Monday, August 04, 2008

Stocking Fish

I’ve fished the Henry’s Fork for over thirty years. It’s a long time, yet I know of many who have fished it longer and with more frequency. Over that time I’ve been witness to its many mood swings. They run the gamut. But, never has it disappointed, even in the most meager of times. I remember several years back where I failed to land a trout and if truth be told only momentarily hooked one. Sitting on the banks among the tall grasses surrounded by a cornucopia of wildflowers in anticipation of what this river reluctantly yields reaches out to a hundred emotions. One should ask nothing more of a river and especially this one.

Upon leaving the famous Ranch section of the North Fork, a Henry’s Fork Foundation intern conducted a survey regarding whether these waters lived up to anglers expectations. Numbers of fish are down and have been for some time. For a growing number of anglers, they’d like to see something done about that. I told the intern that I felt there were just as many trout per angler now as in the glory days given that numbers of both had declined. Due the current state of the fishery, which is a matter of opinion, there are rumors regarding the possibilities of supplementing the existing wild population of rainbows. I ponder this recent impetus uncomfortably.

The Henry’s Fork, in particular the Ranch section, has such unique qualities that separates it from many of the other western waters. For one, they’re the rainbows: big, powerful, scarce and mostly hyper-selective. Laid before them is a daily profusion of insects, which only complicates the complexity of the game one must play to fool them. Then there’s the water; deceptively placid in appearance, but wrought with disorder and misdirection. The fact that there is solace in its beauty and the surrounding scenery only adds to its qualities.

For those not familiar with this river, being successful takes on a whole new meaning. On some occasions, just hooking a fish can be considered a favorable outcome, on others a fish or two. It’s not a game of numbers here; the challenge this river presents is more personal than that. However, a short distance from these waters there are plenty of other rivers where you can get your fix should your time on the Henry’s Fork not live up to your expectation.

Man has a history of being impatient with Mother Nature. After almost a decade of drought, there’s little wonder the Henry’s Fork is struggling. Tons of silt that found its way into the river when work was being done on Island Park Dam has added to the rivers struggles during this time. I know of few waters in the west that have not fallen victim to Mother Nature’s recent wrath.The Henry’s Fork Foundation and others have invested a significant amount of resources over the years addressing the issues that face this complex river system. Simply, there are no easy answers. But, given the opportunity Mother Nature has shown throughout history to rebound under favorable conditions to a state of healthy balance. Sometimes this takes time and patience, qualities as two leggeds we struggle and eventually succumb to far too often. Although stocking the Henry’s Fork may put a few more trout on the end of ones line, it doesn’t solve the problem.

That which eludes us only adds to its addictiveness. Changing that simple fact simply diminishes the desire. That’s a significant part of what makes the Henry’s Fork rainbows and this river so enthralling. That fact that it’s difficult to catch a trout on these waters only adds to its mystic. Looking at short term solutions with long term consequences that are not known historically has gotten us into trouble. I’d hate to see that happen here at this juncture.

I once heard someone state that the “Henry’s Fork is a magical place” in describing his affection for this river. Those comments sum up mine and others feelings for these waters. Since then the river has been through some challenging years. Through it all the Henry’s Fork has shown resilience. It may not be were we want it, but it’s better than what it was a decade ago and given the health of the fishery this year, it appears to be continuing to improve.

I hope when all is said and done that we have the patience to let Mother Nature run its course and we exude the same level of fortitude that it takes to be successful on the Henry's Fork. At the very least the river deserves that consideration.


Genericyclist said...

I learned to fish in this area and have so many great memories about the many spots that I was too young to remember the names of. What I remember best fits well within your description though, crystal water that you gaze hoardes of fish within, and never catch. Heaven, for a man with the proper knowledge, or a boy getting his first tastes of nature. I am finally getting the bug again, after a long hiatus, and my five year old is so eager to has been a pleasure to meet you Steve and receive your encouragement and advice.


Chris at Binghams

Steve Schmidt said...

Thanks for the nice comments. We need to wet a line together with your son when the season slows down. Feelings are mutual.....