Stream Tender Magazine

November 2018 Issue

Signs of Progressive Growth-†† In The Bow Valley Riparian Planting Program

††† To showcase our riparian planting program, it takes years of growth. I usually tell the volunteer planters that they will have to wait five or six years to see an impact on the landscape, after their willow and tree planting efforts are completed. Not easy for those that are impatient, but the rewards will come with time.

††† Much of the soil chemistry along local flowing spring creeks is very poor. Years of flood events without deep root systems to hold the topsoil in place has resulted in a loss of most of the rich soil. Along much of the creek you will find a base of clay only a few centimetres down in the ground. This causes growth to be a very slow process on the planting sites.

††† However; there are some stretches of stream where the soil still maintains a fairly rich soil along the lateral margins of the creek, and the native willows and trees that have been planted are now growing good. It is nice to see such a good result after only three years.

††† West Nose Creek is a stream with a few of these richer soil conditions and we have witnessed fairly good growth in recent years. Native willows and trees that were planted in 2015 are now showing good growth along the waterís edge, over the last three years, since they were planted. I enjoy sharing this news with the volunteers and partners in the program. This result helps build confidence in our riparian planting program, for years to come!

Above: This photo was taken in 2016, one year after the reach on West Nose Creek had been planted. You have to look closely to see the planted willows and trees.

Far Right: The photo shown is the same reach of creek and it was taken in 2018, three years after the site was planted. You can clearly see the newly planted native willows and trees are doing well, along the stream channel. In a few more years they will stand out on the landscape, if the beavers donít get at them first. If beavers do graze on the new plants, they will continue to grow, so this would not be a major disaster.

Small Brook Trout Are Better Than No Trout At All !

††† There are a few trout streams that I like to fish, where the brook trout donít get that large, but they provide great sport for a fly fisher. Yes, even a small trout on the end of your leader can make your day and add a smile to your face.

††† Brook trout have received a lot of bad press in recent years, due to the fact that they are blamed for the displacement of cutthroat trout on some streams. However, most of the streams where I fish for brook trout are clouded with dirty water during spring run-off. These streams would never support cutthroat trout anyway.

††† The cutthroat trout requires clean flowing streams where they can reproduce during the spring flows. Murky streams have too much silt flowing in the spring for cutthroat trout eggs to successfully incubate and hatch. So brook trout is a great alternative to cutthroat trout on some small flowing waters.

††† I love to fly fish for brook trout. They are egger to take a dry fly and some wet fly patterns are deadly for brook trout. A small Adams Dry Fly, fished on a short leader, on a small (short) fly rod, can keep you busy releasing trout all day. This is a great combo on a small trout stream, with a tight cover of willows that force short casts of your fly rod.

††† My favourite choice of fly rod for a small brooky stream is a 7.5 footó3 weight. I like to use a 7.5 foot leader or less. The shorter leaders I make up myself. A light weight line does not hit the water that hard, so short leaders are ok. You still have to make a good presentation on your cast, so the fly and line settle gently on the surface.

††† If it wasnít for the Eastern Brook Trout, we would be in bad shape on many very small flow spring creeks. The fish seems to have the ability to survive in streams where no other trout could. They can successfully spawn under conditions that no cutthroat, rainbow, bull or brown trout could.

††† On many of the stream enhancement projects that I have worked on over the years, the brook trout is usually my biggest customer. Stream Restoration Projects on Canmore Creek, Millennium Creek, Ranch House Spring Creek and a few more, have all had brook trout present during or after restoration was completed.

††† The small brook trout would move in immediately after a habitat was created. On some streams, a spawning habitat would be built and the brook trout would be spawning within the same year after completion. This was always great to witness, for me and for the volunteers or crew that worked on the projects.

††† The biggest threat to the brook trout populations these days, besides poor fisheries management, is water flows or the lack of it. It seems like everyone is tapping into our ground water springs for one reason or another.

††† Some acreage owners feel the need to tap into the nearby stream to pump water for their lawns or other wasteful purposes. The battle for water goes on, but who takes care of the trout? I look for support from our government agencies to insure our trout streams keep flowing.

Above: There are four brook trout in this photo. Can you find them? The trout are spawning in a shallow gravel tail-out, in water that is slightly turbid during the fall spawning season. I often wonder how many of the eggs hatch every year. The losses must be significant, due to the high volume of silt flowing down the stream each year. These small brook trout need all of the help that they can get, to maintain their numbers in this small trout stream.

Adams Dry

Kingfisher Spotted And Photographed On Bighill Creek

††† It has been years since I last saw a Kingfisher along the Bighill Creek, so when photographer Chris Gornisiewicz told me he had taken a photo of one, I got really excited.

†† The last Kingfisher that I saw in this area was back in 1997 or 1998, in Canmore, along the lower reach of Canmore Creek. That sighting was quite an experience for me personally, because I have always admired the bird as a fellow fisher with such a talent for capturing small fish, while in flight. I have yet to witness this, but it may happen some day.

††† I am not an expert on Kingfishers, but I think that the one in Chrisís collection of photos is a Belted Kingfisher. Their range extends from Canada down to Mexico. You find them where ever there is good fishing, just like us fly fishers.

††† The fact that Kingfishers are now being spotted along Bighill Creek, this is evidence that the fishery is still healthy at this time and it maybe into the future. Small trout and other forage fish are in the diet of a Kingfisher, along with other birds that feed on fish.

