Weekly Drivel®

Yellowstone Supervolcano: solving world problems in one fell swoop

OMG—Time to freak OUT!

OMG—Time to freak OUT!

A recent tweet by Seattle’s KING 5 News shared a story about the Yellowstone Supervolcano, the headline of which is sure to get people to read the article because that’s what a good headline does: it sells news! And once folks have read the article, many will probably still panic. The article suggests that the gurgling volcano under the Yellowstone is expected to blow much sooner than originally expected. And it could wipe out life on the planet.

But before you reach for the antidepressants, remember that this volcanic event would—quickly and efficiently—also take care of Kim Jong Un, terrorism and all the other unsavory world problems, of which there seems to be no shortage.

Here’s a particularly interesting excerpt from the article:

“About 630,000 years ago, National Geographic reported, a powerful eruption shook the region and created the Yellowstone caldera, a bowl 40 miles wide that forms much of the park.”

Odd. I knew National Geographic has been around a long time, but I didn’t realize the organization has been around for 630,000 years!

Again, before you freak out, you should know something that wasn’t stated clearly in the article: An eruption destroying life on the planet will not likely happen any time soon. The article states that “…more research is necessary before definite conclusions can be drawn.”

Here’s a link to the article.

Yellowstone supervolcano may blow sooner than thought — and could wipe out life on the planet

I’ve oft-stated that when the supevolcano does blow, I want to be standing knee deep in the Firehole River, tight to a feisty 12″ trout. I don’t want to be 700 miles away, with time to learn that the blast is fast approaching.

DSC_1156

Yellowstone Supervolcano: Bring it on, bitch

Have a nice day!

Conservation Education: The Blue River Explorer Hike

BlueRiverExplorerHike-logo

About a year ago I received an email from Greg Hardy, President of the Gore Range Anglers (Colorado) Chapter of Trout Unlimited, asking if I would be interested in working on a project he had conceived. I had previously designed a logo for the chapter in May 2016, which is how Greg came by my name. This new project Greg had in mind was of considerable scope, not only from the standpoint from which I would be involved, but as a whole. Greg’s vision, to be called the Blue River Explorer Hike, was loosely modeled after the National Park Service Junior Ranger program. Through a series of interpretive signs to be placed along the Blue River Trail in Silverthorne (Colorado), Greg’s goal was to educate visitors—kids, and adults alike—about the Blue River Watershed. It’s a complex watershed that supplies a vast amount of limited water to not only the local area, but the greater Denver area well beyond Silverthorne.

The signs would include graphic-intensive information ranging from What Trout Need and What Trout Eat, to How Watersheds Work, and How We Measure Water, plus more; all pertaining to the Blue River Watershed. As a Trout Unlimited Life Member, it sounded to me like a very worthy project. Of course I was interested.

And so began many months of phone calls and back-and-forth emails. I was sent information in text form (some of it written on restaurant napkins) and tasked with taking that information, paring it down and communicating it in as visually pleasing and simple a manner as possible, because—as we all know—people like looking at pictures more than reading words (says the long-winded author of this blog).

Sign-WhatTroutNeed

Sign-WhatTroutEat

HowWatershedsWorkSign

HowWeMeasureWaterSign

BlueRiverWatershedSign

In addition to the signs, I also designed an Activity Booklet that kids (and big kids) will receive for free when they register for the Blue River Explorer Hike at the Silverthorne Welcome Center. The booklet contains word search games, crossword puzzles, coloring pages and other fun stuff suitable for ages 4 and up, so be sure to stop by when you’re in Silverthorne and register for the hike. Note: Be sure to do this during spring, summer or fall, as the signs will likely be buried under (hopefully) several feet of snow during the winter months.

The Blue River Explorer Hike Activity Booklet

The Blue River Explorer Hike Activity Booklet

The entire project, given the scope of it all, went very smoothly. At least it did from my standpoint. As I worked away on the illustrations and sign designs, Greg was busy with adult stuff and orchestrating the entire thing: rounding up sponsors and grant money to cover the cost of production, printing, construction and placement of the signs, etc. This was no small task given the organizations and entities involved.

Greg Hardy cutting the ribbon, flanked by the Mayor of Silverthorne (right) and

Greg Hardy cutting the ribbon, joined by the Mayor and representatives from the Planning Department and Town Council of Silverthorne, as well as members from Copper Mountain Environmental Foundation and the High Country Conservation Center.

The man behind it all, Greg Hardy.

The man behind it all, Greg Hardy.

While I live 1,288.8 miles from Silverthorne and wasn’t able to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony on September 11, 2017, I’m very proud to have been involved in this grass-roots project (and pleased to have Olive the Woolly Bugger participate as a sponsor). I hope that, with the help of Trout Unlimited chapters elsewhere, similar programs will be duplicated on watersheds throughout the country. Every watershed has a great many demands placed upon it, from agriculture and municipal requirements, to recreational usage that includes, among other things, fishing. Anglers certainly are (or should be) aware of conservation issues facing their local waters, but the general public isn’t always as keenly dialed in on such matters. Because water is not an unlimited resource it is imperative that the public learn about the complexities of each watershed so that we may all become conservation-minded stewards as we go about our lives.

