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 Stream Tender Magazine

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Where the impacts of human activity have either directly or indirectly affected the natural state of fish-bearing streams, mitigation or remedial measures may be required to compensate for those negative impacts. The methodology designed to repair or enhance both riparian and fish habitat has been used to facilitate the recovery of many streams in recent years. The technology used is still being developed, especially in the area of bio-engineering plants for the enhancement of riparian zones. It is of major importance that any in-stream structures emulate the appearance of natural stream habitat. This is achieved by the use of natural materials such as boulders, timber and living plants. The used of these materials adds a special challenge to the engineering and construction of structures that will stand up to the influences of high flow events, winter ice and frost conditions. Also important is the necessity of having all of the necessary permits and permissions from government agencies that are responsible for managing our flowing waterways. In some cases, this can be a lengthy process, but it is required by law and common sense. Riparian and fish habitat enhancement programs are not only beneficial to maintaining our streams, but they also arouse interest from the general public and help educate people of all ages about the importance of our flowing waters and how we all can protect them!

If you would like to contact the author, Guy Woods, please use the email on the right sidebar > Scroll Up. If you would like to access any of the seven volumes of Stream Tender Magazine, click on the links below:

Volume One

Volume Two

Volume Three

Volume Four

Volume Five

Volume Six

Volume Seven

Alberta’s Conservative Government – Not Very Environmentally Friendly!

First it was the open pit coal mining on east-slopes, now it is an increase in the amount of logs that get harvested annually, in our province, with less red tape and oversight! The Kenny government seem set on an open door policy at stripping the land of cover, including important watersheds and the forests that make them work properly. Sometimes you need to slap yourself to see if you are dreaming or that our province has no concern about stripping the forests in a big hurry, despite their value when it comes to carbon sequestration.

The province is turning into the Texas of the west, in Canada yet! Of course, there have always been rumors that our province is a mirror image of an overly independent province in this great country. Some still are still hung up on the fact that our oil and gas industry is keeping this country from bankruptcy, but this can lead to some radical thinking by politicians that are out of touch with what Albertans really want and need. Most adults don’t want to pass on a wasteland of open pit mines and deforestation the likes of which it is hard to visualize, until it is too late.

The federal government just committed a lot of money to planting trees in this country, as promised during the election campaign, so being independent to the point of borderline separatists, Alberta has decided to step up on their plundering of our land and natural resources. Right now, it is not a good time to speed up the clock on our carbon input into our earth’s life support system. It just amazes me how some people can be so careless and in a state of convenient denial.

In case those of you that are still on the fence, need some convincing, just lesson to some of the old timers tell you how the weather is changing, and some people are suffering a lot more than us Albertans, as a result. For those folks in Africa and the middle east that are presently starving as a result of our excessive abuse of our hydro carbon economy and the need for more and more money to keep the machine turning. The boom is over folks, let us now concentrate our efforts into building a sustainable economy that does not harm the air that we all breath!

If you are ever up in the Hinton area of the province, just like other areas in Alberta, the landscape has been changed so much in recent years that driving north and south of Hinton, you will see clear cut after clear cut. Yes, they are done in blocks, just to make the view from space uniform, but the impacts of such accelerated harvesting of our forests have created impacts that we have yet to totally understand. Wild life is threatened, so I don’t blame the indigenous folks from getting upset, because they depend so much on the land and we managed to take everything else from them, so land is the only thing left that makes them feel in touch with their heritage and it also helps them maintain a self reliant life style!

Our natural resources, if managed properly, will be around to serve our needs for many years to come. It is not wise to get in a big hurry to strip the land in one generation, only to benefit in the short term. We must think of future generations, and what we leave them in this wonderful province, when their time to rule the world comes around. It is my suspicion that parents are on board with taking care of the resources and the world at the same time.

The Liberal government committed to plant many millions of trees to fight climate change, and the Alberta Conservatives are opening season on harvest, to make their big money buddies happy. How ironic that the timing of polar opposites coming up with their own program or policy at the same time, smells like politics to me. Political power and what is the right thing to do have always been in conflict, now is not the time to try and emulate Trumpism environmental policy!

It is clear to me that we need to get back on track with the rest of the modern economies and change the way that we live, so that we can continue to live on this planet, as humans beings. For me personally, I will not be voting for the Conservatives in the next provincial election, and you can be sure of that!

A Look At Last Year’s Crop

With this year’s plants, for the Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program now growing, it nice to know that soon the green on the 2021 will start to show. Last year, I took some photos of the growing mediums, with 3,300 plants growing in April of 2020. Let us have a look and reminder of how good that crop of plants was during that spring month.

