A New Addition for 2019 – The Journal

There is a new link on the cover page of this blog site, it is to access the Journal. The new website is closely related to Stream Tender Magazine and the Bow Valley Habitat Development website. All of these can be accessed on the cover page of the journal.

The new website is just a random collection of short articles, photos and some personal thoughts about the field of riparian and fish habitat enhancement. The publication will also have a few write ups on fly fishing and fly tying as well. Please enjoy the read.

The Journal

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Open Water Flows Late Into Season

Bighill Creek Still Free of Ice in Spots

This year, the Bighill Creek is still open and flowing in some spots, this late into December. I suspect that the early snow which helped recharge the ground water table in September, may have something to do with this. Warmer spring water upwellings will help keep the ice free from the surface on some riffle areas during cold snaps. Usually, by this time in the late part of December, the creek would be iced over in its entirety. Other areas where there are no ground springs warming the main channel of Bighill Creek, the channel is iced over for the winter.

Above: This is what the Bighill Creek looks like on December 20th this year, in some spots. Note the good late season flows in the creek. The BH Creek has also been flowing clean this fall, which will be good for the trout eggs, now buried and incubating in the stream’s gravel spawning beds.

Other areas of lower gradient and deep water, such as beaver dams, are now frozen with a covering of thickening ice. These iced over areas will provide good wintering habitat for the stream’s trout population. Hopefully, the resident trout will winter over in good health and be ready for the 2019 open water season. The above average snowfall this September and October will insure good flows into the spring.

Above: This shows a deeper run, with good ice cover this December. You can see the newly planted willows from our riparian enhancement program, now growing well along the streambanks.

I am looking forward to getting some good photos of our planted willows and trees this upcoming season. The 2019 season will be the fifth year of annual growth for the willows planted during the first year of the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program” in 2014, and those plants should stand out tall enough on the stream banks to provide a few good photos.


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Why Riparian Planting Is A Good Approach For Creating Habitat

A Reminder of Why We Are Planting

The 2019 ” Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program is now in the works. More riparian planting will add to the existing five years of planting that has already been completed. To date, over 60,000 native willows and trees have been planted on over 30 kilometers of stream bank. The riparian planting program encompasses three area streams that are tributaries to the Bow River: Bighill Creek, West Nose Creek and Nose Creek.

The long term goal of the program is to restore native willow and tree riparian growth along sections of these creeks. The native plants will also help regrowth of native plants by introducing seeds from these indigenous willows and trees into areas downstream of the planting area. Both fish and wildlife will benefit from the newly created habitat, both in the water and along the streams banks. The existing trout population in Bighill Creek, West Nose Creek and the lower reach of Nose Creek will increase as a result of the improvement of available habitat.

The water quality and quantity will improve on all three streams, as the new riparian zone develops along the stream channel. A healthy riparian zone creates a natural filtration buffer that helps to reduce the amount of surface nitrates and other organic compounds that enter the stream. The native willows and trees will also reduce the amount of silt loading into the stream channel. Tonnes of soil, clay and silt presently being washed into the stream channel at a number of erosion sites along all three streams in the program. By planting on the loose eroding slopes, the root systems will eventually provide stability to the sluffing soil and clay, allowing new growth to retain any loose soil.

Once stream banks are stable with new growth the stream channel bed will eventually clean itself of many tonnes of silt that has accumulated over the years, exposing cobble, boulders and gravels on the streambed. The constriction of flow created by new willow growth along the water’s edge will increase velocity in the stream channel and help scour down thru the silty bottom. The newly cleaned bottom gravel, cobble and boulders will result in a more healthy aquatic ecosystem.

Newly exposed gravels and rock on the streambed will enhance the invertebrate habitat and increase the food supply for resident stream trout. More exposed gravel will increase spawning habitat for trout and other important course fish, like minnows and suckers. An increase in food for trout will result in an increase in the trout numbers, which will benefit both wildlife that depend on trout and other fish for food, and sport anglers that recreate on the small streams.

The Willows Above: were planted four years earlier on Bighill Creek. They are now providing good shade and cover habitat for both trout and nesting song birds.

