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             Introduction:

Where the impacts of human activity have either directly or indirectly effected the natural state of fish bearing streams, mitigation or remedial measures may be required to compensate for those negative impacts. 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 a 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 water ways. 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!


Speedy Recovery For Bighill Creek – After The Flood!

Previously Planted Willows Hold Stream Banks Together

The recent flood on Bighill Creek and other surrounding trout streams was from a lot of rainfall falling in just one day. The high water levels flowed fast and furious for a breif time that was a powerfull natural event for such small streams. The recover will be quick this year!                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

The photo above shows how a large clump of streambank was prevented from rolling into the stream channel, by a thick clump of willows that we had planted on this site. This eroding stream bank is stabilizing over time, since the first willow plants were completed on this site.

The photo above shows how willow plants that were planted to stabilize an eroding stream bank, have survived the flood and the dense root systems were successful in preventing further stream bank erosion, at this particular site.

This eroding stream bank, like many others that have been planted, is now considered stabilized. The future growth on these sites will further enhance both fish and wildlife habitat, but also improve the water quality in the stream. It will take a few more years on many sites, for the new native willows and trees to establish root systems to help hold the soil stable, along the water’s edge in the stream.

It has been over a week since the flash flood on BH Creek and the water is still flowing high. More rain has been the reason for this. As the water starts to receed and clear up, it will be interesting to see the newly scoured streambed, with plenty of clean substrate and deep pool and cover habitat for trout.

The flood waters bent over the larger planted willows in a downstream direction. It will be interesting to see how many of these willows stay permenantly adjusted by the flood, over time.


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Big Flood For Bighill Creek!

Flash Flood Hits The BH Creek and Other Area Streams

I was awaken by the thurderous sound of rain reverberating on my roof, many times during the night. In the morning, I saw the water in the rain pail on my deck and estimated it to contain approximately 4 inches and it was still pouring down outside. Even after I finished my morning coffee and was ready to walk down into the valley to check the Bighill Creek out.

Layering up with two sets of rain coats and one pair of rain pants, I set out down the street to the valley pathway. It was still pouring hard, but I felt very warm and snug in my outfit. I could hear the thundering sound of fast flowing flood water, before I made it to a spot where I could see the dirty flows traveling thru the trees and willows far back from the stream’s normal channel.

The kind of flooding happened many years ago on the Bighill Creek, but I can’t put an exact year on it. During the Bow River Flood in 2013, the BH Creek was not flowing this high, but the nearby Jumpingpound Creek was. Later I would discover that the JP Creek was not impacted as much as the Bighill Creek was, this time around.

How Will This Impact Our Plantings From This Spring?

Amazingly, this flood event didn’t hurt as many of our willow and tree plants as other high flow events have. When the surface of a high flow event is level with the plants that we planted, for a prolonged period of time, the floating debris can strip the tops right off of the plants. However, during this flash flood event, the water came up so fast that the plants were covered by deep water for most of it, so there wasn’t as much floating material to cover the plants, as there has been during previous high flow events.

When the water levels came down, I was please to see some of the willows that Glenbow Elementary students planted on BH Creek, were still looking pretty healthy, despite the torrent of water they had been submerged under. The photo above was taken as soon as the sun started to shine, a day after the big flood event.

All of the beaverdams along the BH Creek were breached during the flood event of June 21st, 2019. This will allow trout migration upstream as the water levels receed. The high volumes of water that past thru the Bighill Valley will scour out new pool habitats, create log jams and cover habitats for trout and deepen runs, undercuts and other pocket pools on the stream. This will all benefit the trout habitat on the stream.

The new scoured gravelbeds will provide great spawning habitat this next fall, so this will also be a side benefit to the flood of 2019. I am hoping that all of the moisture this June will also recharge the acquifers and ground water table to help maintain good flows in the BH Creek for the rest of the open water season. Floods do benefit trout streams, after they are over.

This willow may be covered in grass from the big flood, however, the leaves are in great shape and the plant will survive this first season. The grass around the cutting will help deter voles and mice from chewing the bark of the plant. The flattened canary grass around the willow will eventually spring back to a standing position, but in the meantime, the willow will get plenty of sunlight.


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Great Spring For Growth!

New Willows and Trees are Growing Fast This Spring

As I sit at my desk and look out the window, a passing thunder head has just released buckets of rain and some fast melting hail stones onto the slopes of Bighill Creek. As soon as the cloud passes completly, I will wonder down to check out the creek and see how much flow is rushing down to the Bow River. It will benefit the creek and all of the native plants of area riparian habitat, having all this moisture this spring. We have also had plenty of nice sun shine to compliment the falling rain periods this month, so far.