Here’s an article commemorating the ribbon cutting ceremony from the Silverthorne city website: http://www.silverthorne.org/Home/Components/News/News/691/26

The article also contains a couple of videos, which I’ve extracted here for your viewing pleasure:

Thank you to all the individuals, businesses and organizations involved the successful completion of the Blue River Explorer Hike project. Especially, thanks to Greg Hardy for your passion and vision, and for reaching out and involving me. Just remember, there’s no “t” in Kirk. 😉

 

 

 

Idaho trout trip: Quality, but not quantity

The last trout trip of the year was to a favorite, familiar place in northern Idaho that the Rangers (or at least most of the regiment) normally fish together in July. Marck and Morris tend to be a bit more obsessive about this place (or they’re more tolerant of the 8 hour drive) and are known to make an occasional weekend jaunt at other times of the year. I absolutely love the place, but I just can’t talk myself into a 3 day weekend in which 2 of those days are spent driving. Unfortunately, the July group trip didn’t happen this year. Instead, I took an extended weekend and visited the North Fork Clearwater, another northern Idaho trout zone merely one drainage away. That trip introduced me to a river I’d never fished before, and while a grand time was had, it left me missing the favorite Idaho river. And so, in August, Jimmy and I began discussing dates for a September trip, and waiting impatiently for the date to arrive.

We’d fished the favorite river in late September last year, and it was a beautiful time to be there. With lower flows, the fishing wasn’t as fast paced as it typically is in July, but the fish we encountered were all very healthy, mostly quite large (15 inches and above, up to 20″). It was a great trip, and we hoped to have a similar trip this year. Marck was unable to get the time off from work. We knew Goose and Nash wouldn’t be able to make the trip so we didn’t bother asking them. Morris decided to join in, but declined the offer to ride with us and instead drove his own car.

Fires burning in area—and all around on the Montana side of the Bitterroots—had made for very poor air quality in the weeks leading up to our trip. The smoke had been widespread across the entire Pacific Northwest, as well, due to fires burning closer to home. A bad year for fires. As we headed out on this particular Sunday in mid September, the smoke was thick at home, but began to clear the farther east we drove. Weather reports had suggested this would be the case and we were delighted that those predictions held true. The result was that we had 3 days of clear skies and perfect weather. A little cloud cover might have made for better fishing, but it was hard to complain about being on a beautiful river in the Idaho backcountry, under blue skies and 75 degree weather.

The only complaint was that, due to a burn ban, there were no campfires allowed, and sitting around an LED lantern at night isn’t quite the same as staring into a flame. On the other hand, we got plenty of sleep since there was no allure of a campfire to keep us up late and night, telling lies and sipping whiskey. This time of year the sun goes down by 6:30 or so, and is dark by 7pm. The first night we were in bed by 8:30 (getting old, apparently). The next night we were determined to stretch things out a bit and didn’t retire until 9:30. On the last night we did a bit better and may have extended our evening until 11PM thanks to a visit from the young guy camped nearby. He was there for a week by himself and had apparently become starved for conversation.

But enough about our lack of late night gumption, let’s get to the fishing…

Day One fishing was slow to start. Morris did better than either Jimmy or me, and I barely managed to land one fish all day long. A good fish, to be sure—a beautiful hen of around 16″ or so. But she paled in comparison to the absolute hog that Morris landed.

Day One Fish. The only fish on day one for UA.

Day One Fish. The only fish on day one for UA.

It was actually the second time he caught that fish on this trip. You see, the reason Morris drove himself was so that he could leave earlier than us, drive much faster than us (thereby arriving several hours before us) and fish all the good holes before us. But back to the fish: it was one of the bigger cutthroats one can expect to catch on this river. The Great Pumpkin Trout was over 20″, and likely closer to 21″ or 22″. This big old buck was more colored-up than any Westslope Cutt I’d ever seen, its belly as vibrant orange as imaginable. And it’s orange belly was full, suggesting that it had been feasting on the massive supply of Spruce Moths that were hatching.

Morris' trophy cutthroat

Morris’ trophy cutthroat: The Great Pumpkin Trout

Underbelly closeup of the Great Pumpkin Fish.

Underbelly closeup of the Great Pumpkin Trout.

We desperately tried catch the Great Pumpkin Trout again, but having been gullible two days in a row, it finally wised up and kept its head down for the remainder of the trip. The Spruce Moth hatch which I mentioned above was significant. The moths were literally everywhere: in the trees, on the trail, in the air, on the water. However the fish were not taking them. We watched and observed, and never once saw a trout take a live moth. Our hunch was that due to clear skies and a bright moon, the fish were gorging on the moths at night. Once the sun came up, the fish—like hungover college kids who’d been on a bender all night—wanted nothing to do with the hair of the dog.

The same held true for Days Two and Three. What few fish were caught were done so on everything from black ants to tiny PMDs, and the occasional October Caddis. I did better on Day Two than I had on Day One, but only by 2 fish. My best day was Day Three, when I managed 5 fish: still slow for the number of river hours we put in.