††† Good water quality is also a must for fish diving birds like the Kingfisher. I have witnessed Blue Herons on the lower reach of the Bighill Creek, at work fishing. Also, Mergansers and Grebes are occasionally spotted on the BH Creekís lower reach.

††† I will be especially vigilant in the future, for any spotting and photography opportunities for Kingfishers in the future, while walking the stream banks of the Bighill Creek, in Cochrane. Nice Job Chris and thanks for sharing.

Above: This Belted Kingfisher was photographed on the Bighill Creek by photographer Chris Gornisiewicz.

Rio Grande (Grizzly) King-A Great Late Season Dry Fly

††† The original Rio Grande King has brown hackle, but the grizzly hackle in this variation makes this fly pattern a very diverse dry for late season dry fly fishing. The combination of both brown hackle and grizzly have always been attractive to both trout and fly fishers. Take the Adams dry fly for example. The Adams calls for a mix of both brown and grizzly for the hackle, on the classic dry fly pattern.

††† I have found that the Black Trude, The Rio Grande King variations and the Royal Coachman Trude are all great choices for those lazy hot summer days in August on into September. I also like the fact that the wings on these patterns are easy to see when cast from a distance.

A Net Full Of Gold

††† This brown trout was hanging around a beaver dam, sipping callibaetis mayflies, next to a partially submerged old poplar stump. The large trout hardly disturbed the surface as it sucked in the small adult mayflies. The water in the beaver dam was a little murky, but the trout had found a good spot to feed at in the pond. Pretty fish!

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Brook Trout Populations ó Are They At Rick ?

††† This past winter, I confirmed a hatch of new brook trout on Millennium Creek. I was expecting to see these trout grow over the summer months, but something happened to their numbers. It was if they suddenly disappeared.

††† In areas of the creek where I would see high numbers of juvenile brook trout in the past, there was nothing moving in the water, on all of my visits. Normally, as I walked the stream bank, small trout would dart for cover and this was always a good sign. It meant that the new generation of trout was present and growing up during their first year.

††† The first thought of concern was that whirling disease had found its way into the small spring creek. This speculation was an alarming one to consider. If the spores of whirling disease were present in the area of the spawning habitats, we could see a major collapse of the trout population.

††† Juvenile trout are especially vulnerable to the spores of whirling disease, for the first weeks of their young lives. This is when the troutís spinal column has not yet hardened enough to be more resistant to penetration by the parasite.

††† As the trout fry grows, so does its natural immunity, to that first strike from the whirling disease infectionís most damaging effects on spinal cartilage. The attack that leaves permanent deformity in the small fish.

††† This lack of small trout in the summer months has been on my mind constantly and I gone over all of the other possibilities. If there are enough larger trout present in the small stream, the young trout may be hiding from predation, unlike during previous years, when the small trout seemed to be a lot bolder.

††† Another thought about the lack of trout fry was that maybe the young fish had migrated downstream out of the creek. I canít think of any environmental impacts that would lead to this happening on the small spring creek, so I ruled this one off of the list.

††† Whatever the cause is for the lack of juvenile trout on Millennium Creek, I am hoping that we donít see a complete collapse of the brook trout populations on this stream. Over the last eleven years, the reproduction of trout on Mill. Creek has been an important component of our local trout fishery. Primarily, for the Bighill Creek, but some trout do migrate into the Bow River.

††† Maybe the success of the hatch this past winter was not as good as I thought. On the days that I visited the spawning habitats, I did spot and photograph some small brook trout larva. My assumption was that the hatch was very successful, as was the case in previous years when I spotted newly hatched trout. The true test will be evident in future years, when the trout that hatched this year, return to spawn.

Going Into Fly Tying Season-A Hobby For The Winter Months

††† There were years when I would tie trout flies all year long, with winter being my preferred tying season. Nowadays, I look forward to sitting at my fly tying station, tying flies, while the cold winter winds blow or a heavy snowfall is clearly visible out of my picture window. Fly tying is a pass time that usually starts for me in the month of November or December.

††† After years of collecting fly tying materials, I now have an excellent supply of the basics, including a huge supply of fly hooks. Fly hooks have continued to increase in price over recent years, so I decided some time ago to invest heavily in a good supply for tying in future years. As long as the hooks are sealed in plastic bags and stored in a dry place, they donít go bad over time.

††† It takes a long time of saving, to get a good selection of first class materials. Things like hackle capes, peacock herl, soft hackle and pheasant tail feathers, to name a few types of feathers, and various furs and dubbing are a must. These things are of major importance to the fly tier. Everything is stored in large rubber bins that are stacked in a corner of my tying room.

††† Fortunately, I have the opportunity to sell a few flies every year, so there is always a need to tie replacement flies to keep my stock up. These days I am trying to tie some of the more popular patterns for sale, and leave the personal choices for when I need them. Most fly fishers like to use patterns that they are familiar with, when they purchase a selection.

††† The old classic trout flies are especially fun to tie, and when I get going on a particular fly pattern, I end up with a supply that will last a few years. Fortunately, there are so many great fly patterns, you never get bored with what you are working on, as long as you donít overdo it. If you do get tired of one pattern, you just move on to another.

The Red Streak