About Guy Woods

I am Director of Bow Valley Habitat Development, based in the Town of Cochrane, Alberta, Canada. I love to fly fish and it is this past time that prompted me to get involved in the field of riparian and fish habitat enhancement. I have been working in this pursuit for over 40 years!

Another Cold Winter Day

The New Year is starting to provide us with lots of really cold weather. It is a good time to dress warm and get outdoors. Maybe just on the sunny days, when there is no wind.

Having nature and a small trout stream, right down the block, it is easy to escape the walls of home for a brief walk. There are always deer or signs of their presence, crisscrossing the trail. I feel lucky to have such a retreat so close to my house. It would be too bad to have to travel some distance to find a little bit of nature. Fortunately, the City of Calgary, also has some waterways that also provide some nature reserve along their course. It is important to have access to some nature in our lives, it is like having your spirits lifted by a bit of this earth, and its natural environments.

Our willow plants are frozen into the creek ice, as the early light casts long shadows. Mink will use these small openings in the ice to go fishing. I have witnessed this happen on the Bighill Creek. The wild trout under the ice, are in slow motion, due to the cold water, so they make an easy target for a hungry winter mink. The mink will also take any other fish that are available, such as sucker fish.

One of the highlights of my winter experience is to monitor the trout hatch on some of our spring creeks where brook trout spawn, hatch and emerge in the winter months. A few photos are usually part of the program, so this may happen soon. Tiny trout can appear as early as January and as late as April and May. The hatch on the main stem of the Bighill Creek happens late in the spring, usually May. This was revealed in the 1999 Bighill Creek Fisheries Study, which is listed in the main menu at the top of this page.

This tiny trout was captured during the 1999 fisheries study on the lower reach of Bighill Creek. The trout was caught on May 23rd, shortly after it had emerged from the spawning beds on the main stem of the creek. The trout measured 22 mm. You can see that the Parr marks are just starting to form on the sides of the trout. Parr marks are dark round or oblong spots that are present on the sides of young trout, mainly in their early years of life.

The Big Chill

This week has been harsh, weather wise. Temperatures have dropped down to minus 30 C and colder during the night. It has been a good time to work on the 2020 Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program. So far, we are looking pretty good for this spring. I will know more by March, on how big the program will be this year. However, I can guarantee that it will be productive.

Right now, while the severe weather makes everything outside an adventure, I will continue with getting the 2020 planting program off to a good start, by organizing some more partnership involvement. I know there are a few school groups that will be helping out this spring, so it is up to me to make sure they have a project to look forward to. They already have, so this is great!

The summer holds promise of a few tasks to perform, and one of these is to do some more photo documentation of our planting sites. A little video will also be on the agenda. Recently, DFO got in touch with me to get some update info for a survey that they are compiling on our program, of which they are a participant, and they want to complete some follow up. So any additional media coverage for our planting program is also good for spreading the word.

The highlight of this year will be to inspect and take a few photos of some of our first plantings that we have completed a number of years ago. Some areas should be pretty impressive, with plantings that are now standing out on the stream channel. What I really enjoy, is seeing how our plants have created trout and other fish habitat, not to mention, the eventual wildlife habitat that will result from our efforts.

These willows were planted as part of the 2015 Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program. They are now starting to hide part of the Bighill Creek, in areas. You can envision what they will look like with a few more years of growth.

There is a good chance that “Friends of the Nose Creek” group will be involved in another planting this spring. They expressed interest in a recent email, so we will be in touch later on this winter. The watershed group completed a planting with BVHD in 2018, on West Nose Creek, and if we do another planting this spring, it will take place in the same area, so that the members can observe their previous accomplishments.

Watershed groups are becoming more popular these days, with their efforts concentrating on one particular stream system. This is the best approach for a grass roots effort. It is surprising how many people have an interest in contributing to some local worthwhile efforts to conserve and protect their area streams, and the remnant ecosystem that is still hanging on, in many cases. These folks like to get their hands dirty and make a real difference. The friends of Nose Creek have done a great job of cleaning up many areas of the Nose Creek, in the City of Calgary.