The rain has also helped grow the plants from previous years, which are now starting to show along the stream banks. Different shades of green are now enhancing the stream banks along the Bighill Creek. This is really exciting to witness,  at least for me – anyway. It is very transformational and the longterm benefits are incredible for both fish and wildlife. Not to mention the huge improvement in water quality.

This young plant was planted by some elementary school kids this spring and you can see how well it is growing already this June. The willows in the background were planted during previous year’s planting along the BH Creek. You can see how previously planted willows are now casting seeds into the stream and over the immediate stream bank. This natural reproduction will only enhance our planted crop with recruitment of many new plants, over time.

The rain and hail has passed and it is time to walk down to the creek for a look see.


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2019 Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program – Now Completed

Over 11,000 New Native Plants For The 2019 Program – Are Now In The Ground On Bighill, West Nose and Nose Creeks!

The last native plant was planted on June 1st, completing this spring’s riparian planting program. It was a good spring for planting, with enough moisture in the ground over the month of May, to ensure a good survival rate for our crop of new native willows and trees.

Left: The new plants that were grown from cuttings, will grow over the summer and add to the previous crops of native plants that have been planted along the stream banks on Bighill Creek, West Nose Creek, and Nose Creek. Most are planted right next to the water’s edge, but some are also planted further back from the stream bank. All of the new plants will benefit the health of the stream’s riparian eco-system. A slow transformation is taking place on these streams!

Above: This native willow plant was planted in 2015 and it is now providing some overhead cover for the stream’s trout population. The willow will continue to grow out and over the stream’s surface in future years, helping to constrict flow and increase the velocity of flow in the stream channel.

Above: These native willows were planted on an eroding stream bank in the year 2014. the willows have stabilized the erosion site and now provide great overhead cover for the resident trout in the pool habitat. There are many sites just like this one that have been collectively planted over the years, under the ongoing “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program”.

It feels pretty good to be part of this riparian planting program, and BVHD would like to thank the partners for this year’s planting program:

Inter Pipeline – Shell Canada  – City of Calgary – City of Airdrie – Cochrane Foundation – Town of Cochrane – Harmony Developments


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2019 Riparian Plantings Over Half Completed So far!

Volunteers Dig In – This Past Week

The last time that I had Glenbow Elementary students planting on the creek was a few years ago. It was good to have them back for another round of native willow and tree planting. Michele Courage and three adult helpers coached the young planters during their one-hour work detail this past week. The kids loved doing their part and they did a great job. I really enjoy watching a new generation of stream keepers doing something of benefit for our local trout stream, the Bighill Creek.

Photo: courtesy of Michele Courage

The Bighill Creek flows thru the Town of Cochrane, Alberta, only one block away from the Glenbow Elementary School. The group of students took an hour of their time, learning a little bit about the stream and the importance of a healthy riparian habitat along the creek.

The small native willows and trees will be closely monitored over the next few weeks, as the plants take root in their new habitat. A good watering insured that the young plants get off to a good start.

Above: The group of students poses for a photo, after the job was completed.

High School Students Chip In

Students from the George McDougall High School in Airdrie, Alberta also got a chance to do some good on the stream banks of Nose Creek, only a few blocks from their school, this past week. this was the first planting with the class and the high schoolers had an opportunity to do some good for the environment.

Teachers Ryan Haggarty and Jacqueline Tobin helped organize the event and BVDH supplied the plants and instructions. A brief talk about the state of the Nose Creek and how our riparian plantings will benefit the stream was included in the outing. As you can see in the photo above, the creek is pretty much void of any native willows and trees. This will change over time.

Past Plantings are Standing Out in The Landscape – Along the Stream Banks

This year, we have been also planting on some sites that have been planted in previous years, filling in the gaps. Adding new plants in areas where survival was poor due to either rodent, flood or other natural impacts. It is nice to see how our surviving plants are now making a tremendous difference to the once barren riparian zone that had no native willows or trees.

The photos above show how previous plantings are now off to a good start, along the stream banks of one of the project creeks. Beavers have been busy grazing on some of the plants, but this is too be expected. Most of the Plants will still survive this type of temporary damage. The green willows shown above, stand out with their green leaves opening from the early buds.

MidPoint in the Riparian Planting Program

As of yesterday, we have planted a total of 5,700 plants and there is another 5,400 to go into the ground yet. The frost is coming out of the ground a little late this year, so this has slowed things down a bit, but we are still moving along at a very fast pace. The entire 2019 spring riparian planting program should be completed by the end of the month of May. Planting conditions so far have been great, with plenty of moisture in the ground and presently it has been raining over the past few days.


