mid-June about plans to release water from the Island Park Reservoir to provide extra flows for a turbine test at Chester Dam June 21-26. Through negotiations with Fall River Rural Electric and other entities, it was decided to delay the release and the testing until later in July to provide more notice for travelling anglers and to maintain the great June angling opportunities on the Henry’s Fork.