The Caldera Project is specifically designed to address the questions of what the status of the wild trout fishery is and why, what could be done to change that situation, and what the quality of the angling experience is in the Caldera. In addressing these questions we will also examine and summarize the body of existing research that has been conducted in the Caldera to date.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Just another day at work

by Steve Trafton

When I was a teenager with a college professor father, I spent three years living in England. On one day each spring we would make the trip south to Hampshire, getting up early in the morning and driving out of London to the lush countryside and fertile chalkstreams that are part of every fly fisherman’s common history. The Test and the Itchen, rivers made famous by Halford, Skues, and other fly fishing pioneers, are found there, and we, pilgrims to the shrine, would spend the day casting dry flies to big trout in splendid surroundings. It was all wonderful, despite the minor irritations of a several hundred dollar daily rod fee and the nagging knowledge that the trout were, in all likelihood, recent arrivals from a hatchery.

Two days ago Tom McMurray, a friend from Jackson and one of the lead funders of the Henry’s Fork Foundation’s Caldera Project, took the afternoon and walked from the Last Chance angler’s parking lot to Pinehaven. We took in the length of the Ranch on a blustery late August day that had the feel of autumn by evening. At first, though, it was hot and bright, with the sun on the flowers in the meadows and grasshoppers underfoot, in the air, and on the water.

We followed the streamside path into the heart of the Ranch, looking for fish and rejoicing in the extraordinary scene that surrounded us: the Centennials on the horizon to the north and the Tetons to the south, the nearer, wooded ridgelines ever more clearly picked out by the sun as the afternoon progressed, the great open expanses of the rangeland in the foreground, and at our feet the incomparable Henry’s Fork, its surface constantly buffeted by the wind but every now and then – and often enough to hold out attention – broken by the snout of a feeding trout.

It was a different river from the one that I floated in late May with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game during an electrofishing survey. Then, in the midst of a long, cold spring and at lower flows, we encountered many long stretches of barren-looking shallows, with little habitat to appeal to trout. Three months later, after summer heat and at higher flows, the aquatic weeds have appeared in comparative abundance, and wading across the river was, even at one of its wider, shallower points, hard work.

The trout were there, too. In May, we surveyed decent if unspectacular numbers of trout, but long stretches of the river, in particular the upper end of the Ranch, appeared to have virtually no fish in them. Two days ago, Tom and I found fish throughout the upper Ranch, and over the course of the afternoon encountered fish from the top of Harriman State Park to the bottom. Ours was an unscientific survey, to be sure, dictated by the wind and the ratio of distance to be covered to time before dark. But the fish were there.

By the time we reached Osborne Bridge the shadows were lengthening, and the wind was howling. We did more walking than fishing, alternately stumbling along the steep, loose streamside and weaving our way along the narrow gap between the sagebrush and the electric fence. Just before dark the wind dropped, caddis appeared, and fish started to rise. We caught a couple of small, fat, and intensely lively trout, and then walked out to our car in Pinehaven. Although I had walked or boated piecemeal all of the water and ground that we covered that day, I had never done it in a single push. I wish that I had done so sooner.

In most places in the world, a readily accessible, gorgeous spot like Harriman State Park, run through with a trout fishery like the Henry’s Fork, would be private, or available to that tiny portion of the public able to pay the fee to gain access. On Wednesday, we paid $4 (on top of an annual pass). In most places in the world, if a place like Harriman State Park was open to the public, it would be overrun with people. On Wednesday, we saw 1 other person, and angler that we encountered in the first 15 minutes. When I fished the Test as a boy, on those painfully expensive occasions, scheduled months in advance and occurring only once a year, we caught the fish that were provided for us, graciously but artificially, by our hosts. This week, Tom and I decided to meet in Ashton the evening before, and we caught the fish provided for us by the Henry’s Fork. I went back for a couple of hours the next day, too.

We are lucky indeed.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Historic Railroad Ranch Slideshow

A collection of black and white photographs documenting some of the history and happenings of this special place prior to it becoming a park. Stringers, hunting trips, scenic shots, and portraits of ranch life are all included in this slideshow that dates back nearly a century.

All photos are courtesy of Harriman State Park of Idaho archives and may not be copied, reprinted or otherwise used without express permission. Enjoy !
(You can click photos to view in a larger window)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Be on the lookout...

Some Tricos as well as a strong caddis hatch this morning at Osborne Bridge. Also noticed this large plume of smoke to the West, on the far side of Thurmon Ridge. Photo was taken at around 1 pm this afternoon from the parking lot at Osborne. So far not sure what the cause of this fire is - watch for smoke to come into the caldera depending on wind direction. So far there is no threat to Harriman State Park, or the Henry's Fork, but will post more as it becomes available.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Mid Summer Slideshow

Mid Summer Post

A collection of photos - both scenery and fishing action - from the past several weeks in Harriman State Park

Ranch Update

Despite a return to lower flows (currently 1040 cfs from Island Park Dam), better water quality and cloud cover providing for improved fishing over the past couple of days, things have remained fairly quite here in Harriman State Park. Perhaps fishing pressure will pick up again over the weekend. Yesterday morning the water below Millionaire's Pool was filled with rising trout and no anglers in sight - there were however callabaetis spinners and honey ants.

See you on the river!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Higher Flows and Turbidity in the Caldera

As recent posts have noted, the past several days have brought higher water, some rain and decreased water clarity to the section of the Henry's Fork downstream of Island Park Dam. Water clarity and sediment content started to change in the afternoon last Thursday, 8/7, which coincided with greater discharge from the dam. Since the beginning of the month flows have come up from an average of 960 cfs - the maximum that can be used for hydropower generation - to a maximum of almost 1500 cfs yesterday.

With the increased flows the fishing quality has declined recently, as has the amount of use the river is getting. This has been due in part to the sediment that appears to be entering the river through Island Park Dam. Water managers are in the process of lowering the flows back down to address this issue.

The picture was taken yesterday afternoon from the top of the dam looking downstream - notice the difference in water clarity on river left and river right. Also, you can check current flows by flowing the link to the USGS gaging station site in the sidebar.

Friday, August 8, 2008

More Rain

The rain continued, and with it came more suspended particles in the water. Today It was hard to see the bottom in most places, which seemed to scare away the anglers. Flows were also much higher than usual at around 1500 cfs. Two pelicans were left as sentries at the log jam after yesterday's take over.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Day after the Rain

Last nights rain left the river a little cloudy from the extra runoff. There was a decent trico hatch this morning with a spinner fall, but the trout just weren't taking them. Slow fishing day, bright sun, and a pelican takeover of the logjam.