2018 Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program – Update

Off to a Great Start for 2018

It is now March and Bow Valley Habitat Development has already confirmed enough partnership support to plant 9,000 native willows and trees along the stream banks of our three local streams. Bighill Creek, West Nose Creek and Nose Creek will all receive new plantings this spring over a two month period in May and June. This is great news for the fifth year of the riparian restoration program.

March is a very good month for me personally. I have already confirmed a new trout hatch on Millennium Creek and I am suspecting the same on Ranch House Spring Creek and the Upper Spring Creek over the next few months. It is also a time when I can confirm how large the riparian planting program will be for the year. All of this positive news gets me motivated for another year of work on our local streams.

Another year of planting along the water’s edge will result in over 9,000 native plants that will help stabilize the stream banks and provide shade and habitat for both fish and wildlife. The plants will be small for the first few years, but after 5 or 6 years of growth, they will stand out on the landscape of the streams in the program.

Presently, most plantings take place on areas of the streams that are now void of any native willows and trees. This new crop of plants will make a huge difference in both the health and appearance of the creeks in the future. It is a worthwhile endeavor.

Bow Valley Habitat Development is looking forward to another good year of volunteer support to carry out the work load in this program. There are already a few solid commitments from both school and NGO organizations in place, plus the corporate groups that chip in to plant willows and trees. For volunteers, it is a perfect opportunity to make a big difference in only a few hours of work time. This has resulted in tens of thousands of native willows and trees being planted already, over the past few years of work.

The March 2018 Issue of Stream Tender Magazine

The March 2018 issue of the magazine is now on the internet. It is a free publication, so please check it out. You can reach the site at this link: http://magazine.streamtender.com There are regular updates to the riparian work and also articles on the local fishery that you may find interesting. Recently, BVHD has also added articles on fly tying and other stuff to make the magazine more attractive to fly fishers, whom are major stakeholders for our local trout waters. You can also see who our partnership group is for this program.

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Expecting A Good Run-off and Stream Cleaning

Lots of Snow Means High Spring Flows

It is mid-February and already we have a good base of snow developing in the Bow Valley Corridor. If this continues and we have enough cold weather to maintain the snow pack until spring, we should see a good run-off on area streams. Many people are still afraid of flood events, such as the one we had in 2013, but a good run-off does not necessarily mean a damaging flood event. Spring run-offs are common on all streams, so having them happen every now and then is quite normal.

We haven’t had a good run-off on the Bighill Creek for a few years, so hopefully this spring we will see one. The high flow events are good for trout streams. The fast flowing, high volume of water scours out pool habitats and creates deep runs, undercuts and pocket pool habitats for trout. The movement of gravel on the stream bed creates good spawning habitats and enhances invertebrate habitat, which means more food for trout. This transformation helps to maintain healthy trout streams, so for us fly fisher’s it is good to see from time to time.

The flows on Millennium Creek were good all winter and presently the snow is building up along the stream banks on the small feeder spring creek. The snow in the trees and willows will last longer into spring, if we don’t get a prolonged Chinook or two.

The high flow is good for the newly hatched brook trout that are now present in the creek. Many of them will end up in the Bighill Creek before too long, so this is good to see. More water, more trout.

I will be closely watching both Ranch House Spring Creek and the Upper Spring Creek for signs of a trout hatch this late winter and early spring. It is expected that there will also be a successful brook trout hatch on these feeder springs. It is hard to monitor the main-stem of the Bighill Creek for a trout hatch, but I am hoping that the brown trout eggs that were spawned last fall will successfully hatch this spring. Meaning; I hope that some of the eggs are still alive and incubating. The fall and winter flows ran clear this year, so chances of this are pretty good.

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Willows and New Trout – A Good Start to the New Year

Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program 2018

The 2018 riparian planting program is off to a super good start, so far this year. We already have enough partnership support for the planting of over 7,100 native willows and trees, starting in the spring. Inter Pipeline came thru in a big way this year with enough support to see the planting of 4,800 plants. To have this much support, this early in the new year is fantastic. Bow Valley Habitat Development will get busy with collecting cuttings and getting them started for spring, soon.

The three main streams in the riparian planting program are Bighill Creek, Nose Creek and West Nose Creek. There are a few small tributaries on the Bighill Creek that are also included. The goal for this year’s program is to plant 10,000 or more native plants, using volunteer support to get the job done. So far we have planted over 50,000 (almost 60,000) native willows and trees.