This is the 2020 crop of 3,300 native willow and tree cuttings on the 24th of April 2020. The plants on the far end were first prepared in a growing medium and then placed into a 20L pail to grow. I arranged the plants on the south facing side of my house, to collect warmth from the sun and higher ground near the basement walls. The house collects heat all day and then generates it at night. The plants were covered with plastic and fabric covers for the freezing temperatures at night.

Lets take a closer look at the plants on the far end of this arrangement.

This shows the first growing mediums that were prepared and the cuttings were first to start growing. This photo was taken on April 24th as well. The next photo shows a close up look at the cuttings.
You can see the green buds breaking into green leaves.
During the colder days the plants are covered with plastic and exposed to the sunlight. At night, the plants are covered with a fabric insulating cover to keep them warm and close to the wall of the house.
This is the same batch of plants on April 30th of 2020, just before I started planting during the pandemic. Planting started on May 7th, of 2020, on Nose Creek, in the city of Airdrie. Other plantings followed on both Nose Creek and the Bighill Creek in the town of Cochrane.
This is what last year’s crop looked like on May 2, 2020. The cuttings would be planted a few days later on the 7th.

You are probably interested in knowing what the plants looked like on that first day of planting on Nose Creek. The photo below, of a planting day willow, taken on May 7th. will give you an idea of how much growth occurred during that seven days, from when I took the photo above, until planting.

I took this photo right after I push planted the native willow into the stream bank on Nose Creek, on May 7th of last year.
This photo shows me push planting a pre-grown cutting on that first day of planting last year. It is as simple as that. When my hand makes contact with the surface of the ground, it compacts the soil around the top of the cutting.

It is expected that this year’s crop will be a little more advanced in growth, due to the earlier start on growing.

Back By Popular Demand – The Loch-Leven Bow River Brown Trout

If you live on this reach of the Bow River, you will have heard many times in your fly fishing career, the first introduction of brown trout into the Bow River, was done so due to a truck break down, near Carrot Creek. Yes, it was said that Carrot Creek, only metres away from the Bow River, was the stocking location of all of the brown trout that were destine probably for our northern streams, on a different watershed. In any case, this report was also mentioned in the Dominion of Canada fisheries report, submitted to Ottawa, from the Banff Park Hatchery.

What people don’t realize, is that the present day population of brown trout is dominated by the German brown trout, but remember, when the Banff Hatchery was first started in 1917, we were at war with Germany, so our trout supply was coming from different locations back then. For brown trout, the Scottish brown trout was the choice for the Banff Hatcheries first introductions, and that load of fish that got stocked into Carrot Creek and the upper Bow River, was Loch-Leven brown trout, from the Loch or lake, Leven in Scotland.

The actual present day population didn’t start to come to the Banff Hatchery until later on, when an exchange with Germany was to take place. The exchange was for our native trout, including the Kamloops rainbow and whatever the Germans wanted. What makes this little deal significant, is that now we have a mix of brown trout genetics in our local waters of the Bow River, stetching from the Kananaskis River and upstream and down on the Bow River. The German trout have red spots, the Scottish trout have none, so if you catch one with no red spots, it has the dominant genes of a Loch-Leven trout.

A lower Bow River LochLeven brown trout.
A Ghost Dam LochLeven brown trout.
A Barrier Dam LochLeven brown trout, originating from the Kananaskis River.

The nice thing about knowing what you are catching, is that it adds an element of excitement when a rare prize is presented to you in your landing net. Just remember, no red it’s Scottish Bred! I recall catching Loch-Leven trout at night, down in Fish Creek Park, and they were almost black in color. This comes from the treated effluent that enters the Bow River, from a treatment facility, just upstream of Fish Creek Park.

Although my fly fishing was night, my head lamp indicated that there was no red spots, and the darker black spots and coloration made these trout very different than most. Maybe they were reproducing in the Fish Creek, somewhere, and this is why the Loch-Leven’s liked to hang out at that particular spot, because it was only metres from where fish creek entered the Bow River. In any case, this was many years ago, and if I had only taken a few photos, I could now share them with you.

The Loch-Leven brown trout are a lake fish, so this could explain why they are still found on the Barrier Dam and Ghost Dam today. The German brown trout are better adapted for riverine life, so this could explain why the G browns dominate the populations on the Bow River nowadays. Some German brown trout have very faint red spots and this could be an indication of hybridization between the two different strains. The barrier dam strain is more isolated, so this could explain the abundance of Loch-Leven trout in that reservoir.

