Saturday, August 16, 2014

Bears and World Class Cut Fishing (Slough Creek)

As we joyously walking down the trail after a great day of fishing and spectacular views, I turn around when Trevor shouts in a whisper, “Blair! Bear!” I then turn to Zach, and in the same manner whisper, Bear!
Zach and I walked back up the trail about 10 feet to Trevor and Jeff expecting to see a bear off in the distance, and much to our dismay, there was an incredibly large black bear slouched in the bushes no more than 15 yards away. With both bear spray and cameras in hand we stared at the marvelous creature for about 10 seconds before we cautiously made our way back down the trail back to the truck.
            All morning on the hike in and while fishing, we spoke to each other about how this was “bear country.” And by “bear country” I mean that I have never in my life seen habitat that looks more inviting to bears than that surrounding Slough Creek in Northeast Yellowstone. Even for Yellowstone National Park, a place revered for bear sightings, this was exceptional. So it’s fitting that we had our first bear encounter while fishing the backcountry at Slough Creek. Now on to the fishing…
            My college professors would not approve of citing Wikipedia, even for a casual blog post, but the Wikipedia page for Slough Creek says that “the cutthroat fishing is some of the best in the world,” and I would have to agree. With countless fish and opportunities to cast to them, I could not have asked for a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon. I completed my grand slam, if you will, for the summer by knocking a cutthroat trout off the list, Jeff caught the beautiful cut that he’s been chasing all summer, Thacia caught her first fish on a fly, Zach landed six, and we even saw a bear. Pretty awesome day if you ask me. Be sure to check out the video below.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Jeff Clemente (SLU) - The West

I'd say the best part of the work days of my HFF internship is the habitat study with Zach. I am a Conservation Biology major at St. Lawrence and I have learned so much through assisting Zach with his trout research. The best week working at HFF was the trout tagging in the beginning of the summer. My only main job for that entire week was to catch fish; no complaints there.

Nothing better than trout out of the avenue of the GIANTS
My favorite day off is a tie between the Table Rock hike in the Tetons and the Slough Creek fishing trip. In early June, Taylor and I decided to do a long hike in the Tetons, and Table Rock did not disappoint. About half way up the mountain, the beautiful summer surroundings quickly turned into a winter wonderland. We plunged further into the hike, walking through four feet of snow all the way to this view from the top. 
Grand Teton
Fishing in Yellowstone National Park at Slough Creek was nothing short of perfect. If the HFF were giving the survey at the Slough Creek trail head, I would give 10's to everything. The scenery was amazing, the creek was full of cutthroat, and the bears were there too (read Blair's blog post for bear encounter details). Cutthroat are my favorite trout because they are the native fish of the Snake River water shed and I am lucky to be able to catch these endangered, beautiful fish! Only one word could the describe the trip: the west. 
Yellowstone Cutthroat. King of Trout.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sara and Taliya

Over the weekend I went to visit my family (I'm a local) and my mom was watching one of my nieces. I have six nieces and nephews and this particular niece will be 3 in December. Her name is Taliya and I may be biased but she is one of the most adorable children in the entire world.

Well, I took another intern with me named Sara Reese. She has gone to my house several times to visit my family with me. Sara and I hit it off at the beginning of the summer so she comes frequently.

I was playing with Taliya, tickling her and swinging her and chasing her around. Well Sara kept trying to get a reaction out of her by tickling her too but Taliya just wasn't having it but then I had to go outside to do some weed eating for my mom and I was out there for quite a while. What I came back in to was a complete surprise. Sara was laying down on the couch and Taliya was sitting in front of her butt naked "reading" her a book in her little gibberish that she speaks. It was so adorable. Taliya was just laughing and having a great time reading to Sara. I took some pictures and Taliya just ignored me and kept on doing what she was doing.

I am so happy to be a part of this foundation and to be able to make some friends here and take them to see and get to know my family. I feel so grateful for everything that has happened for me this summer.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Fly Fishing In Idaho

The first time I ever attempted to fly fish I knew nothing about it. I had been taken fishing by my grandpa but never fly fishing so since I knew nothing about fly fishing the little helpful directions I received by Zach (the HFF grad student) was actually very helpful. He would shout to me "too big of a pie slice", "abrupt stops", "you're using your wrist", etc.

I thought that fly fishing was fun but that was the highest level that it reached for me. Then, Trevor (one of my fellow interns) wanted to go fishing but he was working with me so he asked me if I wanted to go fishing after we got done with work before we headed back to the house. Well I wanted to learn how to fly fish so bad because of my grandpa so I agreed. I could have never expected what happened next...

I was casting and I was casting incorrectly and my drag was wrong and I was hardly getting anything right at all but for the first time I felt the rhythm  of casting. Fly fishing suddenly (and without me realizing till later) felt soothing, meditative and calming. My thoughts and worries fled my head and I was suddenly elated. 

