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!

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.

Ice is Starting to Form on Area Streams

It is November 5th and winter’s bite is in the air. More snow last night, but any moisture is still welcomed by the high flowing trout streams, like Bighill Creek. All of the rain this early fall and now the snow will further enhance our water table and aquifers. Next spring and into the summer, this added water should be great for the resident trout. All of the local streams that I visited this fall are in good shape and are showing lots of flow.

This past week the ice has started to form on area streams. First, we had the anchor ice, but now the water temperature is warmer and surface ice has started to cover the slow-flowing areas on the creeks. The deeper pools and beaver dams are great wintering habitats for the resident trout population. Some of our willow and tree plants are locked into the thin layer of ice.

It is great to see how well our willows are growing on some of the old planting sites that we did. The beavers are now grazing on our plants, but this is just part of the normal natural process, the willows will not die from it. Small planted native willows take a number of years before they are conspicuous on the landscape. However,  it is nice to watch them grow, over time.

A Variation of The Crisscross Nymph

Besides spending a lot of time punching keys, it is nice to settle back in my comfortable seat and tie a few trout flies. Especially when the snow flies and temperatures drop below minus ten and lower.  These days, I find myself tying a lot of one particular nymph pattern and some variations of it. The fly pattern is called the “Crisscross Nymph” and it is fun to tie because I sure have been tying a lot of them lately.

An Olive Color Variation of the Crisscross nymph

The fly above is a dirty olive blend of dubbing on the abdomen of the fly pattern. I use a dyed mallard flank feather fibres for the tail, Indian hen for the legs, Pheasant secondary for the wing case. It all comes together on a size 14 – 2x nymph hook. I stick with the squirrel and mink dubbing blend for the thorax, same as in the crisscross pattern.

The purple hue of the Mylar is a perfect match for the silver wire that is wrapped in the opposite direction to the Mylar. Dirty olive is a perfect color for some nymphs and body dubbing for a few dry flies that I like to tie. I believe that the Irish call the color “Sooty olive”. It may be the same thing or close to it, in color. I mix grey yarn with some dark olive yarn, in my blend. There is also some polypropylene mixed in as well. The tying thread is an intricate part of the abdomen color, so keep this in mind, when you are deciding on a color. A very sparse dub is required to maintain a slender body shape on the nymph.

Variations have always been an important ingredient in the fly tying practice. This sometimes is a result of not having all of the right materials to tie a particular fly pattern. It is also a really good idea to have a good selection of color and choice of tying materials when you are really pleased with a particular nymph fly pattern and you would like to have a number of variations of that particular trout fly design.

A light color variation of the crisscross nymph

The nymph is a great imitation of a damselfly, mayfly and even a juvenile stonefly. It works well on the Bow River and other smaller area streams, but primarily, it is a still water trout fly for trout lakes.

This Mink and Squirrel dubbed body is a perfect color and texture for a small crisscross variant or variation. The Mylar and copper wire rib is the right mix for this color of a nymph.

The nymph shown above represents an important natural fur dubbing blend for this particular fly pattern. Utilizing a mix of squirrel and mink in the body material. The barred teal tail material is also a comfortable part of the recipe. Again, the Indian Hen saddle feathers make perfect legs for the pattern.

It is really nice to have a good stock of tying materials, collected over my many years of fly tying. Eventually, you find a use for just about everything that you have collected for fly tying. the stuff does take up a fair amount of space in a room, but I store all of my stock in large rubber containers.

Fly tying is a great winter hobby for me, but some will tie flies all year. After selling trout flies commercially, for many years, I can slow the pace and enjoy my tying, even more.

Peaceful Morning On The Creek

As the ice starts to form on Bighill Creek in the late days of October, deer enjoy the relatively quiet nearby traffic and peace of the early morning, with light snowfall. The deer are also enjoying the grazing on our relatively new willow plants, from past years of planting. The willows are growing slowly, but they will continue to do well in the moist soil of a stream bank. More growth will happen.

 

First Real Cold Snap – Anchor Ice Forms on the Bighill Creek

Every fall of the year, during the first really cold weather, anchor ice forms on the bottom of the stream channel of BigHill Creek. This happens when the water temperature drops below zero Celcius. Ice clusters which are floating suspended in the water, start to attach to the stream bottom, both rocks and weeds are anchors for the normally buoyant ice.

Anchor ice on the streambed of Bighill Creek, in October.

The slushy snow like anchor ice will disappear once the cold surface water is warmed by the weather or insulated by a covering of ice and snow on the surface of the creek. Even the influence of ground springs can prevent this anchor ice from happening or help in its fast removal. Resident stream fish, like trout, find refuge in deep pools, runs and beaver dams when the anchor ice forms. Invertebrates find protection under rocks or debris and they are safe from the anchor ice.

This is a natural occurrence on spring creeks, further down the system, where the water temperature is cooling from its source temperature. On some creeks, the resident trout will seek winter refuge in larger streams further down a system or at the mouth of a larger stream. Beaver dams play an important role in maintaining a resident trout population.

The bottom line is that the appearance of anchor ice is usually brief and it occurs in the fall of the year. I know that one particular mink that likes to frequent the lower reach of the Bighill Creek, is probably safe in its den when the anchor ice appears suddenly.