Fortunately, since I first published this local phenomena in one of my books, a few fly fishers have passed on their own experience with the fish, and no doubt this has helped those interested in learning more about our local fishery. Now there has to be a number of fly fishers that are constantly on the lookout for this variation of brown trout, and more information can be compiled, along with what I submit. I am going to start a folder on these Loch-Leven trout.

Ice Gone on Lower Reach

Driving by the Bighill Creek today, I saw the beaver dam in Glenbow is clear of ice. This dam has been there for many years now, opened up and then rebuilt, mainly because of the good supply of willows right next to it. The flow over ice has opened up the stream channel in areas and soon the deep valley of the Bighill Creek will show open water, soon. It looks like plenty of water is coming down the system, so this is all good news to report.

The next few days we should see some major changes is the warmth, especially when the sun is allowed to shine all day. The winds, have not been that warm, but the consistent blow is also fast melting the ice and snow. It is my hope that my next trip with a fly rod, on the local Bow River, will find some trout hungry for my fly patterns. I suspect that the disappearing ice will be moving downward towards the Bearspaw Dam, and some migrations may occur, but I will have to wait and find out for myself.

Trout Unlimited Trying To Make It Easier For Riparian Restoration!

Recently, Elliot Lindsay of Trout Unlimited Canada sent me a head’s up on the new push that TU is undertaking, to make it easier to receive permitting for riparian restoration. The letter from TU’s head honchos request just that, in simple but very important dialogue. The letter was sent to our provincial Minister of Environment and Parks, Jason Nixon. I have added it for your review and hopefully support. This is a good cause! Zoom in to 125% to make it easier to read.

Some of my own thoughts on the matter

Having struggled to keep on top of permits and permissions for riparian planting, I have a pretty good idea of some of the downfalls of a process that should be routine. One of the biggest problems that I have confronted is the fact that when it comes to environmental process in this province, the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing, also the clash between the federal agencies and provincial agencies for jurisdiction on stream crown land, which is the area defined by the water’s edge or stream bank and the high water mark or bank-full width.

I have been through the process of contacting Alberta Forestry and Public Lands, Water Resources, Fish & Wildlife, the land owners and the federal government agency that looks after riparian habitat, which is the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. One of the major problems of government agencies is the lack of knowledge about such matters, when you make contacts and each one seems to have a different approach to what is necessary for approvals, and the paperwork that follows. Often I am led towards DFO’s approvals, but they too require permissions from the land owners and the provincial agencies.

There are reasons for government agencies to be very careful when it comes to working on crown land, especially when you are going to be planting, because they need reassurance that the plants that are going to be planted are of a native variety, consistent with what already exists in the watershed, and I could not agree more. Often, when you are submitting any plans or proposals for permitting and clarification, you must be very comprehensive with all the details, such as will you be planting during the instream activities window, or are your planting activities going to destabilize the stream banks.

A good example of the destabilizing of stream banks is shovel planting, which will cause problems when carried out within the high water mark, if there is flooding following your planting efforts. Even the excess dirt left around on the surface of the ground, will most likely end up in the creek. This is why push planting is the best approach when choosing methodology. Punching a hole in the ground to place a rooted cutting, will not destabilize the stream bank, and the impacts from planting activities are not a problem.

The other advantage of planting in the same methods that I use, is that all of the plants are collected as cuttings, from existing native crops in the same watershed. This reassures the government agency that the plants are consistent with the guidelines set forth by other agencies such as Cows and Fish. Yes, they do supply a list of the native plants known to the watershed in my area. If you are planting in a city or town, they may also have guidelines already in place to help riparian planters stick to the right varieties selected by their professional staff or an outside consultant.

Hopefully, Trout Unlimited can break the ice and convince the Minister of the importance of the matter and what measures can improve things. It is my opinion that they should let DFO take care of business, after all, they are the agency that is suppose to be in charge of fish habitat in this and other provinces. This would make the whole process so much more simple, and after all, the benefits are already known for riparian restoration work across this country.

I really feel that my own experience has been far easier than most, because my plans set forth are very detailed, and all of the bases are covered. I always carried my permits and permissions on hand, when I am conducting any planting activities. Be patient with the young staffers that are new to the game and have yet to learn the ropes about the world of riparian restoration. Planting for a GOOD CAUSE!

The entire “Head Start Planting System” was designed to simplify the process of riparian planting, and if you include the procedures or methodology in your plans or proposals, it will facilitate the permitting process. There is no negative impact with the entire process. The two most important things are where you collect your cuttings and how you carry out your planting program. If you collect your cuttings on wild natural land, on the same watershed, you are pretty much guaranteed of having native stock to plant. The cuttings are grown in sterile growth medium, so there is no chance of planting any foreign plants. The cuttings, when pulled from the growing mediums, have just a little growing soil stuck to the roots.

