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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!


More Brown Trout Than You Can Shake a Stick At – Or A Fly Rod

I ran into a young fisherman a few days ago. His name is Evan Martens and he loves to fish. Evan and I exchange emails from time to time and for me it is a good way of finding out how the fishing is in this area. Evan likes to fish small streams and big water like the Bow River, so he is a perfect source of information, when I am trying to write about the state of the local sport fishery.

For me personally, it is very refreshing to find a young angler with the same urge to fish that I once had. Furthermore, he does a lot of fishing and knows the local haunts of large trout very well. As he scolled down the photo lists of recent catches, on his cell phone, I could see that there were more photos of huge brown trout than you could shake a stick at. So he definitely knows how to catch large trout. I asked him if I could use a few of his photos in my websites and he agreed to send me some.

The Evan Martens photo above; shows one of the nicely colored brown trout that Evan has caught and released lately. Note the brilliant red color spots on this beauty. The exact location of this particular catch is unknown, but that is just normal fisherman non-disclosure practices. Bottomline; it is nice to know that there are some real beauties still lurking about. It is also comforting to know that young anglers practise catch and release these days, especially considering there are no good regulations in place to protect this magnificant wild trout population, on some smaller area streams.

I will continue to check in with Evan Martin and other local anglers to see how their personal fishing experience is, so that I can relay this info to my readers. Fisheries managers are also welcome to the information relating to our local fishery, as well.

My personal experience seems to be more related to smaller varieties of trout, when it comes to fishing this reach of the Bow River. But the good news is; there are plenty of small brown trout and growing numbers of small rainbow trout in our length of the river, so this holds promise for the future angling opportunities. We will see what happens next year. I suspect that the overall population of trout in the Bow River will be up in 2020!

Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program – August 2019 Update

I had a meeting and tour of some of our planting sites in Calgary, on West Nose Creek, yesterday. Calgary Parks ecologist Andrew Phelps joined me to inspect some plantings from the past and also this springs crop. Everything looks good for this year’s planting results, with lots of surviving plants and they are growing fast. It has been a fantastic year for growth on all of our local streams that we plant on.

 

The plan for 2020 was discussed and we are good to go for next year, on West Nose Creek. By fall, BVHD will have all of the organizing complete for this next year’s planting program. We are at 71,914 plants planted thus far, so next year I am hoping we can break the 80 thousand plant mark. What ever we manage to get into the ground in 2020 will all be good for this riparian restoration program.

I am especially pleased with how much volume of flow we are experiencing on all of the small streams in our planting program. It is really good to see how the water table is recharged and providing good water levels in local creeks. This fall’s brown trout and brook trout spawning season may be a banner year for these wild trout populations.


Signs of Recovery for Middle-Bow River Trout

Just recently, I caught my first juvenile rainbow trout on the middle Bow River, in Cochrane. The number of captured juvenile brown trout is increasing , as the water levels drop, over the past few days. During my fly fishing survey on the Bow River this summer, at first it looked pretty gloomy, but now things are starting to pick up and the fishery doesn’t look as bad as I first thought. The big news is that there was a successful hatch of rainbow trout eggs last year, on the Jumpingpound Creek. The brown trout hatch on Bighill Creek was also successful. The reason I can tell you this is that both the brown trout and rainbow trout fingerlings are about the same size.

The trout above is the rainbow trout that I recently caught recently, on the Bow River in Cochrane. It is one of a few that I hooked this past week. The small trout came out of the Jumpingpound Creek, after spending its first year in the creek. Good water levels in the JP this year, cause a delay in the normal migration patterns of the trout. They usually come down out of the JP Creek in the first part of July. However, it was nice just to see that there was a successful hatch last year.


This brown trout was one of many caught in the Bow River, but the trout was most likely hatched on the Bighill Creek last year, from the 2017 fall spawning season. All of the trout seem to be in pretty good condition, which is very important for their winter survival this year. This is good news for the local fly fishers in our area, without small trout being injected into the river every year,  your trout population would collapse.

These days, when I catch a small rainbow trout on the river, I will pause to wonder if the trout in my hand is carrying the disease resistant genome for whirling disease. After following the topic of whirling disease quite closely over the past few years, I am confident that a disease resistance is the only hope for our Jumpingpound Creek strain of rainbow trout, and those strains further downstream.

Stonefly Recovery Happening

This year there is a definite increase in the number of stoneflies present in this reach of the Bow River. The stonefly has been pretty scarse in recent years and this may have something to do with the big flood of 2013. because the Ghost Reservoir is on the upstream side of this reach of the Bow River, the recruitment of stoneflies on the river would take a little longer than on a normal stream, with no dams.

A few days ago, while fly fishing the Bow River just a few blocks away from my house, I notice lots of summer stoneflies along the water’s edge. The stoneflies were Acroneuria sp., which are a late summer perlidae hatch that happens on the Bow River. This is why I call it the summer stonefly. The stonefly population is of primary importance for all of our wild trout, in this reach of the Bow River. Later on in the open water season, the fluctuating water levels in the river have a huge negative impact on other invertebrate hatches. The stoneflies are able to migrate into deeper water during these water level changes, but other insects can’t.