The willows Shown Above were planted in 2015, now they are established enough to provide stream bank stability. This photo was taken in July of 2018, three years after planting. Willows were also planted on the opposing stream bank, in native water sedge and canary grass, but those willows are slow growing and they will take a number of years of growth, before they stand out on the landscape. Annual seed production on the native willows and trees will also help recruit new riparian plant growth. Out of the millions of seeds cast along the creek, only a few will germinate and take root, if the growing conditions are favourable.
Eventually, beavers will move into the section of stream that has enough native willows and trees to maintain a lodge and family. This is just part of the natural process. If the beaver activity is properly managed, in an urban or suburban setting, the stream will benefit. Bow Valley Habitat Development plans on planting on the outer perimeter of any beaver dams that are constructed. The permanently wetted perimeter is an ideal location for new willow and tree growth. The beavers do not bother with newly planted small willows and trees. By the time the willows are large enough to feed beavers, they can survive any grazing and continue to grow. This is one of the many reasons that BVHD uses small diameter cuttings for growing native stock. The collected, small diameter cuttings, are grown until they have both root and top development, before they are ready for planting.
It is very rewarding to witness the slow recovery of a native riparian habitat, bringing it back to the streams historic appearance and knowing that the stream’s bio-diversity will also return over time.

Brown Trout Spawning

Brown trout spawn in the main-stem of Bighill Creek and West Nose Creek, some of our local area streams. Due primarily to the larger size of adult brown trout, they require a larger stream for reproduction. The brown trout will select suitable spawning habitat, where there is adequate gradient, depth and velocity of flow. On streams like West Nose Creek, in Calgary, there is limited available spawning habitat further upstream on the creek. It is important that those habitats that are presently utilized by brown trout receive extra attention and protection. Bow Valley Habitat Development is working closely with Calgary Parks to insure that these concerns are prioritized and in the future, we can develop a management plan to enhance trout reproduction on the West Nose Creek.

Presently, there is a stream bank riparian restoration program underway on West Nose Creek and Bighill Creek. The “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program” has resulted in the planting of native willows and trees along the water’s edge of both of these streams. The new willow and tree growth will enhance both trout habitat and their spawning habitat, over time. The riparian willows and trees will help to constrict the flow in the stream channel, cleaning the silt out from the bottom and exposing existing gravels, cobble and boulders in the future. It has been proven that woody debris in a stream channel will enhance spawning habitat by causing the collection of suitable sized spawning gravel at areas where submerged wood collects small to medium sized gravel.

Another good collection site for spawning gravel, is directly below beaver dams that have been breached by high flows. The plunge of large volumes of water over a beaver dam creates a scour hole pool just below the dam. The hydraulic jump loosens and frees existing gravel in the streambed and trout will utilize this newly freed gravel for spawning beds in future years. The beavers need native willows and trees to survive, so our riparian planting program will help to create a suitable living habitat for beavers, in future years. Bottom line is; trout streams tend to take care of themselves if there is adequate flow of water and a healthy riparian zone to enhance the streams flow and create habitat for both wildlife and fish.

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Brown and Brook Trout Spawning – Caps End of Season

Trout Lay Eggs In Gravel Beds

Except for Millennium Creek, the overall spawning season on Bighill Creek was pretty poor, in comparison to the last 10 or so years. But we will take what we can get these days, for any trout reproduction. At least the water flowed clean in the creek, on those days that I walked its stream banks, in search of spawning trout to photograph. The good news is that there are a few beaver dams on the lower reach of Bighill Creek, where the resident trout can winter over.

Above: Spawning brook trout on BH Creek this fall.  Note the clean water and gravel.

Numbers of spawning brook trout were not too bad on Millennium Creek, which seems to be the most consistently good spawning tributary on the BH system. The Mill. Creek requires annual maintenance to be in good shape for the spawning season. This is due to its location in a heavily populated area, with good path access. I will continue to carry out my annual cleaning program into the future, as long as I can.

New Issue of Stream Tender Magazine

If you are interested in checking out the November issue of Stream Tender Magazine, please click on this link. I just uploaded the issue, so see what is happening on a more in-depth publication.

2019 Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and

Enhancement Program

Things are moving along with the planning for next season’s riparian planting program. I am hoping for another significant year of planting native willows and trees along the streams in the program. So far there is some support for 2019, but I should have a better idea by March of next year, how many partners will be involved. This last year we planted a total of 9,700 native plants, so the target for 2019 is for 10,000 plants again.


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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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