Stream Tender Magazine

March 2018 Issue

Learn how to tie a perfect Doc Spratley Wing in Guy Woods latest Book:


“Streaming Wet Flies and a Fly Angler’s Full Season”


Available at

Other titles by Guy Woods that are also

available at are:

“Fishing These Parts”


“Fly Fishing and Other Stuff”



Spending Too Much Time Underwater?  -  Try A Dry Fly!

    When I fish the crystal clear  waters of a mountain stream, I usually start with a dry fly pattern. Mountain trout feed heavily off of the surface, because most mountain streams are low in nutrient and the food supply can be very limited under the water’s surface. Trout in these streams depend on a good supply of terrestrial insects that end up on the surface of the water, drifting down to hungry trout.

    With extremely clear water, a feeding trout can see a surface meal from a considerable distance, so having a fly pattern on the surface is the best presentation for a feeding trout that is looking up at all times. If there is nothing hatching on the water or you can’t see any terrestrials, just tie on an attractor dry fly pattern.

    Terrestrial insect dry flies are also good dry fly patterns to start with. Ants, beetles and hoppers work good. If stone flies are present on the stream, a stone fly dry pattern is always a great choice. Even crane flies can bring trout torpedoing to the surface, which is what all of us love to see.


    I have met fly fishers that fish exclusively with dry flies. This is understandable, considering how much fun it is to catch trout off of the surface of the water. It seems that for many of these true disciples of the dry fly, there is always a pattern that will catch trout off of the surface. At least you can have fun trying.

    This winter, I spent a lot of my time at the fly tying station, tying up dry fly patterns for next year’s sales and my own personal use. Probably 80 % of my time was dedicated at making dry flies, I haven’t done this for a number of years, but I really enjoyed the work. For some reason, I just had the urge to create surface fly patterns this tying season.

    It takes a bit of skill to tie a really well balanced dry fly. More skill than many fly tiers think, until they try their own patterns on the water. A good dry fly must hit the water in the right position, with wings up and the bottom of the hook bend either on or just below the surface of the water. This takes practice.

New Aeration System for Winchell Lake Trout

    Winchell Lake is one of the area’s few rainbow trout lakes. It isn’t that big, but we are not exactly in lake country around these parts. It is approximately 29 acres in size and each spring the province stocks about 140 trout per surface acre in the lake.

    One of the big problems with the lake is that it winter kills often. The lake is located in a valley bottom that doesn’t get much sun in the winter, so it is vulnerable to low oxygen fish kills usually in January or February.

    Fortunately, the Alberta Conservation Association has installed an aeration system on the lake in 2017. Hopefully, this

will help maintain good oxygen levels throughout the winter months and allow a good survival rate of the stocked trout population.

    The lake has an average depth of approximately 15 feet or so, with a deep section that reaches 20 feet. This is good depth for a trout lake, but the high level of organics on the bottom, uses a lot of oxygen in the winter months, during the night time hours.

    If there was better exposure to sunlight during the winter, there would be more photosynthesis during the daylight hours, which produces

oxygen in lakes. But the lake lies at the bottom of a valley with a steep south facing valley slope to hide the sunlight mid-winter.

    It is a real waste to have a winter kill on a healthy trout population. This is wasteful and it is also costly for a lake that receives a stocking every spring, with approximately 4,000 rainbow trout. I have fished the lake for many years, and there has been much talk about an aeration system for the lake, and how it would greatly improve the sport fishery.

    It will be very interesting to see how the fishery develops over time, now that the trout can live a full life in the small productive lake.

Above: This aerial photo of Winchell Lake, shows how the small lake is surrounded by muskeg, in the valley bottom.

Above: Winchell Lake is ice fished by a few local anglers.

Above: Small trout like this rainbow can now winter over in Winchell Lake and possibly grow to a large size. This will make fishing the lake a lot more interesting.

  “ Winchell Lake is not a safe lake to drive on. There are springs that feed the lake and create thin ice at certain locations on the lake.


    In the late 1980’s a small grader went thru the ice while cleaning off the snow for skating. The grader was never recovered.


    With the aeration system now operating, it would be wise to be careful when accessing the lake for ice fishing.”

Old Photos Bring Back  Memories

Below: I was sorting thru some old slide photos that I have compiled over the years and found a few that bring back some good memories of spending time on the water. I do take a lot of photos when I fish, it is a hobby of mine. The one below was taken of the author by Bary Bryant many years ago, when I was a younger man.

Key Habitats are Crucial for Trout Survival

    Trout require a good volume of clean, cold water and a healthy riparian zone for their survival. For a trout’s reproduction, part of the necessary fish habitat is small gravel of the right size for spawning. Spawning gravel on areas of a small stream that have the right depth and gradient, helps contribute to an overall healthy trout stream environment.