When you pull the grown cuttings out of the growing bundles, you have a little sterile soil still attached to the root system, but this usually will end up in my carrying bags, where it will be emptied out every return trip, to replenish my bags with cuttings for planting.

Some of the Negative Impacts of Poor Planting Methodology

There is always another side to every story. There are still groups that conduct riparian planting without the complexities of permitting, but just with land owner permission. This is a really major pain in the you know what. These groups can disrupt the legal planting programs that are already underway on local streams. Already, on the Bighill Creek in Cochrane, I have advised a particular group that they cannot plant along the creek with shovels. They don’t have any permits from either provincial or federal agencies, yet they continue to do the same thing year after year. They have even recently introduced the pear leaf willow onto the Bighill Creek, which is not native to this area, yet it was planted anyway, in numbers.

Sloppy shovel planting is the last thing anyone wants to see, along our creeks. Left over dirt and sod gets washed into the creek and adds to the already existing silt build up on the stream bed. The use of shovels destabilizes the fragile stream banks as well as making an unsightly mess. Below, there are some photos of a recent planting, and from these photos you will get an idea of some of the damage done.

The white arrows show where clumps of sod were left right along the edge of the stream, and the other disturbed soil will also wash into the creek. These excavations have destabilized the stream banks and cause me a lot of grief. I also plant along this creek, but I have all of the permits and my planting process does not harm anything. Also, all of the native plants that we use in our program are collected right from the same watershed.
This is another closer look at the damage done by sloppy planting.
This conifer that was planted is not a native plant in our riparian zone, on the Bighill Creek in Cochrane, yet they continue to plant them along the creek. You can see what a mess that this group planting has left. All of that waste soil will wash into the stream as well.

This is why we need some good regulations to protect our streams from the loss of habitat and the damage done by those with good intentions, but little knowledge!

The Buds Are Not That Far Off

As soon as the ground frost is disappearing, the new buds of spring start their early development, or existing buds start to blossom. This is actually the start of spring for me, because it is now close to planting season and readying the plants and equipment is on the to do list. The buds on my growing cuttings are already developing new buds the existing buds are breaking into green. In exposed areas of the Bighill Creek, the frost removal is happening at a faster pace and these will be the first areas that will get planted.

In general, the creek, its fish and the planted riparian areas are coming along nicely. These will be the first to show new buds blooming this spring, as the tops are still really in good shape. I look forward to this greening up and it is a great time to be on the creek, after a long winter’s indoor program, apart from some walks outdoors and the cutting collection work. That outdoor experience was the best one in a long time, because it was my first job outdoors this past winter.

The early bugs of spring are starting to show up, buzzing around the back yard, along with many lady bugs. Ants are also on the move, the south facing side of my house does thaw out early and the grass is already greening up. If there is green, there are bugs. I am looking forward to the first hatches on the Bighill Creek, which end up somewhere in my yard or on the windows of the house. The early baetis mayflies will probably be the first to spot. These little mayflies also get caught up in the many spider webs in my yard, which is also of benefit when you are looking for such things as hatches.

Maybe I will get lucky and end up with more good shots of small mayflies. Last year it was adult Damsel flies and a March Brown adult. If you are a fly tier, you do develop a need to get a very close, to look at those hatches that you may find you and other fly fishers would like to get to know better. The history of hatch identification in this area has been some what sporadic, probably because there are not many writers of such things that are published, in Calgary or the surrounding area.

There is no problem with sharing such things from time to time. Hatches are part of a trout stream’s ecology and biodiversity, so knowing more about such things is very beneficial. As a matter of fact, the total package, of fish, insects, birds and animals are all part of the same interest, when it comes to stream recovery work. Down the road, when the riparian planting has created the right type of natural habitat, having a head start on things, the life along the streams will come alive. Birders know all about these sort of things, as they to, spend a lot of time enjoying the environment of riparian areas.

In any case, the younger people will appreciate the natural environments more, because it will become the fashionable thing to do. Just like taking care of this planet! It also is a refection of how smart these newer generations are. This is very encouraging for an old guy like me, to know that there is hope. The new initiative set up by the government, to fund the planting of millions of willows and trees is a perfect opportunity for a young business endeavour, at least if I was younger I would have a lot more opportunity to start out, right now. Streams would be a perfect area to do many hundreds of thousand plantings.

It’s A Good Thing For Millennium Creek!