Snow Storage – Along Creeks

One of the most critical areas for snow collection on stream watersheds, during the winter months, is the riparian zone and beyond. Willows allow snow to fall and collect around their base, on the ground. The snow falls through the leafless branches in the winter and slowly builds. In shaded valley bottoms, this snow will stay until spring. The sun’s arc across the horizon is low, so valley bottoms don’t get much of the sun’s heat, on those warmer Chinook days. Once the frost is out of the ground, the melting snow will percolate down into the ground and eventually into the creek.

The snow that falls thru winter poplars does the same, but there are a good bed of leaves on the ground, where the accumulating water freezes and can be stored as ice until spring. The spruce and pines will eventually shed the snow in the form of melt, the melting snow will flow as water into the ground cover of moss. The melt water will also form ice in the moss and be there for the spring thaw. The spruce trees in our area are mostly on the north facing slopes, so there is always lots of moss to store water in.

This photo shows a perfect snow shed, holding lots of snow in the winter months. The creek is now covered in snow.

It is now only a few days until the new year and we have huge amounts of snow in the bush, along the creeks. If this keeps up, we may see a banner year for flow in the streams, come spring thaw.

This will be the first time in memory that I have witnessed open water at this time of the winter. I believe that the full water table, with plenty of flow coming out of the ground springs, is responsible for this. The warmer ground water is opening up ice cover on the lower reach of the creek.

Using Permanent Markers For Fly Tying

A neat little trick for tying multi color thorax nymph patterns is to use a permanent marker for color effects on your tying thread. The wing case on a nymph pattern is usually darker than the thorax underneath, so by darkening the thread with a marker pen, you can tie a more realistic pattern.

The thread has been darkened on the top of this wing case, using a dark brown permanent marker.
The thread underneath, on this pattern, has been left to match the color of the dubbing.

The marker pen ink should be left to dry a bit, before the head cement is added to the top of the wing case. After application, I leave the head cement a few seconds, before I blot the top of the wing case with my thumb, to take away any shiny cement. This leaves the top of the wing case with a more natural texture on the finished fly pattern.

This method of putting color permanent ink on the thread will save you having to change thread color for some patterns. I always have multiple color ink markers handy, when I am tying flies.

West Nose Creek Brown Trout – Moving Upstream

There is now a growing population of brown trout in West Nose Creek. In recent years, the spawning on West Nose Creek has occurred on the bottom reach, which includes about 10 kilometres of stream channel. This area is also populated with a growing number of brown trout. In the last few years, I have learned that other fly fishers have or are exploring the stream with their fly rods. This is great news, because now there are a few other anglers that can help keep me up to date on how the fishery is doing.

A few years ago, I was able to confirm a successful hatch of spawned brown trout eggs from the previous fall. This occurred when I actually caught a juvenile brown trout from the previous fall’s spawn on the creek. The trout was only 80 mm in length and I caught it on a size 20 nymph. The catch was made, just downstream of Harvest Hills overpass, on West Nose Creek, in the early fall of 2016.

You can see the Harvest Hills overpass in the background of this photo. The tiny brown trout was 80mm in length.

A monitoring of trout populations on West Nose Creek will continue in the future. There are good spawning habitats further upstream, but it will take a few years before the trout can migrate up into the upper reaches, within the city of Calgary. I know that our willow and tree planting efforts will help create the well needed habitat to enhance what already exists, in pool and deep run habitats on West Nose Creek.

These willows, that were planted right along the water’s edge, on West Nose Creeks upper reach, will help provide the well needed habitat that brown trout love.

Out On The Ice

Winter is ice fishing time on the east slopes. First light on the Ghost Dam, reveals determined anglers, ready to put in the time, trying to catch a prize from the dark water below.

It is usually by the end of December that you will see the ice fishers on the Ghost Lake, out on the ice in number. Believe me, I was once one of them, but not so much in recent years. The real keeners that spend a lot of time on the lake in the winter, may be after Gray trout, commonly known as lake trout. Others have their sights set on anything that will bit on the end of their lines. Nowadays this might be whitefish and brown trout. The whitefish are broken down into two varieties; Lake Whitefish and Mountain Whitefish.