With healthy stonefly populations, the trout should benefit from this food source and increase in numbers. It is a wait and see theory, but any sign of hope is good enough to keep my interest high, during the wild trout’s journey to recovery. I do recall a time when insect hatches along this reach of the Bow River were a lot more prolific. Nowadays, you just don’t see the midge and mayfly hatches of yesteryear.

A few years ago, the water levels in the Ghost Reservoir were brought up to maximum levels after the run-off season was over, now they keep the Ghost reservoir levels down well into the summer. This must have made an impact on the tailwater fishery that we had. However, this is only speculation at this point in time.

 More Habitat Growing Along the Creeks

This is the 6th year of the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program” and the results are getting more obvious these days! New native willows and trees are starting to provide great instream habitat and stream bank stability. A sign that our efforts have not been in vain. Willows are growing on both sides of the stream channel now and it will only get better as the years progress on!

Above: This photo of Bighill Creek shows how a good planting program can enhance the wild trout habitat and improve stream bank stability. Note the planting on the farside of the stream bank was carried out on an eroding slope, five years earlier. Now the erosion site is stable and covered with native willows. Some stream banks are more difficult to plant on, but persistance pays off, over time.

New Issue of Stream Tender Magazine

I have just uploaded the summer 2019 issue of “Stream Tender Magazine” at: http://magazine.streamtender.com . Please check it out.


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Local Trout Streams – Still Flowing High

Lush Green Growth  –  Lots Of Water

The local small creeks are still flowing very high for this time of the season! The water table and ground springs are in great shape with lots of water from all of the rain that we have received this spring and summer. The flood of June 21st and a few high flow events since that time have already cleaned the stream beds and scoured the pools, so when the water levels drop a bit and the flow clears up enough, you will see the difference that a few good flushes can do for a trout stream.

It has been a few years since the last good flush on Bighill Creek, West Nose Creek and other area streams. The added willow growth from our “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program” will help constrict the flow and scour a deep narrow channel, with cobble and gravel exposed in some areas.

This will be great for any new resident trout, migrating in from the Bow River, or those new trout that have hatched on Bighill Creek early this year. A cleaner creek means more invertebrates or food and some pretty good new habitat for trout to live in. Deeper pools, undercuts and runs, will all be enhanced by the flood waters that tore thru the creek a few times in June and July.

You can see from the photo to the left that some of our first willow plantings are now growing out and over the stream channel. This added new fish habitat will more than double the holding capasity of Bighill Creek’s resident trout population. Some may start out small, but over time they will grow into larger trout and improve the health of the sport fishery and boost the amount of wildlife that depend on trout for survival. Herons, mink, diving/fish eating/ waterfowl and other wildlife will have a more productive habitat for foraging.

I have fished the Bow River here in Cochrane a few times this year already, and the number of juvenile brown trout is up again this year. I suspect that many of these small brown trout will be returning to the Bighill Creek later on this season. This should help boost the population of brown trout in the creek. Also, we did have a successful hatch of Millennium Creek brook trout again this year. This along with new hatchlings from further upstream, should enhance the brook trout population in the stream as well.

This is the largest brown trout that I have captured in the Bow River so far this year, but a lot of smaller brown trout were present in the river. These are all very nice and healthy juvenille brown trout and the numbers of them that move into the creek will definitely boost the fisheries trout restoration program in Bighill Creek. There will be plenty of new habitat ready for the small brown trout, when they migrate up the Bighill Creek.

Every year, I conduct an angling survey to see how the rainbow trout hatch in the previous year was, on the Jumpingpound Creek. Using a fly rod and a variety of very small trout flies, I can usually catch the smaller trout that are present in the Bow River, in the Town of Cochrane. Unfortunately, this season, as of July 23rd, there were no rainbow trout captured by this angling method. However, it may happen yet, so I will continue with my survey.

The numbers of rainbow trout in this reach of the Bow River has been dramatically reduced in recent years. Collapsed fishery, is a better discription for the state of the rainbow trout fishery on the middle Bow River. It is hard to pinpoint the exact reason for this, because I don’t spend all of my own time studying the river’s fishery, but I suspect a number of variables are involved in this terrible state of our rainbow trout populations. I have heard that the Bow River in Calgary and downstream is also experiencing a reduced rainbow trout population, but the river is still maintaining a good sport fishery for now.

All we can do on our end, is improve the fish habitat on small tributaries to the Bow River and increase spawning habitat, in the hopes that our sport fishery will rebound some day. There just seems to be so much happening these days, with envasive species entering the river system and human development encroaching on key areas that our trout depend on for reproduction. A good example is Ranch House Spring Creek. This small spring creek is used by brook trout as a nursery habitat and also, more importantly, as a spawning habitat. A few years ago, a storm drain outflow was constructed on the Ranch House Creek drainage. Since that time, huge volumes of ground water run-off have been entering the small spring creek and quickly eroding the natural existing stream channel into a washout.

The numbers of spawning trout have dwindeled, from a high of 32 brook trout redds in 2016, down to 3 last fall. I am positive that the changing stream channel geometry and substrate is the cause for the decline in reproductive numbers. The pumping of spring groundwater further upstream is also a major concern these days. We cannot afford to loose any spring water from such an important spawning tributary as Ranch House Creek.

 

 


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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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