STAR VALLEY - The more than 90 citizens that attended the Tainter Creek Watershed Council’s (TCWC) second annual Free Fishing Day event in Star Valley on the Olson Family property on Saturday, June 1, were treated to another fantastic experience.One had only to look at the crowd of happy, active children and their families fishing for trout, examining the insects found in the creek water, practicing casting and learning to tie flies, to see that the next generation was being given a lasting impression of the value of a healthy trout stream.
Watershed Council farmer members Bruce and Susan Ristow, Chuck and Karen Bolstad, Grant and Brody Rudrud, Terese Engel, Mark Erickson and Brian McCulloh took a break from the busy planting season to attend with their families. Three generations of Rudruds were in attendance. Many of the farmers took time to talk with the Wallace Center Pasture Project’s Elisabeth Spratt about plans for a three-year grazing study in the watershed.
Spratt, from Arlington, Virginia, attended the event and took in the beauty of the place and the vibrant community participation. The three-year grazing study, if approved, will be funded by a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Gulf of Mexico Project. The project will be administered locally by Valley Stewardship Network. The purpose of the study will be to document the positive impacts on water quality in a watershed as a result of increased adoption of managed grazing.
The Coulee Region Chapter of Trout Unlimited was well-represented at the event. John Townsell and Bob Hubbard of West Salem, Travis Engh of Sparta, and Brad Bryan of Tomah were on hand to teach people how to tie flies. Townsell joined Dale Jonson and Cy Post of LaCrosse in teaching casting. Bob Jonson also spent time showing youngsters all the different kinds of insect life that lived in samples of creek water.
Last, but never least, Duke Welter of Trout Unlimited Driftless Area Restoration Effort (TUDARE) put countless hours into organizing the event. TUDARE’s Paul Krahn was on hand to give a tour of the group’s upcoming project on the Rayner property in Star Valley on Tainter and Conway Creeks. While a little behind schedule due to the extremely wet and cold spring, work is expected to begin soon and continue throughout the summer. Marta Engel and Jim Crogan from Driftless Organics drove participants to the project site in wagons loaned for the event by area farmers Swede Knutson and Kevin Walleser.
Kirk Olson and Jeff Mauel, DNR Fisheries Biologists out of LaCrosse, provided a fish shocking, designed to show participants the different species of fish present in the creek. For the second year in a row, the biologists captivated and fascinated their audience and provided a tremendous learning experience.
Lunch was grilled brats and grassfed beef burgers, beans, chips and all the cookies a kid who had just gotten a lot of fresh air and exercise could eat. The menu was rounded out by milk and cheese snack sticks from Organic Valley. There was a great crew that worked to prepare the lunch, but everyone agreed that special kudos go to Karen Bolstad for all her hard work.
Mark Erickson from the Vernon County Land Conservation Department was on hand to show people a map of the Tainter Creek Watershed, and also a map showing all the different watersheds in Vernon County. He explained that about 40 percent of the Tainter Creek Watershed is in Vernon County, and 60 percent is in Crawford County.
Last, TUDARE’s Duke Welter talked about the groups past, present and future plans for restoration efforts on trout streams in the Driftless Area. He made the joke that putting a microphone in front of him is like floating a fly over a hungry trout. After his remarks, Welter worked with Elisabeth Spratt to draw names of kids at the event for door prizes such as L.L. Bean and Aventur fly fishing rods, Zebco spinner rods, and various fishing lures. The drawing is always a popular part of the event, and the lucky winners were all smiles.
The event was sponsored by the farmers of the Tainter Creek Watershed Council, the Crawford and Vernon County Land Conservation Departments, Trout Unlimited Driftless Area Restoration Effort, Winrock International and the Wallace Center Pasture Project, Valley Stewardship Network, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, Cabela’s and Organic Valley. Cookies for the lunch were donated by Farm Pride Bakery, owned by Albert and Brenda Zegiel of Gays Mills.