On the lower reach of the Bighill Creek, there was one active spawning tributary to the main stem of the creek, it was now what is known as Ranch House Spring Creek. Then the Millennium Creek Restoration Program revived the small spring creek that also enters the Bighill Creek, here in the town of Cochrane, Alberta. Millennium instantly became an important spawning tributary, when the spawning enhancement part of the project created spawning habitats on the stream. Now it is the only safe environment where brook trout can spawn, and possibly brown trout, which have also been spotted in the creek during spawning season.

It is amazing how quickly things can change for the worse, when a growing community overlooks the importance of the stream’s ecology. However, there is some other good news that I try not to over advertise, and that is the upper spring creek, on private land on the Bighill Creek. The upper spring holds real promise, as long as it is protected, as it is now, being in private hands. This spawning tributary is the most important, when it comes to repopulating the upper reaches of the stream system, all the way downstream to the lower reach.

The Millennium Creek project was carried out on land that is already developed and there are no storm drain issues to face at this time in the history of the trout stream. So geographically, it is protected in that way. Also, the town has taken an interest in the creek, most likely because the tax payer had an important role in the restoration work, with the town parks department involved in the entire program. So the stream is really the responsibility of the town of Cochrane, as it should be.

Measures are already being taken by the town staff to help protect the stream and its important role in our fishery, from those in the public that don’t thing about such things. This new year’s trout emergence from the spawning beds on Millennium Creek, marks the thirteenth successful spawning event on the creek, and this year’s emergence confirms a very successful project has been completed. It amazes me how much change I have witnessed, in the local trout fisheries over my lifetime of being involved. Now is the time to stand up and protect what we have left in natural treasures and take care of them!

In recent years, we lost Ranch House Spring Creek to a storm drain that should never have been installed to drain into the tiny spawning spring creek and trout nursery habitat. This could still be fixed, but it will take a few dollars more, now. I try to convince the town and developer of a change in the outflow location, but my efforts were in vain. Below is a basic map showing the alternative discharge location, and its proximity to where the storm drain now exists.

The dash yellow is where the storm drain pipe and discharge are now located. The red tie-in shows where the storm drain outflow should have been situated.

It feels good to know that we still have an important spawning tributary on the upper spring and one on Millennium, at that very lower reach of the Bighill Creek. As I mentioned before, it is not too late to do something about this terrible example of poor planning and no consideration for environmental law. Yes, there is a no-net loss policy, for wild trout fisheries, supposedly federally mandated. As far as provincial management, only in your dreams To-To!

A copy of a Comprehensive Fisheries Study, completed by Bow Valley Habitat Development in 2009, was submitted to the Town of Cochrane that same year. In the study, there was evidence collected to verify the importance of Ranch House Spring Creek as a nursery habitat for juvenile trout. A trout trapping program that was completed under a provincial license, by BVHD, showed considerable numbers of juvenile trout in the lower reach of the Ranch House Spring Creek. The following video was completed during the study program:

This footage shows how significant the Ranch House Spring Creek is, as a nursery habitat for juvenile brook trout and brown trout.

Creating Fish Habitat by Riparian Planting

There were many stream enhancement projects completed by the time I decided to take a different course in life. Rather than go through the complexities of design, permitting and project completion in fish habitat enhancement projects, my interests turned to a more simple formula for enhancing trout streams. After all, if a trout stream is healthy, with plenty of riparian growth, the instream habitat for trout will most likely be just fine, and there should be lots of trout. However, if the riparian zone has been destroyed over the years, by things like agriculture, and now the land that has changed hands is open to restoration work, without further livestock grazing or watering, riparian planting is the way to go.

A stream that is void of any native willows and trees, plus the other common riparian plants, is a stream that needs some help. At the same time that restoration occurs, from the start of planting programs, the fish habitat will slowly start to recovery as well. On trout streams that have vegetation right up to the water’s edge, there should be natural growth already well established. If the stream is a blank slate, it is the perfect candidate for riparian recovery and fish habitat enhancement. Just by planting native willows and trees, you are starting to create fish habitat, and if there are trout in the stream, the fishery will benefit long term.

Good riparian growth is vital to trout habitat in streams. Especially native willows and trees. Besides shade, which is also important to help keep water temperatures cold, but the woody debris and overhead cover created by both willows and trees is very important trout habitat. The artwork shown is a computer doodle!

There are local trout streams where no more livestock grazing is happening, so new plantings are a great approach to help bring back a healthy trout stream faster than normal natural recovery would occur. Plantings in Cities and towns is a good start, and there are other environmental reserves that are just waiting to be planted. In the recent past, Bow Valley Habitat Development has planted on set aside for natural recovery, and municipal lands open to public access.

