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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Another Year of Trout on the Lower Reach

Millennium Creek’s Lower Spawning Beds

This is the second year that I have spotted juvenile trout on the lower reach of Mill. Crk. The presence of the newly hatched trout confirms once again that there is a successful incubation on the lower spawning beds. I have also confirmed a trout hatch on some upper creek spawning habitat, in channel, below the spawning channel that was constructed in 2010. Having trout hatching in these two other spawning habitats is good news for the creek’s future and the trout populations in year’s to come.

Above: This small young of the year – brook trout, was holding on habitat in the lower reach of Millennium Creek.

All of the juvenile trout that have hatched so far this year on Mill. Crk. are free from whirling disease symptoms. I observed no deformities on any of the juvenile trout that I have spotted in the creek. Many of the trout on the lower reach of Mill. Crk. will soon migrate down into the water’s of Bighill Creek, helping to re-populate the main-stem and revitalizing the sport fishery.

Spring Melt Has Come Fast

At first I thought that it would be a long cold spring this year, but the melt started to happen fast, mid April. The high flowing water in some local streams will help to thaw the ground frost along the creeks, so we can get to planting soon. This year’s riparian planting program is a big one, with over 9,000 plants reading to be planted.

Above: This photo of Bighill Creek was taken just past the mid-point of April. The high flows are quickly melting the bank ice and cleaning out the stream-bed.

Nice to finally experience some great spring weather, after the big freeze.

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2018 Riparian Planting Season – Not Far Off

Still Snow in the Timber

Here we are, a few days away from April, and there is still lots of snow in the timber and willow along our local streams. The fact that snow accumulates in the the willows and trees is good for a slow run-off during the spring months. This is one more of the many benefits of a healthy riparian zone along our trout streams. There will still be ice and crusty snow well into April this year, with low lying areas saturated with good moisture. I am hoping for a good boost to our local water table, and good spring flows well into the summer months.

Right now, Millennium Creek is flowing as high as I have ever seen it, for this time in the spring. Even when it was still late winter, the spring water flow was substantial. All of the accumulated snow must have an influence on this high volume of water coming out of the ground. Maybe during some of the warmer days, when there was snow melt, some of the melted water was making its way down into our sub-terrainian aquifer, recharging the ground water table.

Above: This photo of Millennium Creek was taken in the middle of March 2018.

I am looking forward to starting the riparian planting program for this year’s “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program”. So far we have over 9,000 native willows and trees growing for this springs planting program. It will be another great season for the program, so I am excited to get after it.

The only concern that I have is the threat of major flooding on the three stream systems in the program. With the high amount of snow fall this winter, we could see a wet spring and summer, with plenty of freshets. This is always a threat to any riparian recovery planting program. If a flood comes right after the planting season, the new plants are vulnerable.

I feel confident about this year’s planting program, so we will take it as it comes.

Still Tying Trout Flies

With all of the snow and cold weather going into spring, it is hard to say away from the fly tying station. I managed to get plenty of fly tying in this winter and lately, I have been working on some caddis fly pupa patterns. These are often referred to as caddis nymphs, but in true form they are pupa patterns. The caddis fly transforms from a larva to a pupa, then hatches as an adult, so they are not similar to a May fly, which goes thru a nymph life stage, before it hatches.

The easiest way to determine if the fly pattern is a pupa, is that it does not have a tail tied in. Sometimes a fly tier will tie in a tailing shuck on the back of the pupa fly pattern, but the pupa does not have a tail, like a mayfly nymph does. The wing cases are usually tied in on both sides of the fly pattern, but for me, I usually don’t bother with tying in the wing cases. My trout don’t seem to mind about this deficiency in my own fly patterns.

Above: This brown caddis pupa imitation that I tied, does not have wing cases tied in along the sides of the thorax. The trout don’t seem to mind the absent wing case.

The caddis pupa is a strong swimmer and it sparkles in the water, due to the gases trapped in its abdomen during its transformation from a larva to an adult caddis fly.

Remember: The New 2018 Fishing License is Required by April 1st, 2018. Don’t forget!

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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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