After a long drive from Lexington, Virginia with visits to Cincinnati, the Badlands, Mt. Rushmore, and friends in Jackson, WY, I arrived in the Targhee area Sunday, June 5. I decided to hit Box Canyon below the Island Park dam that night, and lost several fish due to impatience and what I have chalked up to be rust from spending too much time in the library this past school year and not enough on the river. I have decided that I will waste no time this summer in trying to master all aspects of knowing the river: the entomology, the various fish species beyond trout, understanding river flow and formation on a deeper level, etc. I want to become completely aware of everything going on in the river, even if it is not important to fishing.
I began work that Monday with an orientation and a tour of the Teton River where I will be conducting creel surveys, and on Tuesday we drove to 12 different sites to take water quality samples and check sondes. On Wednesday, I headed out early with Chi to the Upper Borrow Pit to conduct my first of many creel surveys, but nobody showed up to fish that morning. I was happy, however, to walk straight into the path of a fox, which quickly turned around and ran off. That afternoon, I enjoyed checking the Buffalo River ladder with Christina and Chi. Although most of the really big trout had already gone up the river to spawn, it was fun to empty the trap and see what was passing through. We checked the Buffalo River ladder again on Friday morning, and found a nice 14.5 inch rainbow trout that was tagged last year.
Over the second week, we concluded our monitoring of the Buffalo River ladder this season and I went out with Jack and Justin to collect water quality samples. From then on, all hands were on deck to prepare for the biggest HFF event of the year: Henry’s Fork Days. After many hours of setting up tables and decorations, the event was a huge success. It was inspiring to see so many people come together to celebrate the Henry’s Fork Foundation and with so much passion for maintaining the quality of the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River.
Over the last two weeks, I have hit several fishing spots around the area both on the Henry's Fork and on its tributaries. I went to the Buffalo River the first Monday night to fish, but all I got was a two inch baby trout. A moose kept milling about in the area, so I was urged to leave earlier than I had wanted. I went back to Box Canyon below the dam Wednesday night, and after constantly changing fly after fly, I caught three nice rainbow trout on a pheasant's tail. I then felt that I had shaken off the rust and was ready to start catching some serious fish. Although I wanted to check out a different river section, high winds on Thursday had me going back to Box Canyon where there were trees to block the wind. I caught 4 little rainbow trout. Over the second week I caught several rainbows in spots ranging from Ora Bridge to the Warm River to the Fall River. I decided to try my luck on the Ranch in the second week, but got skunked. I have lost zero confidence though. I will get me some ranch fish in no time.
Every night after fishing, I plan on studying various river-related subjects. I picked up an introductory book to river morphology(River Morphology: A Guide for Geoscientists and Engineers(Mangelsdorf, Scheurmann, Weiss)) from the office on Wednesday to help me understand more about river formation. I have only read a few pages so far, but the topic already appears riveting. The introduction explains how mathematical approaches are used to understand river formation, but a scientist should never get too wrapped up in the math and forget about the direct observation of nature. Of all the water that falls on the Earth as precipitation, about 1/3 of that water goes to sea under the influence of gravity. Water flow under the influence of gravity slowly carves out streams and rivers. A simple example of this concept is to drop a single drop of water on dry dirt and see how a tiny amount of dirt is pushed aside by the water. I also read about Baer’s law, which is a geological concept which states that erosion occurs typically on the right banks of rivers in the northern hemisphere and on the left banks of rivers in the southern hemisphere. This is attributed to the earth’s rotation. Pretty neat!
Although I enjoy my classes in my Chemistry-Engineering major, the little I have just learned over these last two weeks about river health, conservation, and formation has caused me to think that perhaps I should have been a Geology or Biology major.
Working for the Henry's Fork Foundation is not only great because I get to fish every night and work around rivers, but I feel that this work is truly important. I am a bit of an alarmist about the future of our planet, and I don't think that we can rely on the powerful governments of the world to make serious changes in favor of the environment. Every year there is a UN conference on climate change, and every year pledges and promises are made, and practically every year it seems to me that these pledges and promises are broken. It seems to me that we must rely on more community-based organizations to affect real change. I believe that the Henry's Fork Foundation is a perfect example of what is necessary to ensure that wildlife and plantlife still exist in healthy abundance.
I have just finished the second of ten weeks here in Idaho, and I am already feeling like the end is too near. There truly is something special about these mountains that can only be described by experiencing it first hand. Being alone on a stretch of the river around sundown, surrounded by nothing but the dramatic scenery and bountiful wildlife, allows for some true introspection. The mountains don't care about you. They don't care if you catch a huge rainbow or if you fall in the river. It is liberating to be in a setting where you don't matter to anything around you. The animals only care whether you are a threat or if you are a possible food source. Perhaps this is a definition of true freedom.