I think that this is what the anglers I see coming off the river must feel. The serenity of the place and the soothing nature that has become fly fishing to me. I cannot describe how I now feel toward this rewarding and peaceful activity. I am happy to say that I am hooked to this beautiful thing and plan to continue learning (as I have been throughout this summer) as much as I can. Thank you to everyone who helped me with this and continue to assist in my learning and in the learning of anyone who is a beginner. You have to be such patient people for those who pick it up so slowly.  You are continuing the legacy that is fly fishing.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Life on the River

The girls in front of Millionaires 
Determined to live out west, I interned last summer in Bozeman, MT and (as expected) fell in love with the Northern Rockies.  Now, a year later, my internship with the Henry’s Fork Foundation (HFF) has taken me back to the area I love so much. 
Although I gained an appreciation for the fly fishing culture last summer, nothing prepared me for the fly fishing scene at the Henry’s Fork.  This 127 mile long tributary of the Snake River is prized for its superb fishing, especially dry fly fishing. Anglers are drawn here from around the world with the goal of hooking and landing one of the Henry’s Fork prized trout.
Humming to snails gets them to come out of their shell!
As the only organization solely devoted to preserving the Henry’s Fork, HFF interns are always busy.  There are two main projects going on:  a habitat study and an angler satisfaction study.   A grad student from Grand Valley State, Zack Kuzniar, is researching which habitat rainbow trout prefer, and all six interns are helping him out.  Prior to the start of my internship, over 40 fish were tagged with radio trackers.  We then spend the rest of the summer tracking this fish to see which habitat they prefer to live in.  Zach walks around the riverbank with a radiotelemetry reader to try and pick up the signals from the tagged fish.  Two interns follow him carrying all of the supplies needed to survey the habitat.  Once Zach locates a fish, we examine what the habitat is like by looking at factors such as temperature, dissolved oxygen, depth, water velocity, substrate size, and macrophyte growth.  By the end of this summer, Zach will know what factors these rainbow trout favor.
The angler satisfaction study is the other main project the interns are undertaking this summer.  The goal of this study is to let the anglers voice their opinions regarding the condition of the Henry’s Fork.  Every day, two interns drive to several access points and interview the anglers as they follow him carrying all of the supplies needed to survey the habitat.  Once Zach locates a fish, we examine what the habitat is like by looking at factors such as temperature, dissolved oxygen, depth, water velocity, substrate size, and macrophyte growth.  By the end of this summer, Zach will know what factors these rainbow trout favor.
Working on the Buffalo Fish Ladder

When we are not working, HFF interns spend their free time discovering what makes Idaho so special and enjoying the fresh mountain air.  As an avid rock climber, hiker, and cyclist, most of my free time is spent exploring the nearby mountain ranges and open roads.  Although I have seen so much, its hard to believe that I only have four weeks left here.  There are still so many items left on my to-do list!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A First Trip to Yellowstone

While my family has spent time in this part of the country before, prior to last week my parents and I had never made the trip to explore Yellowstone.  My mom and dad were lucky enough to be able to travel from Virginia this summer to spend time with me here in Idaho, and we jumped on the opportunity of being so close to Yellowstone.  Driving up US 20 and entering through West Yellowstone, we knew we were in for a special Sunday - hardly anyone there, geysers glowing with bright colors, Old Faithful erupting, and spotting huge herds of elk and buffalo and a black bear crossing the river.  We loved it so much we returned again later last week to fish the Madison River, and my dad was lucky enough to catch a trout one of his first times ever fly fishing.  Yellowstone was a fantastic way to spend a few days with my parents, and those visits make me excited to come back to this area of the country and continue to explore the parts of Yellowstone we were unable to make it to.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Idaho, its Anglers, and the Satisfaction Survey

Although I've spent some time in this area of the country with my family before, when starting my internship with the Henry's Fork Foundation, I was instantly astounded by how friendly and laid back people are in this tucked away section of America.  This summer, one of the main tasks the interns have been assigned is conducting angler satisfaction surveys.  Each day of the season, a few of the interns can be found at locations throughout Harriman State Park asking anglers to complete a survey for the Foundation on fishing conditions that day and how it compares to years past.  Interning in Washington, D.C. last summer, I was given a similar task of interviewing people about environmental issues on the National Mall.  The friendliness and eagerness of the anglers who devote their summers and falls to fishing the Ranch are the exact opposite of what I encountered last summer.  Thus far, the majority of anglers have been willing to complete the roughly 5 minute survey and many have stayed after completing the survey to chat with the interns, whether it's asking us about school and where we're from or giving us pointers on fly fishing and some spots we absolutely need to check out this summer.  Being from Virginia and going to school in New York, I was a bit worried about the transition into Idaho life and whether I would be able to connect and relate to the anglers, some of whom have been fishing the Ranch for 40 or more years.  Everyone's passion for the area and their genuine concern about the health of the Henry's Fork and its renowned rainbow trout have made my transition remarkably easy and have made me feel absolutely at home here in Idaho.  I've never met a community more eager to share, friendly, or passionate about helping an area, and it's made me incredibly excited to go out everyday and see the familiar, friendly faces of anglers I've already met this season and to make new connections with anglers, some of them experiencing the beauty of the Harriman State Park for the first time, just like me a few weeks ago.