Stream Tender Magazine

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Small Nymphs Are The Best!

More Willows Suckering Up From Root Growth Recently

    In the last few years I have noticed more new willow and tree plants popping up out of the dead grass in the spring time growing season. Most of these I suspect are a result from traveling roots creating new shoots in the vicinity of the mother plant. They may also be a result of seed growth, being so close to some mature willow plants. In any case, the new growth is a great sign of things to come.

    Each year I learn more about our native willow plants and this is very interesting to me. The new growth is encourage along by some beaver activity along the streams where volunteers plant every spring.

    This new natural growth is confirmation that our willow and tree planting is exponential and will result in lots more native plants from the natural reproduction process that is now happening on the creeks.

Above: The new plants popping out of the ground in the foreground of this photo are most likely suckering from the clump of native willow in the background. The clump has been heavily grazed upon by beavers and this may have encouraged the new growth suckers to break the ground.

Above: This is a close-up of the new willow plants breaking thru the dead grass this spring. If you look closely, you can see and count four new plants. The beavers will love the extra forage that will be added to the landscape over the next few years. The beavers won’t let the plants get too high off the ground.

Indian Paint Brush Glows Red

Above: While fly fishing the Bow River in Cochrane, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful Indian Paint Brush growing along the banks of the river. It was a lightly overcast day and the flowers seem to glow a brilliant red as I walked the edge of the still high river, in search of trout. This is all part of the experience for a fly fisher of trout and a regular visitor of flowing waters.

Tight Cover For Bighill Creek’s Stream Bank

    The growth of the plantings along Bighill Creek has been really slow on some reaches, but the end result is starting to show, right along the water’s edge. Because the native willow and tree cuttings were planted right along the water, the new growth is growing out and over the main stream channel. This was the intended goal of this planting program, make sure that our plantings provided the best habitat benefit after planting.

    I suspect the root systems are well established into the stream bank and they are the key to stream bank stability. The tops of the plants may appear stunted, but the root systems reach far into the soil. It is important to get photos of these plants at this stage in their growth, because once the plants start to mature, they will entirely hide the channels surface from easy view and a good photo of the creek.

West Nose Creek Plantings — Still Growing In Numbers

Above: The willows shown are ones that were planted in 2014, on West Nose Creek. The growth has been really slow, but over time, the new willows will enrich the soil with more organics and enhance growth. In the mean time, the new plants will continue to grow and spread root systems. You have to be patient with this type of native willow and tree planting. It can take years to see the major benefits of your efforts to restore a riparian zone. I have learned this over the years and know that future growth will make up for the lack of immediate results.

Grass Hopper Season Is Underway

    It usually starts in July and carries on into the fall. I am talking about what fly fisher’s affectionately refer to as the “Hopper Season”. This is normally when the grass hoppers are most active and also when trout find them on the surface of a river or stream. The terrestrials are usually caught in a gust of wind and are blown onto the water’s surface, or they overshoot a jump, too close to the water’s edge. The trout will then take the bugs with explosive rises or deliberate sips.

    There are a wide variety of different types of hoppers to choose from, but pretty much all of them are eaten by trout, with or without relish. Rangeland grass hoppers prefer dry and hot conditions to enhance their activities, but the patterns can be fished early in the morning as well.

    The Bow River has always been a really great hopper river, with many trout caught and released on hopper imitations, every year. It is good fun to slap a hopper dry fly on the surface all day, and you can even add a dropper nymph to a floatable pattern.

Above: This two stripped grasshopper is probably the least liked hopper that trout feed on, but it grows to giant size along the Bow River. We use to call this hopper the “Diamond back” due to the diamond shaped stripes on the back of bug. This particular variety also bites if you present your finger to one.

Buggering Around With Brook Trout  -  Fly Fishing The Wooly—Bugger That Is!

    Brook trout are great fun to catch and they are very plentiful in some small creeks, usually with lots of beaver dams to fish on. For the novice fly fisher, there may be some timely consideration of what fly pattern to use to catch a trout. If there are brook trout in the creek and you don’t know exactly what to use on your fly leader, an old standby may be the answer. This is when the good old “Wooly Bugger” comes into play. It has been one of the most celebrated trout flies in our area for many years.

    Brook trout are veracious eaters and they don’t mind biting into a fuzzy fly with an undulating marabou feather tail. A small bead head or cone head is often used to get the fly pattern down to the right depth. Tungsten beads are the best! Color has always been the key to catching trout on a bugger pattern, so you better have a selection of the right color patterns. Black, brown, white or olive green are the most common choices, but don’t rule out some other color patterns. A short or long stripping retrieve is the best way to present the fly.

2020 Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program

    We are up to 71,914 native willow and tree plants planted since 2014, when the program was first initiated. That is a lot of plants and partnership support for this particular BVRR&E program, and it continues next season. When I say we, I mean all of the volunteers that have contributed their time and energy into riparian plantings.

    Next year, we should have another program organized to start in the early spring. As is usual, plantings will be carried out on all three creeks in the program: Bighill Creek, West Nose Creek and Nose Creek. Now that we have many thousands of growing plants along the creeks, it is even more interesting to start each season out, planting in areas that we have already planted in. This allows us to continue to watch our past plantings are growing.

    Bighill Creek is especially important to me, because it is the creek that has shown the best results so far. The water is flowing a lot cleaner these days and most of the once silt laden streambed is now covered in cobble and gravel. The very high amount of rain that we have had this year has also recharged the ground water table and springs with lots of water. This added storage should provide good volumes of flow for the rest of the season.

    Right now, trout are already migrating up from the Bow River to replenish the populations in the stream. With the high flows this summer, there is a lot more habitat for the trout to take cover in. More aquatic invertebrates (insects) as well!

    There should be a few rainbows to migrate up the Bighill Creek in the high flows, but the hatch on the JP Creek last year may not have been successful. However, there were rainbow trout from a 2017 hatch, present on the Bow River last year, so some of these may have moved up the creek. It will be fun doing some fly fishing to assess the situation, when the water levels in the creek go down a bit more.

    For a small community with a river and two major creeks running thru town, we have a pretty good amount of fisheries issues that need attention. So far, things are looking pretty good. It is very hard to make sure that our community streams are in better than normal condition, so constant attention is required to make sure that the water in the creeks is adequate for trout and their spawning events, as well as proper storm drain engineering is carried out.

    The native willow and tree planting helps the streams and also brings well needed attention from other agencies and NGO’s that seem to be interested in the same things as we are. This year’s addition of green space that was added to the Bighill Creek and its riparian zone was a real boost to our cause. Already, new poplar trees are suckering up thru the once well trimmed grass, in Glenbow Park.

    This was really good news for all those that appreciate the natural spaces that we can enjoy into the future. The resident wildlife will benefit as well! I look forward to the 2020 planting season, to add even more plants!

Issue:  Summer 2019

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