2018 Trout Hatch

This year’s brook trout hatch on Millennium Creek began in the middle of the month of January this year. On my first trip to inspect the spawning habitats, I didn’t see any new trout, but a few days later, I spotted the first newly hatched brook trout of the year. This experience of finding new young trout for our Bighill Creek is always a great mid-winter boost and this year was no different. When you spot the first trout of the new year, it lifts your spirits and shows real positive hope for the future of the fishery.

Since that first sighting, I have wondered down to the Millennium Creek a few times and observed more young fish each trip. It is still a little early to say that we are seeing a great hatch for 2018, but at least we can rest assured that there will be more young trout in the creek this year. On each outing to the stream’s spawning habitats, I keep a sharp eye on the lookout for any signs of trout infected with whirling disease. So far, things look pretty good in that aspect. However, the young trout are very vulnerable and will be for some time yet.

Above: This recent photo shows one of the first young brook trout larvae that I spotted on Millennium Creek. The trout fry was content, feeding on microscopic morsels that were drifting on the surface above. 

Winter Fly Tying – Dry Flies

Unlike previous winters, this year I decided to concentrate specifically on dry flies, at least this was the case so far this winter. I have been busy with some other pastimes, so I wanted spend what time I did have on bolstering up my stock of dry flies. There were a number of dry fly patterns that I had been thinking about tying up and this has been put off for too long. The first two patterns that I would work on during the cold days of winter were the “Tom Thumb” and some “Tent Wing Caddis” dry flies.

The tent wing caddis dry flies are very well known as an effective dry fly imitation for the caddis fly adults, as they drift down the surface and trout readily take them in sips and gulps. The Tom Thumb is also an adult caddis fly imitation, with an upright wing to imitate a large caddis, drying its wings off, before it takes flight. The Tom Thumb was made popular on BC trout lakes, many years ago. Today, the Tom Thumb still rules as one of the most popular lake patterns for still water trout, out west.

Tent wing caddis are tied with wing quill off of goose, duck, turkey and various other birds. Two of the more popular tent wing dry flies are the “Henryville Special” and the “King’s River Caddis”. The King’s River made the cover page of one of Dave Hugh’s fly tying books. The Henryville Special has long been a local favorite for Bow River Caddis fly hatches. Other tent wing patterns are great for selective trout feeding frenzies on many local waters. The trout like the long slender tent wing caddis, tied from feather quill, even on very small hook sizes.


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Getting Close to Xmas and the New Year

This morning, while plucking my computer keys, I checked the date to confirm the day and thought it is now getting close to Xmas and the New Year. Wow, how time flies these days! Only a few more weeks till the “Big Day”. More time to do some writing these days. Maybe tie a few trout flies to keep up the interest.

Time to send out a few Xmas cards to friends, project volunteers and contacts. Also, for those that read the Stream Tender Media. I took the photo of this Mule deer buck, along Bighill Creek in the Town of Cochrane. It was nice to see such a majestic animal so close to my home.

There is a lot to think about in the remaining days of 2017 and I am also very excited about our upcoming 2018 riparian planting program. Anxious to get to work on collection cuttings for growth and spending more time outdoors. The snow that we had in early November helped freeze in the plantings, when a Chinook melted the snow and then froze the water in the ground during the night. This will help keep the plants in good condition for the spring thaw and growing season.

Yesterday, I received an email from a young local fly fisher that has been fishing the warmer fall days this month, on the local Bow River, here in Cochrane. He was saddened by the lack of both trout and whitefish in the river. In my response to his email I mentioned that the combination of whirling disease and the ditty moss outbreak on the Bow is probably the reason for the terrible fly fishing.

This dilemma in our local sport fishery is even more reason to be doing something to help preserve and enhance what is left of it. This is my own personal motivation and I am hoping the same is true for other fly fisher’s that are effected by the poor quality of their fly fishing sport these days. I hold a lot of faith in the new generation of fly fisher’s that are starting to visit our local streams.


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December Ice Locks in Native Willow and Tree Plants

Along The Streams

The ice came early this late fall, to our local small streams. One thing that did stand out this fall was that there was not as much anchor ice as there usually is on Bighill Creek. I hope that this will result in a higher hatch of trout eggs from this fall’s brook trout and brown trout spawning that occurred on the Bighill. I am not sure about the effects of anchor ice on trout eggs, but I suspect that the ice does prevent good oxygenated flow from circulating over the trout eggs.

After our first cold snap, in the first week of November, there have been Chinook breaks that have kept areas of Bighill Creek ice free up until December 1st. The water levels in the creek are good, both volume wise and in clarity. I expect a good hatch of trout eggs next spring. There are also some beaver dams at key locations along the lower end of the creek, which will provide good wintering habitats for resident trout populations.