This Loch-leven brown trout was hooked on a fly, while fly fishing the Ghost Lake. Brown trout of both the German and Scottish variety or strain, are available to the angler on the reservoir. Some of the brown trout can get fairly large.
This Lake Whitefish was hooked on a fly, on the Ghost Dam, in the summer time. Lake whitefish were once plentiful on the Ghost, but over fishing lead to a fast and sharp decline. I personally blame this on poor fisheries management on the lake.

The Ghost Dam once held some huge lake trout as well, but over fishing, because of poor management, resulted in diminished numbers in recent years. Lake trout live a very long life if they get the chance! The lakers of the Ghost grow very fast. On one otilith (ear bone) examination, a fourteen pound lake trout on the Ghost, was fourteen years of age. Another 20 lb. lake trout was aged at 14 as well, so some trout grow exceptionally fast.

Lake trout in the weeds. By Guy Woods

More Color Variations – Tying Nymphs

This double ribbed palomino nymph is a great representative of some mayfly nymphs and damsel fly nymphs. For one with brass color ribbing, look below.
This brass double rib works great as well.

You have to consider what the wet color is for a dry nymph. Most dubbing colors darken considerably, when wet. The legs, tail and wing case will not darken as much. This is important when you are trying to match the hatch. However, these generic nymphs will fish as attract-er flies when you are not quite sure of what to use. The unweighted patterns are excellent lake flies, but they have worked great on the Bow River.

New Article on the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program

Just scroll to the top of the page and pick the title out of the menu. I will add to this piece when necessary. This write-up will give the reader a pretty good idea of what our program is all about. Now that some of the sites are developing into natural riparian buffer zones, it is nice to be able to witness the transformation.

This New Year’s ” BVRR&E Program” – In The Works

There will definitely be a 2020 Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program. The seventh year of planting sounds great to me. I will let you know as things develop. Right now we should be good for 2,500 plants, but hopefully this will improve by March 2020 and we will have more partners involved. It is good to know that Bow Valley Habitat Development will be planting again this next year!

New Key Spawning Area Discovered On West Nose Creek

This December, I was inspecting a planting site that revealed new spawning redds made by brown trout this fall. The area has provided evidence of spawning in the past, with a few redds present, but this fall there were a total of 5 redds in an area of approximately 100 metres. This justifies the title of key spawning area. What was also really neat to find out, was that the spawning was taking place, right next to willows that we had planted in 2015.

You can see the cleaned gravel depression in the stream-bed. This is a brown trout redd that was excavated this fall (2019). The willows on the nearside of the channel were planted in 2015.

I will be keeping a close watch on this area in the future, because it has the spawning habitat to support lots of trout, in the general area. There was plenty of undisturbed gravel yet to be fully utilized. It was very interesting to see that the creek channel was still open in a number of riffle areas, it has been a weird fall this year.

The willow growth on this particular area of West Nose Creek is coming along very nicely in recent years. I am really excited that I will be able to show you some great before and after photos in the near future.

Snow And More Snow In December

You can see a hint of green in this photo of Bighill Creek in early winter. The nutrient rich waters hold more color than the Bow River, at the mouth of BH Creek. The high volume of flow has contributed to open water conditions on area streams, into early winter. The photo above shows Bighill Creek, just before Christmas day. Recent snowfalls are building a good store of snow in the timber and this should still be present in the spring thaw.

Special Christmas Post 2019

Creeks Still Flowing Good

There are still open sections on the Bighill Creek, as of yesterday. This gives the viewer an opportunity to see that plenty of flow is still traveling down the stream channel. It is comforting to know we still have good flow this time of year in the Bighill. Water quality and its volume of flow are major concerns these days, with so many flood events happening on this continent. Our wild trout populations are dependent on a good supply of flow coming out of the ground and its water table and aquifer.

This particular reach of the Bighill Creek is open and free from ice for most of the winter. I know that there are some ground water springs feeding into this section of the BH Creek. On bright sunny days, the water and streambed appears so dark on a snow covered landscape.

