Stream Tender Magazine

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West Nose Creek Willows

††† Since 2014, we have been planting lots of native willow varieties along the stream banks of West Nose Creek, upstream and in the City of Calgary. Despite regular grazing by resident beavers that live in the creek, the

willows are taking hold and growing thick in some areas. Over time, the plants will be tall enough to visually stand out, above the tall shoreline grass and sedge. We will continue to plant along this and other area streams.

A Rooted Willow Cutting

Millennium Creek Spawning Trout

††† The first day that I noticed brook trout spawning in the spawning channelís upper reach, a number of photos were taken. They were not the best photos of spawning trout that I have captured on the spawning channel, but they were good enough to share with you.

††† On that day in October, there were three pairs of mature brook trout on the upper area of the spawning channel. They were busy courting and fanning the redd or egg nest, when I spotted them. This was special, because it was the tenth year of spawning in the channel, so getting a few photos was a good way of memorializing the event.

††† The man-made spawning channel and its gravel has accommodated many a spawning pair of mature brook trout, over the years. The old, weathered logs are getting more cracks and moss, a sign of the bygone years. This is exactly what we hoped for, when the logs were first installed in place, in 2010.

††† There has been some annual maintenance on the spawning channel site, over recent years, but the structure is still holding in place. The channel is also producing lots of new generation brook trout for the Bighill Creek. I will be monitoring the egg hatch again this next year. Emergence from the gravel starts in January.

No More Spawning in Ranch House Spring Creek

††† Since I first started conducting spawning redd counts on Ranch House Spring Creek, I saw trouble on the horizon. A newly installed storm drain, just upstream of the key spawning habitats on the small creek, was going to create major changes in the streamís historic importance as a spawning tributary for the Bighill Creek.

††† It didnít take that long before the first changes started happening. Large discharges from the storm drain were blowing out all of the invertebrate life on the streambed and erosion of the stream banks was destroying the creek.

††† The second year of my redd counts, a nearby lake was being pumped down and the water was being discharged into Ranch House Spring Creekís watershed. This happened during spawning and it totally wiped out the 2014 spawning season.

††† The year 2016 saw the last great spawning season for the creek. By 2018, the erosion problems were quite evident on the stream. The was only a few brook trout spawning in 2018 and this fall there was nothing. Only a few years earlier, you would always see juvenile trout in the creek, but now there is nothing.

Fly Tying-Pre-Winter Season Begins

††† The first snowfall we had in October had me thinking of some fly patterns that I must tie this winter. It also prompted a few hours of creativity at the fly tying vise, a little earlier this year. It was one of those times when you have a particular fly pattern in mind and before you forget about it, you need to create the fly pattern. One leads on to tying more, but that is just the way it goes with my hobby.

††† Nymphs are probably the most common fly pattern that everyone likes to tie. The bead head patterns seem to dominate the fly box. The weight of a bead, especially a tungsten bead, helps get your fly down to where the trout are holding, just off of the bottom. However, I still tie nymphs without a bead, if I need one to float just below the surface. Brass beads are used when you donít need the heavy weight of tungsten.

††† Some Swimming and crawling May fly nymphs are long and slender, so you donít need to tie a fat abdomen on the pattern. If you are trying to match a Callibaetis mayfly, they are a skinny nymph, so slender patterns are a must. The slender mayfly pattern is also a good imitation of a damsel fly nymph, so you canít go wrong with this thin bodied pattern.

††† The fly in the photo above is a slender mayfly pattern on a size 14 -2X nymph hook. The bead is tungsten and this pattern will work good on streams and lakes, with the lakes being the best bet, fished on a retrieve with a stripping motion.

††† The wing case is a bleached goose quill. The bleaching gives the quill a reddish, tan color and makes the wing blend in with both the body and the legs of this fly. Stripping the fly makes the legs flex and move.

Above: This chart shows how the Ranch House Spring Creek spawning has collapsed in the last few years. There were no spawning brook trout this year in the creek. The creek is a very important spawning tributary to the Bighill Creek and now it has been totally destroyed. Something has to be done!

Above: This beautiful hen, brown trout, was caught and released on the Bow River this summer. What a slab!

The fish was caught and photographed by Evan Martens of Cochrane. Nice job Evan!

Bleaching and Burning Feathers ó for Fly Tying

††† You may have read about modifying feathers for use in fly tying. Bleaching and burning are common descriptions of lightning materials or burning some of the webbing on a soft hackle or other feather type. This is something that I do in my own fly tying preparations.

††† The burning is done by dipping a wet bunch of feathers into a dilution of house hold laundry bleach, to remove the fine fibres that holds a featherís web together. I have experimented with exposing the feathers to a bleach and water mix for a given number of seconds, to remove the fine webbing and without damaging the feather.

††† I use Hydrogen Peroxide to lighten the color of feathers and fur. The peroxide is much gentler to use than the bleach, so you can dip dampened feather into the peroxide for hours or days, to get the desired effect. The peroxide needs to be protected from light to be effective. It works to achieve a lighter shade of color.

††† I first started using both bleach and peroxide years ago. The bleach burning of feathers was necessary to tie specific Atlantic Salmon patterns and steelhead patters as well. It worked great on schlappen feathers and other long fibre hackle feathers. A few seconds of exposure to bleach and the right amount of water, would totally transform the feather for a great hackle and throat tying material.

††† The hydrogen peroxide is most often used to change the color and lighten furs and feathers. I like changing squirrel fur a lighter shade for tying many different nymph fly patterns. You can also prep feathers and furs for dying to another color, after they have been lightened by long peroxide exposure.

††† All of this may seem like a lot of work for a certain effect, but it adds another element to your fly tying practices. It also makes some of my fly patterns that much more unique than those that are sold in fly shops. The costs are minimal.

Using black thread on some nymph patterns is quite common, especially for beginner fly tiers. I personally think it accentuates some patterns that I tie. A thin thread also is a must. Size 8/0 or smaller is nice to use on fold forward wing patterns, like the one shown above. Having a little black in a pattern can sometimes attract the trout.

In the photo below, a brook trout holds close to shore, under the cover of an overhanging willow. The grass is the anchor in this photo. Everything else is surreal.

The northern pike is a very popular sport fish in the province of Alberta. Numbers of pike survive in east slope creeks and prairie streams in Alberta, some populations of creek pike, make great recreational opportunities for many anglers, young and old. They are also fished for in lakes.

Keeping An Eye On The Little Guys

††† There are a lot of photos and writing about larger trout, but the little guys are also always worth watching, you can believe this for a number of reasons. The future of a fishery depends on a good hatch of new generations of trout to populate our local trout streams. If you spot a number of smaller trout darting for cover, as you walk the stream banks of a small creek, you will know that the creekís trout population is intact and reproducing.

††† If the population of small trout disappears all of a sudden, you know there is something wrong. It could be a lack of mature trout to reproduce or there may be other bad influences that make habitation for trout impossible. The biggest hurtle in this method of monitoring trout populations is that you need clean, clear water to see the fish. With small spring fed feeders, the water is usually always pretty clear, but sometimes a rain event will change things in a hurry.

††† I have found that the trout start to migrate from their spawning beds when the current washes them downstream or after approximately three weeks of free swimming. It is then that they will start to travel. By the fall, young of the year trout are fast swimmers and they will migrate for some distance to wintering pools, or downstream into the main stem of the larger waters, like rivers or larger streams.