There is potential to work with land owners on stream planting programs, if those land owners have determined to modify their pasture management, to allow riparian recovery. However, the first years after planting are really important for getting things started, so electric fencing should be used to keep livestock away from the plants for that first few years. Willows can withstand browsing by cattle and horses, but first they must establish good root systems and bushy tops.

The path towards riparian fish habitat was a lot easier to follow than the more complicated fish habitat enhancement work that I had been involved in. Once you understand what type of plants and the styles of planting, you can then go to work. All you need is permission from the land owner and file an operational statement with DFO, the federal agency that looks after fish habitat and the land within the high water mark or bank-full width. The collecting of cuttings is the best approach, if you are not quite sure what type of plants to purchase for planting. Collecting familiar willow and tree cuttings from native stock, on the same watershed, is the only approach.

Then there are the methods of planting cuttings. All of this is covered in the virtual riparian planting workshop that you can study. I will plant the pre-grown cuttings on the edge of the stream bank, right above water’s edge. Some cuttings that are push planted, are pushed into the stream bank horizontally, or at an angle. Further back from the edge of the stream bank, the cuttings are planted upright.

I held this rainbow trout that I caught, in position, right next to one of the cuttings that had been planted earlier in the spring. This is how the native cuttings that are pre-grown, are push planted into the stream bank. This photo is very representative of what my personal goal is, in this system of riparian planting. Check out the workshop link above, to access the pages with all the information on the technique and one successful riparian planting program.

This summer will be a big year for growth for our plantings from previous years. I have shown you many photos of how the plants look after a few years of growth, now we are getting into a time when the photos will show larger planted native willows and trees, at least in those areas where the beavers have not yet been feeding heavily on our crops. I will show you a photo of some of what I posted earlier in the winter.

These are planted willows that are shown in this snap shot of the Bighill Creek. I used this particular photo to show you the added shade and cover habitat that the willows are now providing.

This summer I will really enjoy posting lots of photo evidence of our success in riparian planting, once again. This monitoring of our crops of plants will be ongoing, just to show you how beneficial the end product is. The other evidence, as far as gathering what is evident from a fly fisher’s perspective, I will leave that up to you to find out on your own. In my own experience a perfect way of inspecting a planting site, is with a fly rod in hand. Keeping track of the trout to make sure the population is healthy would be easier if we had some more modern fishing regulations.

Planting right along the water’s edge is something that I have written about many times, but as the plants begin to grow in size, it will be easier to show you the end results, or part of them. The addition of dead willow and tree limbs into the stream channel, and water, will happen over time. This added woody debris and even live limbs, all provide excellent fish habitat, especially for the resident trout population.

Some of the older plantings are now growing out and over the stream channel, and there is more to come. You can see from the photo, the pockets of shade and cover that the willows create.

More Water In The Mountains

Streams like the Little Red and the Fallentimber Creeks are dependent on east-slopes ground water to keep a constant volume of flow. Through dry years the streams will run low and during years of good precipitation that is absorbed by the watershed. In recent years the amount of rain and snow that we get, along with hail, replenishes ground water in the Foothills of the east slopes and the mountains. Unconfined aquifers and confined aquifers charge up the supply of ground water at the source of the creeks headwater springs. As the streams flow out toward the valleys of the flatlands, they pick up other ground water sources along the water. Springs that feed right into the creeks and tributaries, build the supply or volume of flow.

It is my opinion we will see even more flow volume during the present day norms for annual precipitation keep growing higher. Where we are headed, with climate change building its influence on historic averages in moisture and heat. For mountain fly fishers, the news is good. Forestry that is crown land is heavily used during the open water seasons, but there are still areas that if you put in the leg work, you can get into some pretty nice dry fly action.

The added nutrient of ground surface run-off enriches the streams and any woody debris that gets injected into the stream channel during flood events, will create new fish habitats and also enrich the stream with more food for trout, by enhancement of invertebrate populations. Many small tributaries add large volumes of nutrient rich water to the mainstem and sometimes trout will hang around areas where small feeders enter the main stream channels. The larger streams with clearer water also hold lots of trout, if you find a good area to fly fish on.

My plan is to explore a few of the old haunts to the northwest, and hopefully get a first hand look at how the streams are coming along, as far as trout numbers. Because that is what it is all about, you can have all the water in the world, but if there are no trout to occupy its stream habitats, you are in for some major disappointment. Memories of large trout and good times are what trout heaven is all about, but if there is not enough flow we all suffer as fly fishers.

