Fall Precipitation – Good For Area Streams

More Fall Rain and Snow – Is Good For Streams Summer Flow!

We are getting a lot of snow and rain this fall. It all started early in September this year and now the precipitation continues into the middle of October. This is great news to report if you like to see area trout streams thrive. More flow during next years summer will benefit the trout and other aquatic life, along with those animals that depend on this boost in stream water levels.

Someone told me a few years back that if you need water to bring up the water table and recharge the aquifers, best get it during the fall months, before freeze up. This makes perfect since to me, on a common sense level. During the fall, after plants have gone dormant from the summer growing months, they require less moisture to sustain life until freeze up. More water is allowed to percolate down into the ground in the few months of fall, before the frost seals up the ground soil.

“Water levels in many aquifers follow a natural cyclic pattern of seasonal fluctuation, typically rising during wetter, cooler months and declining during drier, warmer months.”
W.M. Alley, in Encyclopedia of Inland Waters, 2009

With all of the good precipitation this fall, I am expecting good flow in the creeks this next open water season. This will be really good for our trout populations in small area streams. For the last few years, the creeks have been flowing lower than in the previous decade. At least this is what I have observed. Low flows in Bighill Creek and other local streams makes for a very stressful life and survival for the resident trout populations. The amount of available habitat is reduced, forcing trout to compete for what is available. Low flows also result in higher water temperatures, which can increase stress levels in trout.

Bighill Creek Flowing A Lot Cleaner These Days

The Bighill Creek is a short distance from my house, so I find myself crossing it on a regular basis. It is easy to notice how much cleaner the creek is flowing these days, when compared to 10 or so years ago. I recall going down to the bridge near my house, about 15 years ago, to flip a rock or two and see if there was any sign of aquatic invertebrates under the scum covered rocks in the creek. There was nothing at the time. The creek was in a bad state in those days.

Above: This recent photo shows how clean the Bighill Creek is flowing these days. There is an abundance of aquatic life now present in the creek.

The riparian planting program that has been underway for a decade has been a major contributor to improving the water quality in BH Creek. Eroding stream banks have been stabilizing with the new willow growth that has been planted and this reduces the amount of soil, clay and silt loading that enters the stream channel. The reduction of silt has allowed the streambed to slowly clean itself over the years. Other benefits to the BH Creek’s ecosystem will follow!

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Cold September – Pretty Fall Vistas

Cold With Lots of Moisture For Our Local Trout Streams

Someone told me that if you get a lot of rain and snow in the fall, the streams will flow good in the following open water season. I guess this means that charging up the water table before freeze up is good for our local trout streams. So far this September, we have had a good amount of rain and snow, with the possibility of more yet to come.

The cold weather, with some freezing during the nights, has turned the leaves to their fall colors and it is beautiful along some local trout streams. With plenty of color along the Bighill Creek in Cochrane, I have been enjoying some walks along the path system. The added color along the stream banks makes for some good photos.

This early morning shot of Bighill Creek shows the beauty of fall colors along the stream.

We may get lucky and experience an “Indian Summer” in October, before the big freeze this fall. If it is a cold winter, that just means that I will probably tie more trout flies than I normally do.

Anticipation of A Great Riparian Planting Season In 2019

I am already getting excited about this next year’s riparian planting program, for the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program”. With a little bit of luck, we will end up planting close to 10,000 native willow and tree plants this next spring. The 2019 season will mark the sixth year for the riparian enhancement program.

If we get as much snow as we did last winter, there will be plenty of moisture in the ground for next year’s crop. The moisture makes it easier to plant and it helps get the new plants off to a great start. When the native willows and trees are planted in the early spring, they have already been growing for some time, prior to when the frost comes out of the ground.

I have already been in touch with some of the volunteers from this springs planting, and they are ready to chip in again this next year. The CW Perry Middle School is interested in adding more education into their planting event, so we will be doing a brief study on aquatic invertebrates that live in Nose Creek, in the City of Airdrie. This should add some fun into the student’s outing and hopefully help the kids recognize the importance of the stream’s ecosystem and bio-diversity.

