September crept up on me one leaf at a time
By Paul Bruun, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Date: September 5, 2012
Slowing down? That’s a distinct possibility.
September was stealthy this year. It arrived almost without a trace except for a handful of golden aspen leaves spilled in the backyard. This emblematic sign of fall was easy to lay off on a recent plague of gusty breezes targeting our valley. Then I noticed in the higher branches a defined patch of quaking gold.
“Uh-oh, this is serious,” I gulped, jolted by a realization that bird seasons and even some big-game hunting were at hand while the best river fishing of the year was shifting into high gear.
It’s hard to remember exactly when my passion for autmn wasn’t intense. Conceivably, it dates back to when my dad first yanked me out of fifth and sixth grades before Thanksgiving to go quail, squirrel and deer hunting in the Ocala National Forest. Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings intricately detailed Ocala’s vast “Big Scrub” in her 1939 Pulitzer Prize-winner “The Yearling.”
Unlike our South Florida residence, Ocala’s position 300-miles north often provided crisp, frosty mornings in the high ’30s that chilled inactive fingers and toes of a youngster trying to be motionless on a deer stand.
Framed forever are the sights and smells of our rented hunting cabin’s smoky, resinous, pine-burning stove and before-dawn breakfasts of bacon and eggs, all bolstered by heavenly memories of the baked hoe cake of our host, J.D. Bland.
The entirety of such magical experiences was impossible to translate to friends whose parents rarely ventured beyond the 18 holes of their country clubs.
On a Sunday return from a brief Idaho outing, my path paralleled Palisades Reservoir. Only in person can one digest exactly how low the Bureau of Reclamation has already drawn this facility to satisfy irrigation canal company contracts. Courtesy of a dry, over-baked summer, the first red mountain maples appeared while climbing out of Swan Valley past the massive earthen dam. These scattered, brightly hued leaves stretched all the way to the Lunch Counter Rapid portion of the Snake River canyon. Our red shrubs resemble the colorful blackjack oaks and maples I recall from Ocala, where they surrounded what local foresters called “pine islands.”
Spending my first 17 years in a tropical climate with minor seasonal changes probably enhanced my sensitivity to the drama of glamorous colored-leaf palettes and crisp weather, traditional fall trademarks.
Shorter days, chilly nights and all too familiar gusty conditions are marvelous preludes to the luxury of September and October. Along with this anticipated season comes the return of college football, the World Series and ringside seats to witness the riches of Wyoming’s abundant wildlife.
Elk are already bugling, and migrating flight paths of crows and sandhill cranes are crossing rivers sections we are floating.
Bright leaves, brisk days and increasing animal activity are special gifts. However, another 10 days of longer daylight periods and toasty, caddis-active evenings would be a cheerful extension to a summer that whizzed past like a bullet train.
Regardless of how and when September arrives, it is hard not to be excited.
Yellowstone reopens Madison
Owing to cooler water temperatures, Yellowstone National Park officials on Aug. 31 lifted temporary trout fishing bans they had placed on the Firehole, Gibbon and Madison rivers Aug. 1.
Lower flows and scorching summer heat elevated temperatures in these already thermally influenced waterways to the degree that trout survival was in danger.
In the fall, artificial fly-fishing on venerable Yellowstone rivers is a major visitor attraction. Trout migrating upstream from Hebgen Lake through the Madison system are especially coveted.
Yellowstone National Park fishing permits are required for anglers 16 years an older. A slight increase in permit fees is in effect this year (3-day $18, 7-day $25, season $40). Weather and access permitting, fishing in most of Yellowstone remains open through Nov. 4.
Streamflow adjustment floated
Cory Toye delivered a several-part stream-improvement overview for an interested group of Jackson Trout Unlimited members last week at The Wort Hotel. After Scott Yates, the former head of the Trout Unlimited Wyoming Water Project, was booted upstairs in the western TU empire, Cory assumed the post headquartered in Lander.
A dozen active chapters comprise the Wyoming TU council. When Toye began his PowerPoint presentation on the stream-improvement activity occurring in many corners of Wyoming, the audience was surprised and impressed by their numbers and sophisticated levels.
The Western Water Project strives to reconnect tributaries that have been historically isolated, often by antique water structures that no longer operate well. Just as his predecessor, Yates, coordinated a group of National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and private irrigator interests to remove and effectively redesign the Spread Creek irrigation system in Jackson, so too is Toye reconnecting Yellowstone cutthroat tributaries in Greybull, building new Cokeville structures to aid Bonneville cutthroat in the Bear River drainage and making other improvements within the Green River system.
Toye also covered plans to replace the ancient log coffer Flat Creek diversion in the Gros Ventre near Kelly. The project includes a workable fish ladder for all trout-age classes and other fish to maintain access between the Gros Ventre and the Snake rivers.
Another aspect of the Wyoming Water Project worth mentioning is how to reduce the annual waste of resident trout via deadly irrigation headgates. Installation of innovative solar-powered articulated grates that continually remove headgate-clogging debris and at the same time allow trout to recirculate back into the river is partially underway.
TU added a long-absent workable fish ladder earlier in the year at the main Salt River diversion structure upstream from Thayne.
Toye’s passionate interest in Wyoming water law and his explanation of state water law history, with its resonating emphasis on consumptive use, was a fine education. In the upcoming legislative session, Wyoming Water Project has gathered responsible sponsors to introduce a temporary change in water use, not a permanent change in water law. The plan would allow water to be purchased from a water right holder and, during a specified period, remain in the stream to benefit trout and wildlife habitat.
This proposal would be a plus for both Wyoming agricultural and recreational interests.
Detailing the intricacies of water law is beyond this writer’s job title, but it is my desire that the Jackson/Teton County legislative delegation — which currently includes Leland Christensen, Ruth Ann Petroff and Keith Gingery — examine this proposal closely with an eye toward support.
For additional information, email CToye@TU.org or call (307) 332-7700, ext. 14.
Paul Bruun writes weekly on his adventures and misadventures in the great outdoors.