Cold February – Lots of Snow and Ice

Late Spring This Year

It has been a few years since I last recall such a freezing cold February, and possibly the same in early March. Plugging in the truck is a must if your off to work these days. The good news is that spring is not far off, and even the thought of this brings a bit of cheer to ones hopes for warmer days. Personally, with all of the ice on the creeks and more snow on the way, I look forward to a good run-off in the streams this year. This is always good for the trout populations.

Ice fishing is a good alternative to indoor activities, during cold snaps.

A good flush of high flows in the creeks, cleans them out and creates good fish habitat for the following seasons. Much of the silt that has accumulated can be cleared from the streambed and new gravels can enhance both food production and spawning habitat.

Still Tying Dry Flies

Since I showed you my flying ant pattern, I have been on a dry fly tying spree. Usually, I like to mix things up a bit, with streamers and wet fly nymphs in my tying program but the dry fly patterns seem to take a precedence over everything else these days. The restocking of some master fly boxes, with dry flies, is actually a good thing these days. Dry flies usually don’t get the attention that they deserve, on local creeks and lakes these days. Most anglers stick to either streamers or nymphs in their fly fishing program.

Besides the bullet head ant and hopper fly patterns, I like the Trude wing style that requires deer hair in the recipe. The buoyancy of deer hair, along with a good thick hackle, is a great choice for local trout waters. They are easy to see from a distance, and the trout love them. The deer hair tent wing can imitate a stone fly or hopper on the surface, which means larger hook sizes can be used.

A thick hackle dry fly is a great choice, when the fly is being fished on a fast flowing trout stream, with choppy riffles. This dry fly was tied on a curved size 10 dry fly hook.

The bullet head hopper dry fly is always a real special meal for a hungry trout. This pattern can be tied on a size 12 or 10 dry fly hook. It is a simple fly to tie and it is also very bouyant. I like to use an olive/yellow color for the dubbing.

Spawning Numbers are Up – On The Lower West Nose Creek

This past fall, Elliot Lindsay from TU Canada, sent me the results of his spawning survey on the lower reach of West Nose Creek. Fortunately, the brown trout spawning redd count was up substantially from previous years. This means that we should see an increase in the brown trout numbers in future years, on the West Nose Creek. The spawning survey was conducted with the help of the “Friends of Nose Creek” group that also help do some willow and tree planting with Bow Valley Habitat Development this past year, on West Nose Creek.

I am looking forward to seeing a migration of trout further up the system in the next few years. So far, the brown trout have managed to occupy the creek approximately 11 kilometers upstream of the mouth, on Nose Creek. This population of trout on the upper reach is small, but over time it will grow and new generations of juvenile brown trout will continue to move further up the system. I have been using a fly rod to monitor the brown trout populations in West Nose Creek over the past few years, and this will continue to happen, in the future. I will keep you informed of the results.

There are moderately good spawning habitats, further up the West Nose Creek, which have yet to be utilized. Once brown trout start to spawn in these habitats, over time, the trout populations will increase substantially. Water quality and quantity are major factors in this happening some day. Our native willow and tree planting program will be of major benefit to habitat for spawning and annual trout holding habitat.

Brown trout will be the dominant trout in West Nose Creek, when the fisheries recovery program is complete. The brown trout is a true survivor and it is best suited for a stream where the water quality is less than optimal and there is a good population of forage fish for the brown trout to feed on. The spawning habitat and water quality are very important for brown trout reproduction, and West Nose Creek has a long way to go, before it can be considered a healthy trout stream.


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The ” 2019 BVRRE Program” – Growing In Size

This Spring’s 2019 Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program – Update.

Our local riparian planting program for Nose Creek; West Nose Creek and Bighill Creek is scaling up in size for this spring’s planting. So far, we have a commitment for 8,800 native willows and trees and there should be more by this March, if our major area partnership interest  continues to go as good as it has this winter.

The more native trees and willows that we plant this year, the better the outlook for the health of riparian zones along the three streams in our program. These tributaries to the Bow River are in need of a little help in their recovery. Benefits from a long term riparian planting program are already showing great results, since the program was first initiated.

Above: These native willows growing along the stream banks of Bighill Creek, were planted in 2014. In a few more years they will start to provide their full benefit to both fish and wildlife habitat, but also retain the stream banks stability and improve the stream’s water quality.

Since the BVRRE Program was first started, a total of 60,714 native willows and trees have been planted. This year, we may break the 70,000 mark, if things continue to go as well as they have.

Tying Caddis Fly Imitations

This week I have been busy tying more trout flies, during the cold days of the past few weeks. It is far easier to get motivated when the temperatures drop down below minus 30 degrees or close to it. My latest interest is focused on tying a good supply of caddis pupa and caddis larva patterns, for my fly boxes. Caddis and Mayfly imitations are the most fished trout flies, when the hatch season is underway on local trout waters. It is a good idea to have plenty of great imitations on hand for the area insect hatches. The Bow River has some great caddis fly hatches, in the spring.

Above: This is one of the caddis pupa patterns that I like to have in my fly boxes. I make use of the D Rib vinyl that makes a great abdomen tying material. When it is tied over a yarn underbody, you can see the fussy strands of the yarn showing thru the transparent amber  D Rib. This see thru, final product, gives the fly abdomen an interesting texture appearance. The slotted tungsten bead will get this fly pattern down deep in a few seconds of sink time. The bead is a 3.3 mm and the hook size is a size 10.