This last spring, we took a number of breaks in our planting event, with CW Perry, to examine some insect that were captured by the kids along the stream bank. Having some proper dip nets and screens will make our study a little more organized this next spring. For some reason, kids love creepy crawly things pulled from the water.

This Gammarus shrimp is one of the creatures found in fresh water streams in our area

Eroding Stream Banks That Are Now Stabilizing

Native willows that were planted on eroding stream banks in 2014, are now stabilizing the banks, allowing grasses to grow mixed in with the willows. The Bighill Creek is now flowing a lot cleaner as a result of the reduction of clay and soil that once entered the stream channel. The creek appears to be a lot healthier, with more gravel and cobble showing on the streambed. This is good for the resident trout population in the creek.

This band of growth along the water’s edge is preventing loose soil and clay from entering the stream channel.

The more native willows and trees that we plant along some local trout streams, the better the long term benefits for a healthy riparian ecosystem.

 

 

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Planted Stream Bank Stabilization Sites 2018

Native Willows Take Hold

It is nice to have some old photos showing what some eroding stream banks looked like, before we planted them with native willows and trees. Fortunately, years later, you can take new photos of the same stream banks and use them in before and after sequence. This will accurately show the results of our efforts to stabilize these eroding stream banks. I have also taken video of some sites to be used later on, when we can demonstrate a full effect on video.

Above: This  eroding stream bank was planted with native willows the year before. You can see how sections of the stream banks sod are falling into the stream channel and this results in huge amounts of soil and clay smothering the streambed annually.

Above: This photo shows the same site four years later. The native willows have stabilized the eroding stream bank and this has halted silt loading into the stream channel. I have witnessed the streambed downstream cleaning, slowly, over the years. Areas that were once covered in silt and mud are now showing cobble and gravel beds.

The “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program” is producing results over many kilometres of stream bank in our area of the watershed. This will insure that cleaner water enters the Bow River annually. Not to mention the improved fish and wildlife habitat that we have helped in creating. And it all looks natural in appearance!

Over the next few months, Bow Valley Habitat Development will start to organize another planting season for 2019. Next year’s planting program will mark the sixth year since this particular riparian restoration program was initiated.

Another Smoke Filled Day!

This morning the sky is filled with smoke and it is dark like dusk at 9:00 AM in the morning. It feels like the world is burning these days. We need some rain out in BC and around these parts as well. The creeks are flowing really low lately and the trout are deep into the cover, where they will stay until the flow increases. This must be a major disappointment to those that planned holidays this month.

Lately, I have been conducting some stream maintenance, removing some blockages and garbage from the stream channel on a few project streams. I like to do this in the late summer, before the instream activity period closes for such cleanup work. We have a few key spawning streams in our area and a little help in keeping the stream channel open for trout migration, helps significantly. The Jumpingpound Creek is a great example.

A few years ago, a few locals started to open up the rock dams that were being constructed on the lower end of the creek, near the mouth of the JP, on the Bow River. This allowed the rainbow trout to have clear passage up the system in the following spring migration. Not much work was required, just removing a few boulders or large rocks in the middle of the rock dams did the job.

Above: Rock dams built by individuals during the summer months, block trout migrations during their spawning runs. A small opening in the middle of the dam will allow trout to move upstream to reproduce.

I have mentioned in the magazine or on this blog that we have seen two successful spawning events over the last two seasons, so I suspect that local volunteers have helped in this success, just by taking the time to open up a few rock dams. Well done!

 

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Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program Update 2018

August Program Update:

So far this season, we have been lucky enough to get rain when we needed it, throughout the summer months. This year’s plantings are doing very good and I think our survival rates will be good by next springs thaw. With 9,700 plants from 271 volunteer hours, we should be in pretty good shape for the 2019 growing season. Thanks to the partnership support for 2018 and a total of 53 volunteers, it has been a great year!