The smaller creeks have some nice beaver dams in areas, to enhance habitat for the resident trout populations. The ones that come to my mind are usually populated by brook trout or brown trout, but that is ok, as long as there are enough of them to make a fly fisher happy for another day. I still believe that the only hope for our wild trout populations is to go totally catch and release and be done with it. Then in a few years time, a rebound in the quality of sport fishing on small streams and large would grow in popularity, until some streams like the Livingstone can get a bit of a break. Right now, the streams that are managed for good sport fishing are overrun with just that, sport fishers.

My philosophy is to spread out the wealth, so more trout streams are quality fisheries. I don’t know what the big problem is, do you? Just turn every stream in the province to total catch and release, and then see what happens. Maybe in a few years, the regional provincial biologists can just pat themselves on the back for a job well done? Wouldn’t that be a change! If the sport fishery in this province is going to change, it will probably happen at some point in time, in the future.

The March Brown Hatch

One of the more popular local hatches is the spring March Brown Mayfly. The adult is imitated by a size 14 dry fly in an Adams or similar fly pattern. The hatch can vary, but the photo below was taken on June 6th, during the later part of the local hatch. Always look for a gray color Mayfly with two tails.

This is a male March Brown, Bow River, Cochrane.
A Blue Iron Dun is a good dry fly imitation. The darker poly wing makes for a nice copy of a March Brown wing.

I color my own white polypropylene with plastic spray paint, which seems to be the only thing that will color my material properly. I bought metres of the stuff in a fabric store once, so now I can use it for many different applications. The wings come out the right color and you don’t use any floatant on the wings, just the hackle, body and tail get greased for fishing. It is an afternoon to evening hatch and spinner fall, but on rainy days it can start late morning and go on into the afternoon. My experience has been sporadic hatches spread out over the mid to late afternoon, on rainy days. However, if you hit this hatch right, be prepared for some great fly fishing.

White Is Alright!

It is no secret, some streamer fishers really like the color white! My first transformation came back when I was tying trout flies for Wapiti Sports in Canmore. One of the owners, Nick, told me that a local who used white wooly buggers swore by them, which translates into; he really liked them. This got me started on tying the white wooly bugger and for years later, it became a best seller in my store selections. Other fly fishers that I have fished with, also preferred the white patterns when the going got tough with dry’s and nymphs.

Of course, white wing and fur streamers have been around since the beginning. Streamers meaning anything that streams thru the water like a fish. My streaming wet flies selection has many white wing patterns in the bunch. The first pattern that I tied, fished and sold is the Spotted Tail Minnow, and it has a white calf tail wing. There is something special about calf tail wings on streaming wet flies. It generally has a kinky appearance to it, but this uneven bunch of hair, when tied in as a wing, has a lot of body, yet not too much hair.

There is one streaming wet fly pattern that I have just come up with a name for! The wing is tied with both white calf tail and buck tail hair, for no particular reason than experimentation. However, the streaming wet fly does catch trout, so it should now receive its name. The top wing is white calf tail and the underwing is white buck tail, so I am going to call the pattern the Cabucktail Minnow! At least that should be good for a laugh or two, when or if brought up in conversation, anywhere. The red hackle tail and silver tinsel wraps on the body make it a winner right from the get go, but first I had to baptize the fly in water, with results of course.

The Cabucktail Minnow has a soft hackle throat, which is the underwing part of the Hungarian Partridge breast feather. These hackles are longer and more motion sensitive when underwater, giving the fly pattern a wonderful swimming motion. You can paint eyes on the head or just leave it black. Black is traditional style.

The pattern can be tied on a size 8 – 2X or 3X wet fly hook shank. I use a flat silver tinsel and a braided oval silver wrap over top of that. The tinsel is a traditional material, but it works wonders in the right applications. I added a little pearl flash Mylar for added sparkle. You can see from the photo above that there is a subtle difference in the wing material. The top wing is calf tail, and you can see how much more body the material has with it’s dry appearance. When wet, it reacts perfectly with a stripping action. Sometime slow and other times fast retrieves will bring the trout in quickly.

You may be trying to rationalize why I would tie such a fly pattern and I really can’t remember that well, when it comes to my own logic regarding such things. However, my guess now is that I was interested in creating a white wing that was multiple stacks of different material in the wing, just like some of the other multiple wing patterns that I tie. Some memories relating to the texture of different white wing materials comes to my mind as well. My thoughts about this were pretty much triggered by the use of polar bear hair, back in the old days. Using scraps from a taxidermy studio was where the materials came from. Later on I started to try things like imitation polar bear fur and other synthetics.