December’s Crispy Cold Mornings On The River

A icy cold morning on the Bow River in Cochrane. The frazil ice is flowing downstream, where it will collect at the Bearspaw Dam and form larger chunks of river ice. This river ice will slowly work its way back upstream towards Cochrane. On really cold winters the ice build up in Cochrane will travel further upstream. I recall really cold winters with huge ice build up near the mouth of the Jumpingpound Creek.

Double Ribbing Nymph Patterns

Using just silver wire for ribbing on your nymph patterns works great, but if you would like to add additional sparkle to your flies, try double ribbing with a flashy Mylar to enhance your silver wire rib. This is a technique that has been used by tiers of Atlantic Salmon Flies and Steelhead patterns for many years. The wire is wrapped over the smaller more fragile tinsel or in this case, Mylar. The double wrapping helps prevent sharp fish teeth from snapping your sparkle ribbing.

The fine Mylar ribbing, with a purple hue, is covered with a wrap of silver wire to help re-enforce the ribbing on this durable nymph fly pattern for trout.

If you use this method of double wrapping, you will get more mileage out of your nymphs, with a little added sparkle. The Crisscross nymph uses the same double wrap, but the wire is over wrapped in an opposite direction. On some days, while fly fishing the Bow River, I will use a little extra sparkle in my nymphs, to entice a take.

This dark brown double rib nymph is another sample of a multi wrapped rib pattern. Brass Mylar and wire is used. I like to use a variety of wire sizes, but the one shown is a 34 gauge brass wire.

The Fence Bank Stabilization Site

There are some key bank stabilization planting sites that are a little more important than others, the fence bank stabilization site is one of those. Since our planting of native willows along the water’s edge at the site, the new growth has definitely stopped further erosion at the site, even after a major flood event this summer. Over the next few years, the planted willows should shoot up in height and thickness.

This is a photograph of the fence bank stabilization site, before we planted native willows along the water’s edge.
This is the site, after a few years of growth along the water’s edge. You can see the native willows that we planted are really starting to take hold on the creek. These kind of stream bank stabilization sites are proving that native willow planting is a viable option, when stream bank stability is the objective.

Since our first planting, the end of the fence was moved back slightly, to insure that it would not collapse into the creek. Now the growing willows should stop future toe erosion on the high stream bank. We get fish habitat and erosion prevention, all from our planting efforts over recent years. The planting was part of the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program”.

This is a closer look at the bottom end of the stabilization site. You can see that stream bank further down has collapsed and will need a future planting. The collapsing section was already like that when the original planting took place. If a bank is on the verge of collapse, you don’t plant on it. It is also dangerous to attempt to plant a collapsing bank. This unless it has been dry for a long period of time and the conditions are right, for a trained professional planter to complete the task. This is where I step up to the task, when necessary.

New Article On The Jumpingpound Creek Stream Bank Stabilization Project 1996

I have just added an article update on the 1996 JP Creek stream bank stabilization project. This project was designed by Alberta Environment, River Engineering Branch, and implemented by Bow Valley Habitat Development, of Cochrane. Just scroll to the top of the page and click on the link or title.

It is amazing how the deflectors changed the course of the JP Creek and stopped an unstable steep stream bank slope, from continuing to slide into the stream channel. This has reduced the annual silt loading on the lower reach of the JP Creek and helped improve spawning conditions for the migrating rainbow trout that move up the JP to spawn every spring.

The success of this project demonstrates how landowners, NGO’s and provincial government agencies can come together and work towards resolving negative impacts to our local trout streams. The Jumpingpound Creek is the only spawning tributary for rainbow trout, for the Bow River, between Ghost Dam and Bearspaw Dam.

New Willow Trout Habitat – Immeasurable!

Over this past summer, it was really nice to see that some of our first plantings along the streams in our program, were starting to provide incredible fish habitat. The willows on the stream banks, were now overhanging the surface of the stream, with some submerged cover as well. These habitats are hard to access, but experience thru fly fishing, tells me the overhead cover of willows is being used to the full extent.