Next on my list of ties for this winter, is the grass hopper dry fly. Hopper patterns are the best seller in my sales of dry flies, so I need to have plenty of them available for those fly fishers that are interested in my patterns. I like to tie them in a variety of colors and sizes. Even imitations of the rock hoppers that you see on the steep clay and sandstone banks of the Bow River. These gray mottled hoppers make a loud clacking sound that we all related to the hot days of summer on the river.

 

The rock hopper, shown to the left, is very well suited for life on dry clay and sandstone banks. They blend in so well to their environment, making them visible only when they move. Trout love these large hoppers, when the wind blows them into the river on strong windy days. Their under body color is a drab gray/olive, even blueish in tone some times.


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Deep Freeze Fly Tying

AboveThis morning it is 30 below Celsius and there is little chance of it getting too much warmer today. Perfect weather for fly tying, among other things. For the past few days it has been really cold outside and I like fly tying in the deep freeze of winter. I should be able to get a few more days in on the fly tying station, before the warmer weather finds me outdoors.

The Trude Wing

In the last week I have managed to restock my supply of Trude wing dry fly patterns for this summer’s sales up in the mountains. They have been selling great over the past few years and it was time to replenish my supply for the next season. Most of the flies that I tied in this design were done so on a size 12 dry fly hook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Trude Dry Fly has been around for many years and it is often overlooked for its effectiveness as a perfect surface lure. The white wing is easy to see from a distance and the trout seem to love it on some days. The three favorites are the Black Trude, Rio Grande King and the Coachman (in both solid peacock and the royal coachman red band).

The Giant Wood Ant Dry Fly

Another pattern that is doing well on both mountain streams and lakes is the Bullet Head Dry Fly Ant pattern. I tied up a lot of these over the years, but in the last few years it seems to be catching on. The most popular size is a size 10 and 12 1X thin wire dry fly hook. The hackle that divides the head from the abdomen creates the perfect appearance of a segmented body of the large winged wood ant. Trout relish this tasty treat, when they are available on the surface.

The wing is tied in as a bullet head pattern, using deer hair folded back over the body. A brown hackle is used to segment the black dubbed body into the head and abdomen of a large wood ant.

A size 10 or 12 dry fly hook is what I commonly use on this pattern. I like the float ability of a heavily hackled dry fly, especially on the fast flowing riffles of mountain streams.

 

 


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2019 Trout Hatch and More

New Batch of Brook Trout For BH Creek

I have visited some of our local spawning habitats recently, and it is good to see some new trout fry that have hatched this year. Spotting another year’s hatch of small brook trout is always a good boost to an old fly fisher’s spirits and hopes for the future of our local trout fishery. One of the most reliable sources for a successful brook trout hatch is Millennium Creek, here in the Town of Cochrane. Since the restoration of the small stream in 2008, there have been spawning brook trout utilizing the small spring fed feeder for spawning, over the past 11 seasons.

A spawning channel that was built in 2010 has provided the best results for newly hatched trout since that decade. Successful incubation and hatching of trout eggs on the spawning channel has been documented every year, for the past nine years. The hatch is now something that I personally look forward to, every winter.

Above: This small brook trout fry, is one of many that hatched from trout eggs this winter. The small trout and others like it, are in excellent condition, which is always a good sign these days.

Tying The Doc Spratley Trout Fly

As is normal for my winter pass times, I have been spending a considerable amount of time on the fly tying vise. Stocking up on fly patterns for summer sales and a few for my own personal use. One pattern that I really enjoy tying is the Doc Spratley trout fly. I have fished this pattern often, over the years, and it is also a great seller at one of the stores that I supply on a nearby trout lake. That store is the Boulton Lake Trading Post, on the Lower Kananaskis Lake. The Doc Spratley is a great lake fly pattern.

Spratleys come in a variety of colors, so it is a good idea to have a number of different body colors in the selection. Some of the most popular colors are black, red, olive, green and the royal spratley body type, with a royal coachman designed body. Having a few odd colors included, provides the fly fisher with some rare options for a personal fly box selection. The key to this fly pattern is too pick the right color for the right time on the water. But this is usually a case of trial and error, when you are not sure of which color to pick.

Above: This is a display of a number of color options that I provide for the fly fishing customer. There are other colors not shown, like purple and dark cobalt blue, etc..

Other Pheasant Tail Wing Patterns

For years now, I have been tying variations of Doc Spratleys and other pheasant tail winged patterns. The pheasant tail wing is a great wing material if tied properly and other effective trout streaming wet fly patterns can be tied and fished with surprizing results. I have fished for cutthroat trout, rainbow, brown and brook trout with pheasant tail wing wet flies and this gives me confidence in saying that this wing design should be used, especially on still water wet fly patterns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pheasant tail wing patterns above are  – From Top Left:

The Purple Penash; Royal Spratley (Dark Grizzly); Ruff McDuff (Spratley variation); Gold King; Pearl King; Lady Claret; Royal Spratley (Brown Hackle); Silver King

This winter I did a pretty good job of stocking my fly boxes with both Doc Spratleys and other pheasant tail wing patterns. They are good sellers at Boulton Creek Trading Post and also Highwood House on the Highwood River Junction. Give them a try on the vise or if you happen to see some Doc Spratleys in your favorite fly shop.

 

2019 Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Planting Program

Presently, I am working on another planting program for the 2019 season. So far things look pretty good and there will be thousands of more native willows and trees to plant on some local trout streams. This will be the sixth year of the program and our goal is to break the 70,000 native plant planted, in the next year or so.

I look forward to reporting on how the existing plant crop is doing this year. Plants from 2014 and 2015 plantings are now starting to stand out on the stream banks of Bighill, Nose and West Nose Creeks this year. The stream bank stabilization sites are really impressive, so photos of these will show great before and after comparison this summer.


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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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