Native willow and tree plants from previous planting seasons are taking hold on many previously barren stream banks. The winter ice always locks the plants into the channel ice around this time of the years, which is great for preservation thru the winter months and helps in getting an early start on the growing season next spring. This icy cover also keeps many animals from browsing off the vital new growth and buds on the young plants.

These willow plants will soon be half covered in stream channel ice. The ice floods and freezes continuously over the winter months, elevating it up the stream banks. On small streams, there is limited movement of the ice during the winter, so the ice does not harm the willow and tree plants. The ice will actually contribute to protecting the plants during the winter months. Next spring the willows will have an early start into the growing season, with plenty of moisture from the melting ice along the stream channel.

2018 Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program

In The Works!

The riparian planting program for the 2018 season is in the works and partnerships will be organized and ready to go by March of late winter. The target for the 2018 project year is 10,000 native willow and tree plants. We did 9,070 in 2017, which was close, but not quite in the ten thousand mark, which has been surpassed for a number of years before 2017. However, there are no complaints and in my opinion we still have great momentum.

There are a number of other plantings that take place along Nose Creek and West Nose Creek every year, as part of the overall riparian recovery on these streams, carried out by the City of Airdrie and Calgary. So combining our efforts with theirs makes for a substantial riparian planting program. I am confident that this will continue until we see some very positive transformations in the stream’s ecosystem. This will also include the fisheries on these same streams.

December Issue of Stream Tender Magazine

The December issue of Stream Tender Magazine is now uploaded and ready for review. The link is in the index at the top of the page or the home page on this site. Please check it out when you have time.

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Spawning Numbers Down on Bighill Creek

Low Summer Flows May Have Been The Reason

During the hot and dry summer months the Bighill Creek ran low this year. The lack of rain kept the stream trout populations left with little habitat to retreat to, during limited volumes of flow in the creek. These conditions can cause stress for the local trout populations and may have been the reason why the spawning numbers were down this fall.

What ever the reason, the numbers of brook trout and brown trout spawning in the main-stem of Bighill Creek this fall were down considerably. Ranch House Spring Creek suffered a fall in spawning trout redds from over 40 last year, down to 7 this fall. The upper spring creek brook trout redds were also down by half from last year. Fortunately, Millennium Creek sustained a reasonable number of fall spawning brook trout, which will insure a fairly good recruitment year this next spring.

With the low flows in the Bighill Creek, beaver dam building was up from previous years. The new dams along the creek will help provide refuge for trout in the deeper water’s of the dam, during these low flow conditions. Even a depth of over one metre can make a big difference in the water temperature on small creeks like the Bighill. The numerous beaver dams may have prevented some trout from reaching their key spawning habitats this fall. Fortunately, with the high numbers of trout hatching in the system this past year, recruitment of new trout into the system will be good for the next few years.

            This video shows some spawning on the Bighill Creek system this fall.

Millennium Creek Still the Most Reliable Spawning Tributary

At first, I thought that the numbers of spawning brook trout on Millennium Creek this fall would be down. The reason for this was that there were a number of beaver dams on the lower reach of the Bighill Creek this fall and I thought that they would prevent the normal run of spawning brook trout from entering the Millennium Creek. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the total number of brook trout redds (egg nests) that I mapped this fall.


The total number of 28 brook trout redds was just down slightly from last year’s total redd count on Millennium Creek. This year’s total would be on the higher end of the mean average for the creek so far. Which is great for a small spawning tributary like Millennium Creek.


Brown Trout Spawning Was Down This Fall

Something that really has me concerned, is the drop in the number of mature brown trout on the Bighill Creek. This year’s numbers of spawning brown trout pairs were down considerably. This is not good news for the population, which is very limited in sized on this small stream. I am still pretty worried about the new fishing regulation changed on the Bighill Creek, which allows the harvest of two trout, including larger fish. In my opinion, this creek cannot sustain such a harvest on our brown trout populations.

Left: This spawning brown trout was holding over a redd when I took its photo this fall. Large mature brown trout like this one are necessary to sustain a viable population in the Bighill Creek. Without them, the population could crash and cause long term damage to the sport fishery in the creek. The large brown trout also keep the brook trout numbers in the creek in balance. Large brown trout will feed on juvenile brook trout.