This pool cover of willow plants, were all planted as part of the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program”. They are now providing excellent overhead cover for the stream’s resident trout population.
This riffle run has adequate depth to hold trout, all it needed was the planted native willows that are now growing along the stream bank’s water’s edge. BVHD volunteers did all of the planting. It is a great location for a hungry trout, with a current to bring down any tiny morsels that the creek has to offer. A stone-fly, mayfly, caddis or midge, would all drift under the cover of willows where trout can feed safely.

Fly Fishing – Thoughts of Bye Gone Days

Days gone by, rainbow trout like this were once a common catch for the keen fly fisher, on the Bow River near Cochrane. The rich green algae on the rocks has now been replaced by “Diddymoss” a.k.a. “Rock Snot”. The aquatic invertebrates were once plentiful enough to sustain a relatively good rainbow trout sport fishery.

At one time, I thought it maybe impossible to ever see rainbow trout spawning on Bighill Creek, in Cochrane, but now my expectations have changed a bit. The lower reach of Bighill Creek has cleaned up so much in recent years that rainbow spawning, in the future, maybe within the realm of possibility. Rainbow Trout need cleaner flowing streams in the spring of the year, so that their eggs will not smoother or asphyxiate under a thick layer or film of silt. The Jumpingpound Creek is ideal for spawning rainbow trout, but it is the only spawning tributary on this particular reach of the Bow River.

It would be nice to have a backup stream, where the rainbow trout could spawn, somewhere between Bearspaw Dam and The Ghost Dam. The spring runs would always provide some very pleasurable fly fishing, during the spring migrations on the river. This was the time of year when you could hook into a large Bearspaw rainbow trout, but poor fisheries management, with liberal harvest limits on the Bearspaw, resulted in a diminished stock of the JP Strain of rainbow trout.

I remember back when we were radio tracking the spawning migration up the Jumpingpound Creek, some rainbows would travel 35 kilometres up into the forestry reach of the JP Creek. It is doubtful we will see that kind of activity during the spawning season, in our present day fishery. Hardly anyone still fly fishes during the spring anymore, because there just isn’t the number of trout that there once was.

This is a photo of some migrating rainbow trout that were caught on the JP Creek in the spring. The fish were captured during a trout trapping project on the JP Creek, in the spring of 1993. I was part of a spawning study that was being carried out on the creek that year. A few years later, a radio tracking project was completed, using radio transmitters in rainbow trout and an airplane for tracking the fish. It was during that study, when a trout was documented to be 35 kilometres upstream.

Another Streambank Stabilization Site – 2019

It is nice to watch as our streambank stabilization sites transform into a healthy riparian habitat. All it takes is some planted willows and trees, plus some good luck on the erosion damaged stream banks, as far as rodent damage and flooding are concerned. Then if you can wait for the results over time, you will eventually be rewarded.

The eroding streambank shown above has been planted with native willows, a few years earlier. Prior to planting, this site would load tonnes of clay and soil into the stream channel every year. The buried cable shown in both of the photos is no longer active.

This photo above shows how our native plants have grown over a few years’ time. The streambank site is now stabilizing and new growth will help hold the stream bank’s slope together, in the future. Presently, there is very minimal silt, clay and soil loading at this site now. Even the natural grasses and sedge are now growing in and around the willow plants. This cost-effective method of streambank stabilization is working great!

Here is another photo (Above) of the site. This shows the bank site later on in the summer when the grasses are tall and the willows are thick with leaves. The water levels are lower and aquatic weeds are building up in the stream channel.

The photo above is some second-year willow plants, in the spring. As you can see, they were planted on an eroding and very unstable streambank. You can see how the willows are frozen into the creek’s icy surface, during the winter months. Check the photo below for an after shot of the site, a few years later.

This is what a recovering stabilization site should look like. Lots of new growth, with some growing native willows. The shaded water below the willows is ideal for trout habitat. The upper area of the collapsing streambank will take years to stabilize, but it will happen over time. The most important thing to remember is that the planted willows will help protect the toe erosion on the bank. Plant growth will continue up the exposed slope, where the cable is now visible.