I’m Still Fly Tying a Particular Nymph Pattern.

After tying dozens of bead head nymph fly patterns, I finally got the chance to work on some simple old fashion trout flies. I’m still tying nymphs but without a bead, just plain Mayfly style, Crisscross nymphs. There are plenty of good applications for an unweighted mayfly pattern. You can fish them dry or just sub-surface. Strip them in long, short or slow pulls. All of this happens near the surface of the water, so trout will come up for them in aggressive strikes.

This Crisscross nymph is a great sub-surface trout fly

The fly is tied with a yellow teal flank feather fibres for the tail. The wing case can be either a secondary pheasant tail or bleached goose wing quill. The legs are from an Indian Hen saddle hackle. The legs are more durable than soft hackle, so this makes this nymph a tough, durable trout fly. The brown color pattern is deadly and one of my favorites. I tie this pattern on mainly size 14 – 2x nymph fly hooks. With bent down barbs. The ribbing is Mylar, pearl or similar, and copper wire cross wrapped on the abdomen. Thus the name, Crisscross nymph.

Fall Reflections

Fall is a great time for me and also a good time to reflect on the past season. Our riparian planting program ” Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program” was a fantastic one this year. We planted another 11,200 native plants along the banks of the three streams in the program: Nose Creek, West Nose Creek, and Bighill Creek. After a spectacular growing season, the survival rates are up on our native willow and tree crop.

It was a good year, but there is still plenty of work to be done and more riparian zones created, in the next few years. What I really enjoyed again this year, was the opportunity to inspect our plantings from previous years. Right-back until the time the BVRR&E program was first initiated, in 2014. All of the new trout habitats that we are creating is especially exciting to see. Willows are now reaching down, out and above the water, providing nice shady pockets of cover for resident stream trout.

Now, as the years progress, we can watch the willows and tree mature and further enhance the riparian zone and the trout populations. We really need to change the way we look at our local trout streams that are so close to and in major centres like Cochrane and Calgary. The smart thing to do is to change the regulations for sport angling so that the trout in flowing rivers and streams is totally catch and release only. You cannot manage a trout fishery when you allow the killing of wild trout.

Natural predators like mink, herons, merganzers, osprey and the list goes on, all need to eat and this is the only stream habitat that they have. Humans should not be the cause of stream ecosystems losing any keystone species like wild trout! We have to learn to live in a symbiotic relationship with all of the life in our nearby riparian zones, and the life beneath the surface of the water in those rivers and streams.

First Snows Always Get Me Fly Tying

The first snows of the fall always get me motivated to start my fly tying. The last days of September and early October isn’t exactly what I am used to for what is considered fly tying season, but it did happen early this year. As the heavy snow fell and the warm comforts of home triggered me to tie the first fly patterns of my normal winter fly tying program.

If I haven’t been tying for a while, I like to start with something simple, like a nymph pattern. Start slow and the speed will come with time. That is what makes a good fly tier. This fall a mayfly pattern came to mind, so that is exactly what my focus was on.

A simple Mayfly nymph, tied on a size 14 – 2X nymph hook

This similar pattern (Crisscross nymph) is tied with a clean bead head style, with a section of pheasant secondary tail feather for a wing-case. The fly is tied on a size 14-2x nymph hook. For weight, a brass or tungsten 2.8mm bead is tied in the pattern, for fast (T) or medium (B), sink rate.

My first fly was not exactly a textbook tie, but after a while, I got into the rhythm. The big thing to remember is to have all of the right materials on hand.

Fall 2019 Issue of Stream Tender Magazine

This morning there is a light covering of snow on the ground, with predicitons of more to come. As we leave September in a cold snap, the good news is that the flow levels in the area streams is good and this will help migrating brook trout and brown trout reach their spawning habitats. The higher flows help the trout move upstream, past any obstructions. Evan Martens contacted me in the third week of this month, informing me that the brook trout had already started to spawn on the Bighill Creek. It is happening early this fall, so we may be in for a long one (winter).


Above: The Bighill Creek is flowing good this fall, thanks to plenty of rain this summer. With more rain and snow this fall, we will have good flows this next spring and summer. The water table is fully charged or close to it.

I am really impressed by how much the Bighill Creek has cleared up over the last 10 years or so. A healthy riparian zone is a large factor in why the creek is looking so good these days. The rancher, just upstream of the Town of Cochrane has always taken very good care of the land and had a mutual respect for the Bighill Creek. All of this helps, when a stream is in recovery mode. The thousands of native willows and trees that have been planted on the lower end of the creek have also made a big difference.

New Issue of Stream Tender Magazine

I have just uploaded the fall 2019 issue of “Stream Tender Magazine”, so you can access it at http://magazine.streamtender.com . Please check it out. There are a few big surprizes about Nose Creek pike and brown trout fishing. You will have to see this!

Aquatic Weeds For Lakes and Ponds

I have just uploaded a new article on propagation of aquatic weeds for a new lake. The idea behind this approach is to enrich a newly constucted lake with the planting of aquatic weed cuttings. This weed habitat will boost the invertebrate populations in a lake or pond and enhance the amount of food for stocked trout.

Check it out at this link: Growing Aquatic Plants.