Our plantings for the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program, over the past 5 years, since we started the program, are now showing up on the landscape. On over 30 kilometres of three local streams that are tributaries to the Bow River, there are new native willow and tree plants growing right along the water’s edge. The plants from the first plantings are now tall enough to be noticeable, from a distance.

This section of West Nose Creek was planted a year earlier, but the plants are too small to be noticeable just yet.

This is the same section of West Nose Creek, three years later. Now you can clearly see the new willow plants growing along the water’s edge. These new plants will provide shade and streambank stability; overhead cover for trout; they will constrict the flow in the channel and keep the streambed cleaner (free of silt) and deeper over time.

This is a closeup of the channel. You can see how the willows that we planted are now starting to create overhead cover along the water’s edge.

On some reaches of West Nose Creek, beavers have already started to build dams on sections that were planted in 2014 and 2015. This is ok with me, because it is all a part of the natural process and beavers have an important role to play in the health of a trout stream. The dammed areas will help in willow and tree development, by creating wetland areas where willows and trees will take root from seed.

These planted willows growing along West Nose Creek’s banks this spring were covered with catkins or flowering seed pods. The broadcasting of seeds from these and other native plants helps riparian restoration in a natural process.

In summary, the entire riparian restoration program is creating an excellent result, which will show vast improvement in the riparian health on many kilometres of stream bank, over time!

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Another Rainbow Trout Hatch Last Year

Another New Generation of Rainbow Trout Spotted on the Bow River

On some mornings I will walk down to the Bow River, very early in the new day, and watch the river for a while. If my timing is good, along with my luck, I will sometimes see trout rising on the surface. If there is small trout, they usually come to the surface near the shoreline, to feed on small floating midges, mayflies or caddis. This close observation is a good way to see if there are new rainbow trout in the system.

The only problem is; that you need to catch a few on a fly rod to actually see if they are rainbow trout or brown trout. This can be done by fishing a very small trout fly, in the correct manor. My preference is to use a small nymph pattern. Sometimes it is not an easy task, but that is fishing. There is a sudden burst of excited jubilation when you catch your first small trout of the season. This is often accompanied by a little laughter and contentment, knowing that there is a new generation of trout in the river.

In July of this year, while doing one of these morning walks, I discovered a few small trout breaking the surface of a quiet pocket of water along the shoreline on the Bow River. Later that morning I returned with my fly rod and a good selection of small nymph patterns. The flies ranged in size from size 20 to 14, but it was the minus 16’s that I would fish on that outing. Just about anything that was medium to dark in color usually works, and there is always the possibility of a larger trout taking your pattern.

On that July morning I did manage to capture a small rainbow trout on my trout fly. This was great news for us fly fisher’s that cast on this local reach of the river. Last year, I also captured some small rainbows from a hatch that occurred the year before, in 2016. So this latest trout confirms that we had two rainbow trout hatches in 2016 and 2017. Much better than previous years, when it was hard to find a small rainbow trout on the Bow, from any hatching that happened in 2014 and 2015.

This is the small rainbow trout that I captured in late July of 2018.

I know that there are more rainbow trout in the river than the one that I fooled into taking my fly, because I had a few other hits by trout that were too small to be caught on my fly pattern. Bottom line; it is really great to see that the Jumpingpound Creek strain of rainbow trout are still holding on, despite the whirling disease infestation.

Does It – Or Doesn’t it?

Every time I catch a small rainbow trout these days, I wonder it this is the one that has a whirling disease resistance? The whirling disease resistance topic is growing in popularity, now that some strains of rainbow trout are showing that they can fight the outbreaks of this new threat to our trout fishery.