Since the streambank stabilization plantings on Bighill Creek were completed, a definite improvement in water quality and streambed substrate have been noted on the lower reach of Bighill Creek. Less soil is being washed into the stream channel and this is showing great results! There is no question about it, this planting program is doing some real good for the creek and its occupants, the resident trout population.

Two-Tone Olive Nymphs

On some of my nymph ties, there are two colors of dubbing used on the abdomen and thorax of the pattern. Usually, the underside of the thorax is slightly lighter in color than the abdomen. I also like the pearl Mylar that blends in nicely with the olive dubbed body.

The olive body and Mylar ribbing do go well together on this pattern. The thorax is a slightly lighter shade of olive, on the underside of the wing case. I use a tan thread and a brown ink marker to color the thread on top of the wing case before I cement the thread. This leaves the underside light and the top side dark. The dyed olive Indian hen saddle on the tail and legs goes great with the olive color.

The mayfly nymphs have plenty of gas bubbles around their bodies when they are ready to hatch, so the added sparkle of the Mylar imitates this. I have a wide selection of olive dubbing, both in dark and in light color blends. It is a good idea to have a variety of shades of this nymph in your fly box. This pattern is a must for lake and pond fishing.

In previous posts, it has been mentioned that long leaders are used when you are fly fishing lakes, with a dry fly line. A 14 to 18-foot leader can be used for dry fly and surface nymph fishing. I tie my own custom leaders, but if you don’t, just obtain a 9-foot leader with a heavy tip, like 1x and add some tippet to make the leader longer. A long length of fluorocarbon leader on the very end is a good choice for nymph fishing. The fluorocarbon sinks faster for nymph fishing, and ordinary tippet material can be used for dry fly fishing. The olive nymph pattern above, or one like it, can be fishing using a slow or fast retrieve, or just let the nymph sink and suspend. Watch the end of your fly line for a take, then set the hook easy.

Nature’s Facinating Reveals – To The Keen Observer

It never ceases to amaze me, how simple things in nature can attract your interest. All you have to do is take a good look at the natural world around you. While doing so, you may even spot a bird or squirrel in the trees, or see deer in thick cover. All that it takes is a bit of time to inspect the natural habitat along flowing streams or still water ponds or lakes.

Photographers are always looking for that eye-catching view or a play of light on the surface of a stream’s icy cover. Simple things that will fascinate you if you take the time for a good look. This type of contact with nature will help charge your batteries and add a new outlook on things in general.

Openings in the ice cover of a creek draw a passer’s interest. It is a unique sight.

Sometimes you get lucky and see a mink traveling from an open spot in the ice to another one further upstream or down. The resident mink fish for trout and other fish, below the winter’s ice, along the creeks. This is a sign of a healthy trout stream. The harvesting of wild trout on all flowing creeks should be left to the wild animals that depend on these fish for survival. Let nature hold its own balance of fish and wildlife that inhabit riparian zones. They are sometimes referred to as wildlife corridors.

The ripples in the icy surface on this creek indicate that water was flowing on the surface, recently.

A View of The Growing Plants

The planting sites are always a pleasure to visit and see how the native willows and trees are coming, after a few years since they were planted. These plants are going to make a world of difference in future years. Right now, they are still relatively small to the eye and you have to be looking for them in the right areas of the creeks that are included in the planting program.

These willows that were planted in 2015, are now in pretty good shape for only 5 years of growth. They are hanging out and over the stream channel, where they were intended to grow. This type of growth is optimal for fish habitat on all of the three streams. Those streams are Bighill Creek, West Nose Creek, and Nose Creek.

The stream channel on West Nose Creek (above) is now showing the willows that we planted right along the water’s edge. It has only been 5 years, and plenty of beaver grazing, but the willows are doing great. Eventually, there will be enough willows and trees for a transformation of the riparian zone.

So far, we have planted over 71,914 native plants in the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program”, which was started in 2014. The growth will be exponential as the new plants cast seeds annually and new plants are started. The most important thing is to make sure there are enough native willows and trees to make this happen. The 2020 season will be the 7th season, so I am looking forward to that!