    Sometimes, human intervention may be required to create or bring back a healthy trout stream. If this is the case and after all of the ingredients are in place to support a natural reproductive trout stream, there needs to be some protection in place. This protection is to insure that the environment stays healthy for a resident trout population into the future.

    If there is some development taking place along the trout stream’s course, there will be impacts that can have a negative influence on the survival of trout. Things like storm drain construction, water withdrawal and pollution are ongoing threats. These threats need to be identified early on.

    It is very important that the public is aware or educated to how stream ecosystems work and the life that is present in our flowing waters. Things like trout reproduction need to be documented so that managers can insure there are protective measures in place to preserve what we are responsible for.

    On Bighill Creek, in the Town of Cochrane and on West Nose Creek, in the City of Calgary, spawning trout and key spawning habitats have been mapped and documented. Now we can concentrate on protecting this unique natural asset. I have also observed pike spawning on Nose Creek in the City of Airdrie. These are just a few streams in our area that have been identified as important to our sport fishery and natural environment.

    The City of Calgary has more streams and spawning habitats that also have been documented, so there is presently a lot of natural resources to be looked after. This is all important to us now and future generations to come. It is a huge responsibility for us to take on in modern times.

Below: Newly hatched trout fry larva need habitat to take cover in, feed and stay safe. Gravel and small cobble, boulder habitat is perfect for juvenile trout. They prefer these habitats in both still and flowing water. The still water habitats are used when the trout are just emerging out of the spawning gravel and for those first critical months. Late on, the flowing water habitats become more attractive to feeding young trout parr. There needs to be plenty of food to sustain young trout.

Ice Fishing  - A Winter’s Pastime

    When the ice is safe enough to walk on, you will see the first signs of the ice fishing season on our area lakes and ponds. It may not be obvious to the passer-by, but those individuals standing motionless or jigging their forearm up and down are actually fishing for winter sport fish. Ice fishing is a sport for those keeners interested in fishing the entire year or full season.

    The benefits of spending a lot of time on the ice in front of an augured hole may not be huge, if measured by the number of fish caught, but to some, this is not the point. Ice fishing can  be justified as an excuse to spend some time in the outdoors and for some a retreat from the everyday responsibilities of making a living. In other words, a recreational break.

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Good Winter Snowfall is Beneficial to Trout Streams

    Most people will see the major winter snow storms as a real inconvenience to daily life. Having a huge dump of snow means tough commuting issues, a burden on the tax dollars for snow removal and so on. However, for farmers, skiers and those interested in seeing healthy trout streams, there is good that comes from lots of snow in the late winter months.

    We get a fair number of Chinooks in this country that will melt snow before it has a chance to soak into the ground in the spring. If the Chinooks are short and not too warm, a good volume of snow will holdout in the timber and willow stands until the spring thaw. Much of the snow gets converted to ice, which will last longer, hidden beneath a cover of grass and shrubs until May sees the frost disappear from the ground.

    If the snow and ice makes it thru until spring, it will result in a good run-off on our area streams. This is well needed to help maintain healthy trout streams. The high flow will scour out new pool habitats and create undercuts, deep runs and lots of new, clean gravel in the streambed. All of this means more habitat and food for the resident trout population.

    It is close to mid February when I write this and so far we have been getting plenty of snow. I haven’t seen it piled up on my front lawn, this high, in a number of years. Just down over the hill from my house is the Bighill Creek. The snow will stay in the willows and trees for a long time, if we don’t get a really warm Chinook in the next few months. If some of the snow does melt, it will collect in the low lying depressions and freeze during the night and colder days, insuring that some moisture will be around to seep into the ground when the frost is gone.

    Like many of the other area trout streams, the Bighill Creek is due for a good run-off and cleaning out. This past year the water levels were very low in the creek and this is hard on the trout population. Some pool habitats have been silting in over the recent years, so a good flush will benefit the stream. I look forward to seeing how things develop over the next few months. We are probably in for more snow this next week, which will add to the already substantial amount that has been falling. At least this is what is forecast on the weather report today.

    The trout hatch has already started on Millennium Creek, which was very exciting to see this winter. By the time the spring run-off begins, these new trout will be ready to  move up the Bighill Creek and the high flows will help them make passage up the system. Juvenile trout are very good at migrating up small side channels created when high flowing streams flood their banks, if they are strong enough swimmers when the high flows happen.

    Because the brook trout hatch starts in January on Millennium Creek, the small trout are approximately 4 cm in length by the time the April run-off starts or it is well underway. Brook trout are especially adept at migrating upstream during high flow events. The high water triggers a migratory instinct in these young and old trout. Having a good pile of snow and ice in the late winter will insure that there is a good run-off for brook trout by the time spring is upon us.

Below: There was plenty of snow on Millennium Creek this winter. This photo was taken in February.