It was common knowledge at that time that some types of goat hair and polar bear hair are translucent and the shadows of moving hair thru the hair resembled the glitter of tiny scales on a bait fish. The synthetics were designed to do the same and some were very successful while others failed. The importance of the gradual taper on the ends of each fiber could not easily be achieved. A natural bear or goat hair has a very uniform taper on the ends, and this affects the motion of the hair, when in the water.

Calf Tail hair tapers are rather short, but the hair still holds different qualities that I like to use in my tying. A good portion of the streaming wet flies selection that I tie, are multiple colored calf tail wings. The colors that I use in many of my SWF’s ties are the standards in the lure manufacturing sector, Chartreuse, white, hot Chartreuse, red, orange, claret, and so on. The claret actually is a traditional color, used in old salmon and trout fly patterns, chrome yellow is another example. To get the right colors, I dye my own calf tail hair and other materials.

Squirrel is also a great wing material and combined with calf tail in multiple wings is a cool approach to tying a streaming wet fly. The fly pattern shown below is a good example of this.

This “Dirty Dancer” has a combination of hot yellow calf tail, topped with red fox squirrel tail. Hot yellow is a really bright variation of yellow, with a hint of Chartreuse in the color. The hackles are orange, yellow and partridge flank. The olive dubbing around the eyes in leaning more on the yellow side, but the dubbing material was dyed for this color.

How Far Up Do The Rainbow Trout Spawn – On the JP Creek

When you participate in a study program, you need to maximize your investment and get all the data that is related to something like a spawning survey. During the spring of 1993, in late May, to be precise, the lower 33 km of the Jumpingpound Creek as surveyed to identify the number of rainbow trout redds in the creek 2 weeks after the trout trapping program had wrapped up. I had just got back from fishing in the Canadian Fly Fishing team’s shot at the world championships, and quickly got back into the groove, as habitat chairman of the TU, JP Chapter’s program for that year.

After organizing permissions with all of the land owners, two biologists from D.A. Westworth and yours truly, completed a very successful spawning redd count and survey on the lower 33 km of stream channel. This valuable survey documented the distribution of rainbow trout redds, and therefore we were able to record which areas of the stream were of major importance to the rainbow trout, for spawning habitats.

This chart was part of the findings of our spawning survey on the year of the trout trapping program, carried out by D.A. Westworth and Associates and the JP Chapter of Trout Unlimited.

The chart above shows how far the trout were spawning upstream in the JP Creek. The heaviest concentration is in the mid-point of the trajectory. It also shows how important the creek’s lower reach is to maintaining the Bearspaw run of JP Strain rainbow trout. At least this is how it was back then. However, there is hope of a recovery of the run, if we can get super large hatches of rainbow trout, the Bearspaw Dam can get repopulated with mature rainbow trout, and the spring run will start happening again.

All is not lost, but we have suffered and paid a heavy price for poor fisheries management up until this point. There was a 5 trout harvest limit put on rainbow trout in the Bearspaw Reservoir, right up until the population disappeared. If the population of spawning and new recruitment improves in the future, more trout will start to show up in the river, here in Cochrane, in the spring of the year.

This is a 1993 photo of the trout trapping fence and trap that the JP Chapter of Trout Unlimited Canada, helped to set up on the lower reach of the creek.
I caught this Bearspaw run, JP Strain rainbow trout on my E.K. White Split Cane fly rod, which was really special to me back then. I took this quick photo before safely releasing the big trout, which was 22 inches in length and probably about 6 lbs. in weight. Trout up to 24 inches were caught and released back then, this was typical of the larger Bearspaw fish.

The trout shown above was safely released to carry on its journey up the Bow River, to the mouth of the JP Creek and then upstream for who knows how far, it could be about 33 kilometres upstream. These were a migratory rainbow trout, just like those that navigate the headwaters of Highwood Creek and tributaries, on their way upstream to spawn. If we don’t take care the the spawning tributaries and the trout in the reservoirs, the trout do end up vanishing, like the Bearspaw run did.

This pattern, called the Early Arcy was the hot ticket for me back then. It imitated the Arctic Spring Stone Fly, or Arcynoptryx. On the underside of the second abdominal segment, there is a distinct M marking that tells you that the stonefly is an Arcynoptryx. My simple imitation caught me many a Bearspaw run rainbow trout, back in the early days of my fly fishing career. I tied the pattern on a size 10, 2X nymph hook, heavy wire. The pattern showed the distinct chartreuse color of the thorax on the underside of the pattern.

The copper ribbing on the pattern shown above, helped to give the stonefly imitation the right weight for getting it down deep and dirty. The soft partridge hackle gives the legs and tail plenty of movement, when the fly pattern is dancing in the currents.