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The 2019 Spring Riparian Planting Begins

New Green Appears Along Stream Banks

With everything starting late in this year’s growing season, our new native willow and tree plants standout on the landscape. They are the only green leafed plants in the second week of May. The planting for the 2019 “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program” is already well underway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left: You can see that the newly planted poplar tree stands out over a bed of last year’s canary grass. Right: Just to the right of the new plant is one that was planted a few years ago, on Nose Creek. Additional plantings, over the years, will help build up the riparian growth along our local pike and trout streams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Students from the CW Perry Middle School helped out again this spring, with the planting on Nose Creek, in the City of Airdrie. This is the third year for the class that is taught by teacher Mike Dow. The kids really enjoy the outdoor experience and helping out with a good environmental cause. They also did a bit of garbage cleanup on their outing.

It will be another great year of riparian planting this year, with over 11,000 native plants that will end up in the ground. All of the plants will be planted close to the water’s edge along three streams in the program; Nose Creek, West Nose Creek, and Bighill Creek. As you can see from the photo above right, some streams are in dire need of some good riparian growth.

It feels good to finally be underway with the planting program, after a long cold early spring. The frost is still in the ground along most of the local trout streams, but this will not be for too long now, with the warmer weather. A few more good rainfalls always help thaw the ground out in the early spring, if we get them.


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Riparian Program Update – April 2019

The 2019 “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program”  April Update

Melting ice reveals planted willows on an eroding stream bank on Bighill Creek. These native willows were planted in the spring of 2014, during the first year of the riparian planting program. The program title is the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program”.

It is April 10th. 2019, with the spring planting planned to start in only weeks from now, I am getting excited about our spring program.  It will be another great year of planting native willows and trees on some local streams that flow into the Bow River. More native riparian cover will be created, which means better water quality and more habitat for both fish and wildlife.

On my last update, I mentioned our plant total was at 9,700 plants. My good news for the day is that the total is now up to 10,400, with more plants to be added in the next month. Presently, our tally for the sixth year of the riparian planting program is now 71,114 native willows and trees. All of the native stock was planted on a total distance of stream bank exceeding 30 kilometres in length. The program first started in 2014 and it is now averaging approximately 12,000 native plants per season.

The partners for this year’s BVRRE Program so far are:

Inter Pipeline; Shell Canada; City of Calgary; City of Airdrie; Harmony Developments; Bow Valley Habitat Development and the Cochrane Foundation. These partners have all been involved over the past few years, with some of them since the beginning of the program.

Three different schools will be part of the planting program this year. Two schools in the City of Airdrie and one in the Town of Cochrane. The school planting program covers elementary, middle school and high school students. Glenbow Elementary and CW Perry Middle Schools have been involved in our riparian planting program in the past, so it is nice to have them back for this season.

Heavy Winter Kill on Nose Creek

On a recent meeting and tour of Nose Creek in Airdrie, we noticed a number of dead pike along the stream channel of Nose Creek, in the City. I suspect the prolonged heavy cover of ice into March was responsible for a large number of dead fish in the stream. Due in part to low flows of oxygen-starved water and lack of sunlight beneath the ice, the fish will fall victim to asphyxia.

One pike, which was in an advanced state of decay, was estimated to be over six pounds in weight. Too bad that there isn’t enough wintering habitat to support the pike population on the creek. The lack of good flow is also responsible for the loss of fish. Aeration of certain areas of the stream in the City may help sustain a fish population thru the winter months, but this is something that others will have to consider and implement in the future, if possible.


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The Flow Begins

Ice Leaving Area Streams

Over the past week or so, the ice has melted on some areas of the Bighill Creek, exposing good flow from the first signs of a spring thaw. Other areas of the stream channel are still covered in a dirty layer of ice, from a winter’s worth of dust and dirt contaminating the surface ice. This is especially evident in the Town of Cochrane, where dust from development is quite common. This dirty surface on the ice will speed up the melt, absorbing the sun’s heat on bright days to come.

There is still plenty of ice yet to thaw this spring. Where stream flow thru east/west deep valleys, the snow and ice will take longer to thaw. This is good for the streams, having plenty of water late into the spring months.

The stream banks are still rock hard with ice and it will be another month or longer, before the frost leaves the creek’s banks. I will be anxiously waiting for this thaw. Once the ground along the streams is soft, we can get at the spring willow and tree planting program. There are lots of native plants for some area streams this year and I can’t wait to get them in the ground, as early as possible, later on in the spring.

Hopefully, there will be time in the evenings to cast a fly line this spring. It has been a long winter and I didn’t get out to winter fish the Bow this year. I am thinking of a few brown trout streams to the north, and it has been a while since I visited some of them. Maybe an early spring worm pattern, fished on the drift will entice a large lethargic brown trout to dine on my fly pattern. Early spring is a great time to catch a monster.

Worm patterns are easy to tie and very effective when fished as a drifting wet fly, like you fish a nymph pattern. I have know some fly fishers that use a worm on a regular basis, and they always report great catches. Streams like the Dogpound, Raven and so on, are good locations to fish a worm. These streams have soiled streambanks that are heavily populated with earth worms. I have catch trout that have a large ball of worms in their throats. This is noticeable when you are removing the fly hook, and sometimes the trout are stuffed with earth worms.