Recently, I caught a small rainbow trout near the mouth of Bighill Creek and discovered a small lesion on its side. I don’t know if this was signs of the whirling disease parasites attacking the trout or not. Whirling disease spores attack a rainbow trout thru its skin, so this may be a possibility. In any case, my first thought was is this trout developing a resistance to the disease. I safely release the trout back into the creek.

You can see a small lesion on the side of this juvenile rainbow trout. This trout seemed to be very healthy, other than the mark on its side.

My next post will be a brief report on the plants from this year’s “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program”. Enjoy your summer!


 

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Great Growing Season – So Far!

Willows Growing Fast

I have visited all of the 2018 planting sites to inspect our 2018 crop of 9,700 native willows and trees. The new plants that have been planted along the three area streams are doing great. It has been a really good growing season so far, with rain coming at just the right time throughout the spring and early summer. My trips to inspect the sites has also given me the opportunity to see how previously planted crops are growing. Things are looking pretty good for past plantings and we are definitely making a positive impact along the local streams.

Above: These willows growing right along the water’s edge on West Nose Creek in Calgary, are doing very well. They were planted last season and the new willows are taking to the soil along the steep banks of West Nose. In a few more years they will provide some well needed cover over the creek.

I am especially excited about our planting work on eroding stream banks. The new willows are creating ideal stability on the once sliding soil on the outside of oxbows in the streams. Plants from our first few years of planting are now providing excellent trout habitat as well as keeping the soil from sliding into the stream channel. The result is a cleaner streambed and more food for more trout.

Above: The native willows that were planted on the outside of this stream bank in 2015, are now growing out and over the stream channel, providing overhead cover for resident trout.

This is the fifth year of the Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program. So far we are making good headway with our riparian planting work. Thanks to our partners and volunteers that are planting thousands of native willows and trees annually, over many kilometres of stream bank. The three streams in the program are Nose Creek, West Nose Creek and Bighill Creek.

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Brown Trout Moving Up West Nose Creek

2018 Angling Survey Report – West Nose Creek, Calgary

Part of my work on West Nose Creek includes conducting angling surveys to monitor trout migration upstream, over time. I am very pleased to report that recently I captured and released a brown trout that was located over 10 kilometres upstream of the confluence with Nose Creek. This capture was made over a kilometre further upstream than the trout that I caught last season.

Above: This 10 inch brown trout was caught and released on West Nose Creek, over 10 kilometres up the stream, from Nose Creek.

The trout fought an amazing battle, before I managed to net the fish. After a quick two photos, the trout was safely release back into the stream. A very healthy specimen that looked like it was well fed. I also believe that the trout was a native West Nose Creek brown trout, because it was captured close to a known spawning area on the creek. This fish really made my day and confirmed the importance of conducting spawning and angling surveys to monitor the recovery of the trout fishery on West Nose Creek.

Before you dash off to fish the creek, be aware that it takes many hours of angling to capture a resident brown trout on West Nose Creek. Best leave the stream alone for now, so that it can recover over time. My angling surveys are done strictly for scientific purpose and to document the trout recovery over time. The signs of ongoing recovery and an increase in both spawning activity and trout populations is what helps motivate me personally, for our ongoing riparian recovery program. The habitat that we create over the years, by planting native willows and trees, will add to the speed of the trout recovery program.

All of the new discoveries on West Nose Creek, such as spawning and trout distribution are now being documented and this information is being shared with the City of Calgary. This info is important in establishing protective measures to enhance the water quality and health of the riparian zone, which is all good for future trout populations.

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Willow Plants Are Now Providing Fish Habitat

More Fish Habitat on Local Streams

The native willows and trees that were first planted as part of the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program” are now large enough to make a significant difference as fish habitat. They were planted along the stream banks where they would create overhead cover, both above and below the surface of the stream. It took four years to accomplish this, but in some areas the growth was a little faster than in other areas on the stream channel.

