Water Quality Sampling and Ripping Lips

Friday, July 29, 2016 - 2:45pm


Reid Calhoun

I find myself nearing the end of week eight of this internship with only two weeks remaining before I begin the trip back east. I have truly enjoyed the day to day work along the Henry’s Fork. A couple of the other interns and I have been heading to Chester dam weekly to clean the river ladder and ensure that trout can migrate successfully above and below the dam. Every Tuesday continues to be water quality day, where we spend all day going section by section up the Henry’s Fork to collect water samples. Aside from the weekly water quality and Chester ladder cleanup, each day typically holds work on the river, whether it is some sort of cleanup or sampling.

(Pictured: The view of the Tetons while driving to Ashton after conducting creel surveys at Felt Dam)

Although picking macrophyte off of a river ladder or spending all day dipping bottles in water sounds tedious, I don’t think I could get bored of this. The scenery never fails to make work enjoyable, but I enjoy this work for more than the scenery. I enjoy knowing that the work I am doing day to day is making a positive impact on the fish in the Henry’s Fork. Working along the Buffalo or Chester river ladder makes me feel like a sort of gatekeeper, ensuring safe passage for fish. I am hoping that this work will give me some good karma for the next few years when I go fishing.

The river speaks to HFF through our water quality sampling and sonde network. As “The Voice of the River,” the Henry’s Fork Foundation takes the information we get from water quality monitoring and contextualizes it(translates river language to English, if you will). This allows for us to speak on behalf of the Henry’s Fork River. During water quality Tuesdays, I like to imagine that I am a messenger and Melissa is the translator. The river sends messages through the sampler and into bottles. I collect these bottles and Melissa translates the messages into information and data. When water rights discussions come up, this information and data allows us to speak confidently about what is going on in the river. HFF must be the translator and communicate to the watershed on behalf of the river.

(Pictured: The view below Lower Mesa Falls after a short nature walk)

It genuinely interests me in how our water quality monitoring factors into our ability to fight on behalf of the river, so I have been working on a short video to explain this. After detailing the extent of our water quality monitoring project between weekly sampling and the sonde network, I want to capture the essence of why this monitoring project matters. We measure all of these parameters of water quality and keep a constant record, but why does it really matter? I have a bit more editing and camera work to go, but the video should be up in about a week and a half. I am no Spielberg or NatGeo director, but I hope that my video will produce viewer excitement over water quality monitoring.

That is enough about work for this blog post. In addition to enjoying work, I have thoroughly been enjoying my free time here in Idaho. Two weekends ago, I went backpacking along Big Elk Creek, a tributary into Palisades Reservoir. I caught my first Yellowstone Cutthroat and many more after that.You can see one of the cutties I caught below. About five and a half miles from the trailhead, I stayed at a campsite that had a money hole filled with cutthroat 12-20 inches. It was the perfect hole for a tenkara rod. I used this fly in my box that I have not seen in shops since, and it absolutely crushed it. This nymph got me hooked on some backcountry hogs. It was about a size 12 or 14 flashback hare’s ear with 6 little white rubber legs. Like any nymph with my fishing style, I lost it pretty fast. If anyone knows where I can get some flies like those, I will be much obliged.

(Pictured: Catching Yellowstone Cutthroat at Big Elk Creek)

I finally caught a fish in the railroad ranch section of the river, but it was not too big. I will be going back there tonight as the fishing has clearly picked back up. I spent two evenings just this week below the logjam slapping the water with flies and saw many fish coming up. Even though I only caught about a 10 inch trout, I will say that it fought pretty hard for its size. From my experience this week, there has been a ton of insect activity along the ranch section, and the fish are coming up for them. I will be heading up there tonight to chase some hogs once again.

I have spent some time on the Madison since the last blog post, and have caught a few nice browns and whitefish between the lakes. I floated the Yellowstone River this past Sunday due North of the park, but the water was low and I didn't see too many fish. It was a gorgeous float with some spectacular views of the Absarokas. While conducting creel surveys at Teton Dam last week, I threw a line in when all other anglers had left the area. The Teton Dam section of the Teton River seems to be a nice area with plenty of fishy water. I caught a decent amount of trout along that stretch in a short period of time.

I have caught just about every species worth catching in this area now except for grayling. With only two weeks remaining, I do not believe I will chase a grayling. It is about time, however, to chase some big daddy fish. I will keep slapping flies down on the ranch over the next two weeks and report back in my last blog post.