Spring Willow and Tree Planting Update

As previously mentioned, we have a total of 9,300 native plants to plant this spring. Now, it looks like there will be a few hundred extras to add into the program. I will update you this next month, with the grand total. The plants are already growing and with the planting start date this next month, we should have some well advanced stage one plants for planting. This will be another great season for the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program”.

Another school group is interested in joining in for this planting season. The Airdrie high school will be participating this May and we have already booked a date for a planting on Nose Creek, in the City of Airdrie. I will give you more details, later on this month.


Spring Thaw On The Way

It won’t be long now before the surface run-off begins on our local trout streams. There is significant ice build-up on Bighill Creek, but the surface flow from some warm weather will start to deplete the thick winter ice and cut through in places. When this happens, it is not a good idea to be on the ice for any reasons.

I have watched the flow on some areas of the Bighill Creek, where the channel stays ice free for most of the winter, and there has been good flow over the winter months. In these few areas, some birds and wildlife gain access to feed on the stream trout or the invertebrate populations in the Bighill Creek. In particular, Dippers, which feed on insect life below the surface and mink, which like to forage for a winter meal of fish.

This Dipper has a large caddis fly larva in its beak. The bird dives below the surface to forage under rocks and debris for aquatic invertebrates. They are a regular visitor to the Bighill Creek in the Town of Cochrane. Dippers are very entertaining to watch, when they are in their feeding mode.

The ground water spring creeks that feed Bighill Creek have been flowing good all winter, except for the Ranch House Spring Creek, which is lower than in previous years. The tiny trout from this year’s hatch on Millennium Creek are doing well, and this batch will help to maintain the brook trout population on the lower reach of the Bighill Creek. The clear flowing waters of Mill. Creek are a perfect winter habitat for newly hatched trout.

The hatch of brook trout started early this new year and the trout all looked to be in good condition. Later on, these new trout fry will slowly worked their way down to the BH Creek and help repopulate the lower reach of the stream. I took this photo of a newly hatched brook trout larva, this past January of 2019.

With this warmer weather over the last few days, I suspect that the trend may continue and we will have a normal start time for our riparian planting program this spring. If we can be on the area streams by the first week of May this year, it will be a good, early enough start for the 2019 season. We have a lot of native willows and trees to plant this year (9,300), so far.

I have been in touch with the “Friends of Nose Creek” group, and they informed me that they will be conducting a spring planting program on Nose Creek, in the City of Calgary, this spring. This was great news to hear. I don’t know how many plants they will plant, but I will let you know when I find out. The more people involved in riparian planting in our area, the faster the riparian recovery and the better for our local waters, and the fish and wildlife that depend on the habitat.


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March Freeze

Anxiously Waiting For Spring and Planting Season

Here it is, almost mid March, and yesterday it was below minus 20 with a wind, in the morning. I was outside collecting willow and tree cuttings for this spring’s riparian planting program, so keeping on the move made the cold less noticeable. But I am ready for some warm weather and the soon to come spring thaw!

It is good to see some snow at this time of the year and we can probably expect some more yet. A good spring run off and ground soaking is always good for the trout and our riparian plants from recent years. Getting off to a good start with plenty of spring moisture in the ground is a bonus for us volunteer willow and tree planters.

So far, we have 9,300 native plants for the ground this spring, and the total could go higher yet. I am very pleased to say that we will definitely break the 70,000 plant marker in our “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program” this year. It will be a great tally for the sixth year of our riparian planting program. The majority of the 9,300 plants will be designated for West Nose Creek in Calgary, again this year. However, large numbers of native plants will end up on Nose Creek, in Airdrie, and Bighill Creek in the Town of Cochrane.

Above: These new willows that we planted are going to really start to show up along the stream banks this year! This will be their sixth year after planting.

The Brown Caddis Dry Fly

A great attractor dry fly for both lakes and streams is the brown caddis dry fly. The color brown excites the trout into taking this dry fly when there is no apparent hatch happening. So this makes the fly a good choice for  enticing a trout to take the pattern on reaction, when it hits the water, on a lake, or drifts overhead on a stream. Dyed brown deer hair or elk hair is the secret. When the sunlight hits the brown deer hair the pattern seems to light up on the surface.

The fly is ribbed with a shiny mylar ribbing to add some sparkle to the pattern. Heavy hackle addes to the floatability and allows the trude wing to float properly on the surface. A size 12 or 14 is the best range in hook choice. A curved dry fly hook is also better for the flies balance.

Soon, my winter fly tying will end and it will be time to move on to other pursuits, so it may be a while before you see another post on fly tying this year.