Stream Tender Magazine

June 2018 Issue

What is Going On Out There?

Above: This particular squirrel was always keeping an eye on me this winter, while I walked the pathway along Bighill Creek. The squirrels love to nest in large mature poplar trees along the lower reach of the Bighill Creek.

Great Fish Habitat Taking Shape Along Bighill Creek

    Some of the first plants that were planted along the water’s edge are now starting to encroach over the water’s surface on Bighill Creek. This is exactly what the plants were intended to do. Native willows and trees are now providing great fish habitat and it will only get better.

    The plants are totally natural in the landscape that they were planted in, so there is no clue that humans had a hand in their existence. This was the original goal in our riparian recovery work; it must all appear to be all natural in appearance. From this point on, mother nature will take her course and the creek will transform in a natural way.

    The willow plants are now growing out over the water, providing shade and in some cases constricting the flow. This constriction will increase the

velocity of flow in the channel and help keep the streambed clean from silt and a productive habitat for invertebrates and trout.

    The added shade will help keep the spring water of the stream cool and this is also good for fish and other life forms in the stream’s flow. The added willow and tree growth will help in the bio-filtration of any surface run-off that enters the creek. A long term improvement in water quality will result from a more healthy riparian zone on the creek.

    There is also a long list of wildlife, other than fish, which will benefit from the new natural indigenous growth along the stream banks. More habitat for nesting birds and better cover for fur bearing animals. This transformation was all part of the original objectives for a riparian planting program.

Above: Willow growth is now starting to constrict flow in the channel.

Above: These willows, which were planted on an eroding stream bank in 2014, are now growing out over the surface of the creek. This type of overhead cover provides great fish habitat for the resident trout population in Bighill Creek. This will only improve over time, as the new native willows grow into maturity.

Above: This single willow that was planted along the water’s edge is now growing out and over the stream’s surface. This photo shows how our planting method keeps the plants close to the water’s surface.

The Simple But Effective Flashback Nymph

    When the pearl or opal iridescent Mylar first hit the shelves of fly shops, fly tiers were quick to start using the material in many of the most common popular nymph fly patterns. I was no different. It was a wonderful material for adding to the shell back nymph patterns and also as a ribbing material on popular fly patterns like the Hare’s ear nymph.

    It took me a while to discover that if you use Mylar for a flashback pattern, you should double back the material and tie it off at the head. This prevents the Mylar from slipping thru the binding grip of the tying thread. Adding a bit of head cement after the head is tied off is also a must.

    This past winter I tied up a variety of flashback patterns for my own personal stock and also for sale. I like to tie the pattern in shades of olive, brown, tan, cream and grey mixes. Of course using a bead head

Is the best bet for fishing the patterns deep. At depth, the flash of the Mylar will be visible to the trout that you are trying to catch.

    On the smaller nymph fly patterns, just the spiky guard hairs of a good fur will suffice for legs, so just dubbing on a fuzzy thorax is enough. I found that soft hackle partridge or grouse works great for the tail on my nymph patterns. Both upland game birds have soft hackle with speckled fibres, which trout find very attractive.

    Most of the nymph sizes that I fish are between size 18 and 14, but this winter I found myself building my stock of size 10 and 12 hook size, in a variety of colors. It seems that larger hook sizes also seem to sell better. I guess some fly fishers still think the “Bigger the Fly—The Bigger The Trout”.

Above: This selection of flashback nymphs were tied on size 10—2X nymph hooks. The larger bead heads were tungsten and they will take the nymphs down deep on the swifter flowing big waters of the Bow River and other fast flowing mountain streams.

The thorax on this nymph was a mixed blend of both mink and squirrel dubbing. Both furs have spiky guard hairs in the mix.

New Generations of Trout Still Hatching Nearby

    It was very encouraging to witness another year of new trout hatching this late winter and early spring, on a few project creeks nearby. With the collapse of the Bow River fishery between the Ghost Reservoir and Bearspaw, due to what is suspected to be whirling disease, just having a new generation of healthy trout hatching is important.