Olive Lake Patterns

Yes, I am still tying nymphs, the generic type of design. Right now, olive green is the color, and a size 14 hook is the standard for this pattern. Both brass and silver wire goes good with olive nymph patterns. Presently, I am using a different shade of olive on the thorax, so there is some contrast in the body color.

This olive lake pattern is tied with a silver wire rib, the olive legs and tail match the color combination.

When I am fishing this lake pattern, I like to use a very long leader on a dry line. Leaders of up to 18 feet are common with some lake fly fishers. Strike indicators can also be used in combination with a long dry fly leader. A size 14 pattern is ideal for matching hatches of common mayfly nymphs, damselfly nymphs and stoneflies on flowing water.

December 2019 Issue of Stream Tender Magazine

I have recently downloaded the December issue of Stream Tender Magazine

This is a special edition, so be sure to check it out. It is a good read for really cold days like today. There are a few photos of lush green growth from this past summer, so this may cheer you up a bit.

Pool Habitats are A Big Hit With Wild Trout!

Recently, I was writing an article on log v-weir pool habitats, so I dug into some old photos to add to the piece. I found myself starting for long periods of time, at some of the photos, the pools looked so good after so many years since their construction. I decided to add another photo to this blog post, just to satisfy those of you that share a similar interest in such things.

Bow Valley Habitat Development built this Log V-weir pool habitat in 2007 on a small spring creek that held trout. Today, the pools are deep and hold trout. It is a pleasure to see them looking so natural in the environment. A trained eye might notice that they are man-made.

There is always something of interest to find in old photos of past project sites. Nowadays, with our native willow and tree planting program growing annually, I look forward to sharing some more photos of the results, over the years.

Clear Water  –  Dark Nymphs

An old-timer once told me: “The water is so clear in that mountain stream that the trout need to wear sunglasses.” This is one of the drawbacks of fly fishing a clear mountain stream, not that the trout wear sunglasses, but that they do have an especially good view of any fly fishers combing the stream banks.

I can still picture some of my own personal experiences of fly fishing for cutthroat trout on crystal clear mountain waters. There was one time that I was walking the Waipourous Creek and on the opposite stream bank there was a small cluster of willows, the current had undercut the roots right at water’s edge. This erosion had created a small dark, shaded and deep hiding spot for a trout, I thought. Then when my dry fly drifted into the jaws of a waiting cutthroat trout, that was about 18 inches in length, I knew that I had played my cards right.

Dry fly fishing is usually my preference, but occasionally, a nymph pattern will do the job. Dark nymphs are the first choice when scanning through my fly boxes. For some reason, the wild trout in clear mountain streams do prefer a darker color of a nymph. The number of dark color nymphs that I carry will usually cover all of my needs on a mountain stream that is usually filled with cutthroat trout.

This dark brown nymph is a classic for a small mayfly nymph imitation.

The standard size for most of my attractor nymphs is 14 or sometimes a size 16 hook.

A Mylar rib always adds a lot more sparkle to your nymph patterns.

There are so many variations of dark color nymphs, but they all stand out in clean flowing mountain streams. A bead head is sometimes required to get the fly down deep, but hungry cutthroat trout will come up to the surface for the right size and color of your offering. The nymphs shown above are relatively fast sinking anyway, due in part to their slender shape on a heavier wire 2x nymph hook.

This photo shows the author landing a fat cutthroat trout while fly fishing a mountain stream with beautiful clear water.

Lots of Water for Next Year

All of the snow that we have seen this fall will be good for the streams this next year. I have been watching the flow in the Bighill Creek all year and things could not be better for the volume of flow in the channel.  Even with this recent cold snap, the water is still flowing on top of the ice on the very lower reach of BH Creek.

The water is still flowing on top of the ice, as of the first of December 2019

More Stuff To Read

I have just written some more detailed information on how to build my constructed log pool habitats. There has been some interest expressed in this particular structure in the past, so I thought that I would add some more information into a photo essay that can be accessed on the cover page menu of this blog. Just scroll to the top and the title will be near the bottom on the menu.

