It really is incredible the amount of fish habitat that we have created along three important local trout streams! When I say we, I mean the corporate partners, volunteers and all of the government agencies that supported the cause, but I am directing my attention at certain individuals that I have been so lucky to have met and worked with.
The fact that we can now enjoy the fruits of our labours through close observation and accurate reporting, all of which I am providing to you, the reader, so that you too can share the discovery. The discovery is the new habitat that we have created!
The photograph shows willows planted along the water’s edge in 2015, and on programs that continued until 2019, when the last planting was completed on the West Nose Creek, in the city of Calgary. Planting has continued on Bighill Creek in my home town of Cochrane, so it shall continue until my abilities limit my work program.
Still on the photograph, I would like to point out how nice this little cluster of more advanced growth willows, has created a beautiful lateral margin habitat, combined with suspended lateral margin habitat. This is what trout stream dreams are made of, so it is an easy path to follow, if you are an experienced fly fisher that can read water and know where the trout live!
This is what makes it so simple to me, just create what mother nature has historically, and willow and deciduous trees are the magic formula for success! Just plant the native stock in a heavy crop, and then watch the garden grow. The riparian garden and all of the wildlife that comes with the package.
In our efforts, over 45,000 plantings on approximately 35 kilometres of stream bank, translates to approximately 19 K of stream channel and trout water. Mother nature takes care of the rest. Seed recruitment starts the first year of planting, in the spring. Right now, as I write this, my crop of growing willows is producing catkins, or pussy willows as most people call them, around here that is.
These catkins will produce flower and seed to be dispersed in the wind or fall down into the stream, where they will start their journey. The cast seeds that float, drift with the spring freshets, downstream into quiet pockets of water, where silt will deposit the seeds into a perfect growing medium for willow seeds and plants.
The idea of a base crop has always been on my mind, since I first started the Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program, on three local trout streams, in need of a riparian zone. The land had historically been covered with native willow and deciduous tree growth, so the plan was sound and all of the plants would be grown from native stock in the same watershed. A perfect formula for success!
The diversity of our selection of plants is wide and true to the area. With numerous Salix varieties and the addition of wolf willow, dogwood and poplar, with a smattering of aspen to keep it authentic. The other groups usually concentrate on Salix Exigua and don’t drift to far off course, because the variety is so easy to collect and plant. The shafts are straight and numerous, so groups pick the plant for their events.
I also plant Salix Exigua, but my main crop is so diverse that any concentrations of a particular variety are not going to break the bank. The Exigua is a perfect variety for a starter crop, that will fix nitrogen into the soil. This is why we call them nitrogen fixers!
The plant will stabilize the stream banks and enrich the soil and habitat at the same time. So, no harm, no foul here!
The stream channel constriction from our plantings is already helping to clean out the stream bed of the channel, by constricting flows and creating added velocity and turbulence to flush the fines downstream. The photograph below best demonstrates how this is happening on our planting sites along the way, on West Nose Creek.