    The new trout may be brook trout, but this is ok by me. The fact that these trout spawn in the very headwaters of a few local spring feeder streams, is probably why they have not been effected as much by the whirling disease epidemic in our local waters.

    I know that some successful brown trout reproduction is also occurring, but this is harder to verify, because the brown trout are spawning on the main stem of the Bighill Creek, where observing newly hatched trout is very difficult, for a photographer like me.

    Brown trout have a natural resistance to the whirling disease parasite, so this is good for the local fishery. At least we can assume that some trout will still be present in our reach of the Bow River into the future.

    In any case, it was very good to see the first newly hatched brook trout on Millennium Creek this past January. It is an annual event that I look forward to every year now. I have been monitoring the spawning habitats on Millennium Creek since they were first built in 2008 and the spawning channel which was constructed in 2010.

    So far, I have not witnessed any signs of the whirling disease in the newly hatched trout in recent years. Fortunately, the proximity of the ground springs that feed Millennium Creek are close enough to the spawning habitats that the spores from whirling disease and the tube worm host are not present.

Above: This tiny trout larva was one of many newly hatched trout on Millennium Creek this past winter. All of the new trout were observed to be healthy swimmers and actively feeding on microscopic insect life. The water where they hatch is pure ground spring fed water with no whirling disease virus present. These new trout will help to maintain the trout population on Bighill Creek into the future.

West Nose Creek Plantings are Growing Well

Above: These willows were planted in 2015, along the stream banks of West Nose Creek in Calgary. They are coming along very good, thanks to the rich soil that they were planted in. In a few more years the willows will provide great cover and shade over the stream channel on West Nose.

2018 Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program Update

    On June 5th, this spring, we wrapped up the final riparian planting for the spring season. The last day saw 300 of the final willow and tree crop planted on West Nose Creek in Calgary. This brought the total for the spring season to 9,700 native plants, another great year for riparian restoration work.

    Since the program was started in 2014, we have planted a total of 60,614 native willows and trees along over 30 kilometres of stream bank, on three area streams. The streams are Bighill Creek, West Nose Creek and Nose Creek. All of these local streams are tributaries to the Bow River in our nearby watershed.

    Here is the breakdown for planting during the last 5 years of the program:


       Year:                         Plants:


       2014 ——————- 10,524 plants

       2015 ——————- 14,895 plants

       2016 ——————- 16,425 plants

       2017 ——————— 9,070 plants

       2018 ——————— 9,700 plants


    If ever there was a more environmentally friendly program in our area, I would like to know. The benefits of a healthy riparian zone on all three streams in the program will become very evident in the following years to come. Cleaner water, along with conservation of what is flowing down these systems. More fish and wildlife habitat, and the creation of wildlife corridors along the planted areas of the streams.

    It is all good and hopefully we can continue this program into the future. I know that I am willing and ready to carry on.

   After The Flood

Right Photo:

    This willow was planted last fall, in October, along West Nose Creek in Calgary. The dead grass around the cutting shows that the plant survived the flood, earlier this spring, and now it is starting to show good signs of growth. A true survivor.

    Lots of plants are covered with floating debris during flooding events on the streams. Sometimes the new branches and leaves are broken off during this natural occurrence. However, there will always be true survivors that continue to grow. Sometimes, the dead grass around the planted cutting will help protect the new plant from rodent damage.

    The plant in the photo to the right was one of 400 that were planted in October last year, as part of an Evergreen Canada and HSBC planting event on West Nose Creek. Fortunately, we had a pretty good survival rate for this particular crop, despite a flood that occurred back in late April, along the stream, in Calgary.

    Experiencing some loss is a part of riparian restoration work. The key is not to give in, but rather to keep at it and over time you will feel good about the results. Natural hazards exist for any new plants on the stream banks; rodents and floods included.