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2017 Riparian Planting Program Complete

2017 Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program

This past Saturday, the 2017 riparian planting program was completed for this year. The final planting was made on West Nose Creek, Calgary, when a small group of volunteers planted the final 740 native willow plants along the creek. Just previous to the Saturday planting, during the second week of October, 600 native plants were planted along Bighill Creek in the Town of Cochrane. The Saturday planting was part of a Evergreen/HSBC – “Uncover Your Creeks” program planting. Regardless of the cold morning weather, we all had a great time on the stream.

It was a great year of planting, with a total of 9,070 native willows and trees planted along the stream banks of three area streams. Those streams are Bighill Creek, West Nose Creek and Nose Creek. The program was carried out in the City of Calgary, the City of Airdrie and the Town of Cochrane.

Bow Valley Habitat Development has already started work on the upcoming 2018 program. The 2018 season will be the fifth year of the Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program.

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Hot, Dry Summer – Hard on Willows and Trees

The Dry Spell is Over – Hopefully

This has been a long hot and dry summer, which has been hard on both our willows and trees that we have planting in recent years. Fortunately, yesterday evening, our first rains have come and today there will be more of the same. It is September 13th today and I can’t remember when we got our last sprinkle, but it was some time ago.

The native willows and trees from previous riparian plantings are starting to turn color and some are showing dead leaves on the terminal ends. However, the plants are established enough to tolerate this past drought. They are planted close enough to the water’s edge that the stream has kept them alive.

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Above: These willows that were planted on an eroding stream bank on the Bighill Creek are showing signs of the drought on their terminal ends. However, they will survive, especially with the rain yesterday and today. The photo was taken last week.

Bow Valley Habitat Development has two more fall plantings planned for mid-October, so any moisture from either rain or snow will help prep the ground for those plantings. A good drenching this week should stay in the ground longer, with the cooler fall weather. Any previously planned plantings are dependent on some luck from our fall moisture prior to the events. Once a date has been picked in advance, we always stick with it. If all goes our way, we will have the fall crop in the ground and dormant for the winter months.

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Primer For Willow Planting Event on West Nose Creek

The Fall 2017 Planting Event

Bow Valley Habitat Development has partnered up with Evergreen Canada and HSBC to complete a fall riparian planting event on West Nose Creek. The planting will take place on Saturday, October 14th, starting at 9:00 AM. The planting is part of the Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program and Evergreen’s “Uncover Your Creeks Program”. If you live in or near Calgary, Alberta, and you would like to participate, please email me at: info@streamtender.com for maps and details. Below is a primer to familiarize you with the methodology used in this planting event.

How the Planting is Carried out

The system of riparian planting that will be used for the October planting event is called push planting. It involves the careful handling and planting of willow and tree cuttings that have been grown until there is both root and top development. The cuttings are handled below the transition spot between the top growth and the root systems, when they are removed from the bundles. Then, handling only the area where the roots are developed, you push the cutting into the soft ground along the water’s edge.

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The plants are carefully removed from the bundles and placed in planting bags. Handling the cuttings below the top growth. Avoid touching the leaves and branches at the top of the cutting.


Grasping the cutting on the rooted area will not hurt the plant. The root systems are already started and they will continue to grow if they are sheared off when pushed into the soft – moist ground, along the water’s edge.

The soil is tamped around the stalk of the cutting after it is pushed into the ground. You can use your hands and then finish off with your feet, to tamp the soil. The planting goes really fast using this method.


The event will include an educational talk on why the program is being done and the long term benefits to the stream’s riparian eco-system. This event should be good fun and I hope that you will join us if you are interested. Kids over the age of 8 years old can participate in this planting, but they need to be closely supervised by parents. I will be capping the attendance at 100 volunteers, so please contact me ASAP to insure a spot on the team.

The September issue of “Stream Tender Magazine” is now available to view. There is a link on the cover page and in the top index.

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August 2017 – Riparian Planting Report

Great Growing Season Along the Creeks

This past week I visited a few planting sites on both Nose Creek, West Nose Creek and Bighill Creek to see how the plants from previous riparian plantings were doing in the dry weather. It has been a dry summer, but getting the rain at the right time this spring made all the difference in survival for this year’s planting program.

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The native willows and trees from this year’s planting and from a few previous years are growing great. During the hot summer days the nights are generally cool enough that there is a good coating of morning dew on the grass and willows along the stream’s edge. This moisture helps maintain a damp soil at ground level and this sustains growth. The plants that we planted are also in the capillary fringe, so wet soil from the water in the creeks keeps them growing during the dry weather.

The forecast is for some rain in the next few days, so as always, I hope that it comes at this time of the month. If so, the willows and trees should make it thru our drought, in good shape for the fall. I will keep you posted.

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