Stream Tender Magazine

November 2018 Issue

Millennium Creek  -  A Consistent Producer Of New Trout Annually

    It has been eleven years now, since the Millennium Creek restoration project was completed. Nine years since the spawning channel was added to the creeks headwaters. Every year since the completion date, brook trout have been spawning in the newly restored spring creek.

    Even in the poorest spawning season on Millennium Creek, a substantial number of mature trout have deposited their eggs and insured a healthy future for the trout population in the Bighill Creek’s lower reach.

    Small spring creeks like Millennium, are important to the fishery. Not only for the added spawning habitat, but also as nursery streams for young trout during those first vital years of growth. A safe habitat for very small trout fry, guarantees more trout for the future.

   The consistent flows of pure water ground springs on Mill. Creek make it an ideal recruitment stream for the brook trout populations in our area. Since the Millennium Creek was rebuilt, there has been excellent flows in the springs, even on years when the rainfall was not as good as hoped.

    There is significant silt loading in the stream, but despite this, the key spawning habitats have maintained a good annual hatch of new trout into the system. Silt loading comes primarily from a set of highway ditches, but this has been reduced in recent years by silt containment measures.

    The threat of whirling disease is still high on the list, but so far, no confirmed case has been identified by observation yet. We need to direct all of our attention these days, at protecting trout habitat and water quality for spring creeks like Millennium Creek and others in the area.

Above: The chart shown is a record of spawning activity on Millennium Creek over the past eleven years, since the stream was restored.

Above: A few poplar trees like the one shown above, are planted along the water’s edge every planting season. Some of them will survive the beavers long enough to grow into mature trees. Poplars make excellent stream bank stabilizers. The root systems from poplar trees grow along stream banks in dense, thick networks. The trees are a great addition to a natural riparian habitat.

Canary Grass And Willows  -  An Unusual Mix Of Riparian Growth

    Wherever we plant native willows and trees in canary grass, along the creek, the willow plants have a tough time competing with the tall, dense grass. However, once the willows have started and made it thru their first and second season, they will do ok.

    The canary grass grows tall and in the fall, when it is dormant, it lays down along the water’s edge and provides good overhead cover for trout. It is in the fall that you can finally see some of the smaller willows and trees that have been planted in recent years. This will change over time.

    Again in the spring, when the new leaves start on the willow plants, they have the edge on getting an early start on the growing season. It is in early May, when the canary grass is still dormant that we like to plant our willows and trees on areas where canary grass grows.

    On certain sites, the canary grass is just too dense for new willow and tree plants, but this is just part of riparian planting. In the next few years, I will be able to provide some better before and after photos of areas of canary grass that have been recently planted, with native willows and trees.

    There are three different shoreline grasses that are difficult to plant new willows and trees in. Quack grass, Canary grass and Western water sedge are tough grasses to out compete. I know that the root systems on canary grass and sedge are so dense that it is probably hard for other plants to compete for nutrient and moisture.

    Quack grass is a true survivor and it can grow under almost impossible conditions for other plants. I have found that planting in a patch of Quack grass is one of the hardest environments for native willows and trees to get started in. Tough areas to plant are a real challenge for the planters, in a riparian program.

Above: This length of stream channel was planted one year earlier. You can see why. The stream bank on the right has cracked and slid down toward the water in the creek. This is the first stage of an erosion site happening on the creek. As the frost leaves the shoreline, the sod will sometimes fracture and start to slide into the creek.

Above: This photo was taken from the same position as the photo to the left. This is the stream bank — 4 years after it was planted with native willows. The willows are still competing with the canary grass, but they are now well established. In a few more years the willows will exceed the canary grass in height and stand out on the creek.

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The October Caddis

    Gary LaFontaine called it the “Late Great Summer Sedge”, but to many fly fishers it was commonly known around these parts as the ”October Caddis”. On the Bow River, it starts hatching in late August and continues on into the first week of October.

    Both the pupa and the adult have an orange color abdomen, and they are large in size. This makes them a prime target for trout as they begin their winter fattening, fall feeding frenzy. I tie the adult and pupa on a size 8 fly hook. The pupa is fished by stripping or a dead drift.

Animals Shelter In The Riparian Zone

    Most of what I write about seems to focus mainly on trout, but because I spend a lot of time on the local streams, I often enjoy the sight of other wildlife that lives along the creeks and rivers in our part of the province. In particular, the Bighill Creek in the Town of Cochrane.

    In recent years I have noticed that a few more mule deer bucks are venturing into the community, along the Bighill Creek, during the fall rut. In the mating season, the bucks become more bolder than normal, which in some cases can be a dangerous attitude for these male deer. Some end up getting hit by highway traffic.

    For those that find a safe retreat along the creek, the general public benefits from common sightings along the path system. Last year I spotted and photographed a few large bucks. One of these photos made it into this magazine. However, even the smaller mule deer bucks are appreciated.

Above: This small four point mule deer buck, blends into the dense willow cover along the Bighill Creek. A great place to bed.

Another Nice Trout

    After a quick photo, this brown trout was released back into the creek. This is normal practice for myself and those fly fishers that I like to fish with. It would be a shame to kill such a pretty trout, and not let the trout grow to its full mature size.

    Catch and release is practised by those conservation minded anglers that believe in protecting and conserving our wild trout fishery. This is especially true on small flowing waters. Little creek trout fisheries can be decimated by harvest sport fishing. Sport fishing is all about catching fish for sport, so we should respect the resource.

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Threat On Ground Water Eminent

    As development continues in our immediate area there is a looming threat to our ground water springs. Water permits that were once used for farming livestock are now being transferred to developers for other uses that require much more water withdrawal.

This threatens our wild trout fisheries that depend on sufficient flows to maintain life and reproduction in small area creeks.

    In some cases, illegal water withdrawal is occurring. Some acreage owners that live along trout streams, will install water pumps along the nearby creek to pump water for their lawns and other water features that they have constructed. All of these water thieves can end up taking much more than the streams in-stream flow needs that sustain life in the creeks. Water flow loss is especially detrimental to our local wild trout populations.

    Entire ecosystems can be wiped out, if small streams don’t get enough water to maintain the historic flows that created both wildlife corridors and aquatic environments that we sometimes overlook. The Ranch House Spring Creek and Millennium Creek, which have been written about in this magazine, over the years, are great examples of very sensitive small spring feeder creeks. Both of them support a small trout population and both are vital spawning tributaries to the BH Creek.

    I think that it is time that Alberta Environment, Water Resources, prioritizes how small ground water springs are treated by those few that are taking more that they should. This would be done on behalf of the general public and the wild trout that have no voice.

   

Small Green Drake

    The Small Western Green Drake, dry fly, is tied to imitate the smaller Drunella, Flavilinea, also known as the “Flav”. It is smaller than the Great Green Drake, about a size 14 dry fly hook. This hatch starts just after the Great Green Drake and lingers on for weeks. It is a very important fly pattern.