A Day Two fish: a nice big buck that took a tiny PMD.

A Day Two fish: a nice big buck that took a tiny PMD.

A Day Three Fish.

A Day Three Fish that took the October Caddis.

Day Three did hold one very satisfying fish, in particular, for me. One run we refer to as “The Swimming Hole” always has several rising fish. But it’s a difficult hole to fish because it’s very slow (almost no current), deep (perhaps 6-8 feet in low water), and there’s very little structure other than a few rocks on the bottom. The fish here have too much time to decide that one’s presentation is unworthy of their participation. They sipped regularly on some bug that was either emerging or too small to see on the surface. For two days in a row they refused to entertain the anglers that paid them a visit. On Day Three I managed to get lucky and fooled a Swimming Hole Fish into accepting my articifical offering. The fish was not large—maybe 13″—but it took line and fought better than any other fish of the trip. I was just happy to have finally hooked a fish in this run.

Another Day Three Fish: smaller, but very satisfying

The Swimming Hole Fish: smaller, but very satisfying.

Here are a few photos for you to enjoy without my accompanying Drivel®:

A mat of spent Spruce Moths.

A mat of spent Spruce Moths.

More spent Spruce Moths: biomass

More spent Spruce Moths: biomass

Morris tight to a fish.

Morris tight to a fish.

Morris lands another fish from a small pocket of holding water.

Morris lands another fish from a small pocket of holding water.

Hard to complain about slow fishing when here.

It becomes hard to complain about slow fishing when standing here.

Jimmy seeks a willing participant.

Jimmy seeks a willing participant as afternoon turns to evening.

The Streamer Hole did not produce any fish on streamers.

The Streamer Hole did not produce any fish on streamers.

When fishing is slow it affords one the opportunity to look around and take it all in.

The good thing about slow fishing is that there’s ample opportunity to look around and take it all in.

The day, and any hopes of catching another fish, fades on Morris.

The day, and any hopes of catching another fish, fades on Morris.

On the 4th day—the day we left for home—the smoke had moved back in. It was so thick driving back over the pass from Idaho into Montana that it could be tasted it through the ventillation system in the Man Van ( which lacks a recirculated air option). I felt sorry for the groups of elk hunters in the area who were camped in this. It would certainly make for tough hiking and scouting, and with no reprieve from the smoke once back at camp, well, no thanks. Good luck, fellas.

At the top of the pass from Idaho into Montana.

At the top of the pass from Idaho into Montana.

The smoke remained thick all the way way home. 2017 was the summer of fires: one to be forgotten and hopefully not repeated any time soon.

Central Washington: smoke from several fires.

Central Washington: smoke from several fires.

Bull trout in Idaho: To target, or not to target?

No need to not target these

No need to not target these

Some of you may recall a blog post from a couple of summers ago in which I was not targeting—and ended up catching—a bull trout in Idaho. The article was aptly titled, Not Targeting Bull Trout in Idaho in case you wanted to re-read it. I’ve always thought the term “targeting” was a bit vague and essentially unenforcible. I mean, who’s to say that you are targeting one species or another while fishing waters that holds more than one species of fish?  That said, apparently targeting bull trout in Idaho is not disallowed. A recent comment from a reader of the UA alerted me to an article on the Idaho Fish and Game website that I found rather interesting (thanks, Tony). The article, titled Casting for bulls: fishing for Idaho’s bull trout, can be read HERE.

So there’s no need to be covert in your targeting of bull trout while fishing in Idaho. Just be sure to treat them gently and release them quickly.

 

Into the Fire

As the date quickly approaches for a jaunt to Idaho for a bit of mid-September angling, I thought it prudent to look into the matter of any potential fires burning in the area where we’ll be headed. Since fire season is particularly bad this year all across Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon, the likelihood of a burn in the general vicinity of our destination seemed likely.

My hunch was correct.

A fire known as the Buck Fire in Idaho has been burning since August 7th. It’s currently 1265 acres and is 25% contained and is actively burning in a north-northeast direction. There are 10 personnel assigned to fighting this particular burn. The fire itself is a considerable distance away from where we will be, but the extended closure boundary is the width of the river away from the Forest Service Road we’ll take to get to the campground. A phone call to the Ranger District office confirmed that this is the case. If they move that boundary line 150 feet further north, we’ll have to alter our plans.

A detailed map of the fire closure boundary.

A detailed map of the fire closure boundary.

We’ve had significant rain events the past two summers when we’ve visited our favorite Idaho Panhandle River. There is no precipitation in the forecast this year. There will be no campfires this year, that is a given. Instead, we’ll sit around an LED lantern when the sun goes down.

Needless to say fire season is bad this year. Even western Washington has had several days of thick smoke and ash fallout from fires burning to the north, east, and southeast. Good thoughts to all those fighting  fires–stay safe out there.

Hopefully I’ll report back in a week or so with tales of many large cutthroat trouts that made poor decisions.