A constructed log pool habitat that was built 12 years ago on a small spring creek. This low gradient stream had a number of pool habitats constructed on its length. It was part of the design of a stream restoration program carried out by Bow Valley Habitat Development. Trout lurk in the depths of these pool habitats. This stream is a great nursery habitat for juvenile trout as well.

The small spring creek stays ice-free for most of the winter months. Check out the main article.

I also updated the page on the Bighill Creek Study, by adding some video links.

More Nymph Fly Patterns

Continuing the trend that I was on earlier, I am still tying trout nymph fly patterns. fortunately, the patterns that I am tying are getting better over time. Over the past few months, I have been concentrating on a generic nymph design that has proven itself over the years as a great attractor and hatch matcher.

This light color nymph has a Mylar rib with a purple hue.

The nymph shown above is a popular color of light tan, which the trout find very enticing.

Willows and Deer

I am seeing a lot more deer along the Bighill Creek these days. I suspect that all of the new browse of new willow plants that are available is attracting them to the area.

A small buck bedded along the Bighill Creek. You can see the willows that we planted in the foreground. The creek has opened up in this recent spell of warmer weather.

It is nice to see deer right in the middle of Cochrane.

Inspirational Movement

The recent protests by our youth, in support of measures to curb climate change, is very compelling. For me, it is great to see young people getting involved in such an important way. This is very inspirational for me personally. It is their future planet that is at stake, and now is the time to get serious about this world threat to humanity! We can all chip in by cutting back on our carbon footprint, I have changed my lifestyle, for this reason, a long time ago. Here are some of the things that I have cut back on in recent years:

  • Jet travel and unnecessary driving.
  • Recycling as much as I can.
  • The size of my house, which is a small house with an energy-efficient furnace.
  • I drive energy-efficient vehicles.

And the list goes on.

Snowy, Quiet Mornings On The Bighill Creek

There is something special about being outdoors in snowing, early morning hours. It is so quiet that you can hear the deer moving through the snowberry. The path along the creek is still thawing the snow, but off the trail, the snow is collecting on the branches. Very peaceful when conditions are like this. Nature does wonders for the mind and body.

Mule deer bucks browse their way through the snowberry, in the quiet of the early morning.

There are more deer in the riparian growth along the creek than in years past. The abundance of willow and shrub browse is good for a small population of deer. I like the late fall when the bucks come into the area for their rut (from the Latin rugire, meaning “to roar”), a time when the deer mate. The few weeks when larger bucks come into town.

The buck in the photo above was bedded down in the dense cover along the creek bottom. This abundance of bucks occurs in the latter part of November, in our area. I always look forward to getting some good photos for my blog or Stream Tender Magazine. Have a home so close to a piece of nature is a bonus. For me personally, getting out to enjoy a walk through some natural areas is a must-do experience.

Watching the Bighill Creek go through its different stages, during the freeze-up, is an enjoyable experience for me, personally. If you are lucky, you will encounter a mink, squirrel or numerous bird varieties, along the creek. Simple views of the creek are very peaceful scenes, and they help charge up the feelings of the outdoors that we all experience.


The riparian zone plantings on Bighill Creek are pretty obvious now, with lots of new willows and trees started on the creek.

These willows shown above, are from plantings a number of years earlier. The growth in this area is slow but steady. In summer the growth is lush and dense with leaves and tall grass.

Tenth Successful spawning season for our Constructed Spawning Channel

This was the tenth successful spawning season on the Millennium Creek. The custom channel was built in 2010 and the brook trout were spawning by that fall, in 2010. This fall marked the tenth spawning event and countless new generations of trout for our local stream. The channel was a grass-roots partnership project between Inter Pipeline and Bow Valley Habitat Development. A great investment in our future trout fishery.

The average number of redds per year, so far, is 25 brook trout redds each fall. This is fantastic and it reaffirms the importance of Millennium Creek to our local trout fishery. Not as a place to fish, but a place where trout can successfully reproduce in a protected environment.

Please show your support by contacting your councilor or mayor, and telling them to recognize the importance of Millennium Creek and its wild trout.