Above: You can see how these willows are growing out and over the surface of West Nose Creek in Calgary, where there is a small population of brown trout. The more fish habitat that we can create thru this willow and tree planting, the more trout there will be in the creek for the future years to come. There are loads of other benefits, such as improving water quality, constricting the flow so that silt is cleaned off the bottom of the streambed and so on.

Above: On some areas of the creek, the willow growth is thick along the water’s edge. This is exactly what we wanted as an end result in this planting program. Now we can watch these willows and trees grow significantly over the years. Upper reaches of the West Nose Creek will be restored enough to support a trout population, so we can expand the existing trout holding water’s of West Nose Creek, over time. Bow Valley Habitat Development has already identified and mapped potential spawning areas further up the creek that are not presently being utilized. I personally expect this to change in the future, as the brown trout slowly start to migrate and populated the upper reaches of the creek.

June Issue of Stream Tender Magazine

Early this morning I uploaded the June issue of Stream Tender Magazine. The computer problems that I encountered in May delayed the publication for some time this spring. The June issue is also smaller in size than the normal quarterly issue. Please check it out at: http://magazine.streamtender.com or use this link:

Stream Tender Magazine

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2018 Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program Completed

Last Planting of the Season

On June 5th, the ATCO group of volunteers completed the final riparian planting of the season on West Nose Creek, in the City of Calgary. A team of nine ATCO volunteers and one BVHD volunteer planted a total of 300 native willow and tree plants, capping the season total of over 9,500 plants along the three streams in the program. It was a perfect day, not too hot and with a gentle breeze to help keep the bugs at bay.

The overcast weather is also ideal for the plants, reducing the planting shock and helping get them off to a good start in the prime of growing season. The ground was still moist from a recent rain event, so this helped out by making the job a little easier as well. A small group punched holes into the soft ground and marked the holes with flagging, to keep the planters  busy with getting the fragile plants into the soil.

The plants are already topped with good leaf growth and small root development, so this will help get them off to a good start, once in the ground and watered. The entire process of planting is very fast and efficient for a volunteer group with limited experience in planting willows and trees. Bow Valley Habitat Development first designed the planting system in 1998 and BVHD has since been modifying it to make it easier for volunteers. I think we are close to having perfect this easy planting system. Small improvements over the years have made the technique easier and better for the native willows and trees.

The group took a water break mid-point thru the planting, which was a good opportunity to discuss the long term benefits and goals of the riparian recovery program on West Nose Creek. It is important not to overwork your volunteers and keep the event an enjoyable experience. I think we accomplished this, judging by the conversation and smiling faces.

Stream Tender Magazine – Late Release This June

A computer and software problem has delayed the release of the June issue of “Stream Tender Magazine”. However, we are back on track and it should be ready before the end of the month. Having a crashed system right in the middle of the planting season was unfortunate luck this spring, but that is just the way it goes sometimes. For those faithful readers of the publication, please accept my apologies. – Guy Woods

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2018 Riparian Planting Season is Well Underway

Volunteers Dig In

This past month has been a busy one for both volunteer planting and other spring stream activities. Recently, volunteers from CW Perry Middle School and Friends of Nose Creek all chipped in to help plant hundreds of native willow and tree plants along Nose Creek and West Nose Creek. So far, we have approximately 6,500 plants in the stream banks. This makes the 2018 Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program another super success story for its fifth year now.

The Friends of Nose Creek put in a couple of days of planting on the 12th and 13th of May.

The conditions for planting this May have been outstanding, with plenty of moisture in the ground along the streams. A few good rains were very helpful in our program. It was a lot of fun having the school group from the City of Airdrie out to do another planting this spring. The kids really did a find job and they seem to have a real keen interest in our program and the long term benefits yet to be realized.

The school group takes a minute from their planting to pose for the cameras.

As you can see from the photo above, the Nose Creek really needs a make over. There are no mature willows and trees along the stretch that we have been planting on. This will change in future years to come. The kids will witness the largest transformation of Nose Creek during their lifetimes. Hopefully for the better.

 

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