If the streambed is covered with silt and muck, the suspended invertebrate habitat along the stream banks can still provide good habitat for both trout and aquatic bug life. This ads additional importance to having a healthy riparian habitat, with plenty of native willows and trees. Grasses and sedge that grow along the water’s edge also play an important role in providing good habitat for stream aquatic life.

    The tall grass and sedge that grows along the stream banks, will provide shade and cover during the growing season and good organics for the soil, once the plants die off in the fall. A good balance of both willows, trees, sedge and aquatic grasses makes a trout stream very productive.

    The tall canary grass is especially important for in-stream fish habitat. In the fall, when the tall grass almost entirely covers the small stream channels, it ends up on the surface of the water, where it creates excellent overhead cover, along the water’s edge. This thick mat of dead grass is also full of life, when you take a closer look.

    The organic compost that the dead grass creates is ideal for enriching the soil and making other plants thrive. Plants like new willows and trees. The root systems of the grasses and sedge plants help keep the rich soil along the water’s edge, intact.

Stream Tender Magazine

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How Many Large Brown Trout In This Photo ?

Above: Train your eyes. —  Can you spot the three large brown trout in this photo?

Natural Small Stream Riparian Trout Habitat  -

The Importance of Suspended Lateral Margin Habitat

    A small stream that has no riparian willow and tree growth may still provide some habitat for the resident trout population, but nothing compared to a healthy stream, with lots of shade and cover from willows and trees. Willow branches that hang over the stream and sometimes end up submerged, provide a complex habitat for lots of aquatic invertebrates. Both terrestrial and aquatic food for trout is key to a healthy trout population.

    I have watched rising trout hold under the cover of our planted willows, in the stream channel, waiting for a meal to either float by or drop from the branches of the willow plant. These trout feel completely safe in the shade of overhanging branches and leaves. It is good to see that the willows are providing the habitat that they were intended to do.

    While fly fishing small heavily willowed small streams, I have lifted the dead branches of willow plants along the water’s edge and observed the aquatic invertebrates clinging to submerged branches. These densely populated submerged branches hold an incredible amount of food for the resident trout population. Midge larva, mayfly nymphs, caddis nymphs and larva, and baby leeches, are just some of what can be found on branches below the water’s surface.

once willows are established, the soil is safer from floods and the effects from erosion are reduced. The dense root systems hold the soil together and over time the soil becomes richer and deeper.

    The shade created by a thick cover of native willows and trees helps keep the water temperatures cooler. This all starts from planting small diameter native willows and trees, close to the water’s edge. After a few years of growth, the plants create a canopy that extends over the surface of the creek. Some willow plants will sucker up, further away from the water’s edge, but this is all part of the plan. It only takes a few years for these plants to create suspended lateral margin habitat.

Above: Recently planted willows extend out and over the stream channel, creating great lateral margin habitat.

Below: The canary grass, growing along the water’s edge, also provides good suspended habitat for both trout and aquatic invertebrates.

Millennium Creek Spawning  -  Still Hatching Wild Brook Trout

    2019 marks the eleventh year of spawning on Millennium Creek. The first year of brook trout spawning took place in the fall of 2008, which was the year of completion for the “Millennium Creek Restoration Program”. Since that first year of reproduction, thousands of newly hatched trout have survived their first year and moved onto larger water. The brook trout end up in either the Bighill Creek or the Bow River.

    To make the small spring fed stream more productive, a spawning channel was constructed in 2010, by partners: Bow Valley Habitat Development and Inter Pipeline. This new spawning channel more than doubled the amount of spawning habitat on the creek. This fall will be the eleventh year of brook trout spawning on what can be considered an urban trout hatchery, using natural reproduction to sustain a wild trout fishery in the Town of Cochrane’s Bighill Creek.

    Ranch House Spring Creek is also a spawning tributary, but due to storm drain impacts and water withdrawal upstream, the RHS Creek is very unpredictable when it comes to being fit for spawning activity anymore. The once stable stream channel is now being blown out by excessive flushes of large volumes of flow, primarily from the one storm drain that was constructed along its course. This places RHS Creek in second place, when compared to reproduction numbers of brook trout, annually. This is a real shame, for a spawning tributary that was once supporting over 20 trout redds per season!


    Millennium Creek is still on top, for wild brook trout spawning on tributaries to the lower reach of Bighill Creek. The main-stem of the BH Creek still provides spawning habitat for both brown trout and brook trout, but it is very susceptible to turbid, dirty water, on some fall days. Along with low flow levels on some spawning seasons. Overall, the state of our reproductive wild trout is still in recovery mode.

    With the high flows this season and a recharged water table and ground springs, the BH Creek and its tributaries should be in great shape for this fall’s spawning season. I really look forward to documenting how good it will be this year. The creeks are flowing with large volumes in September, so this should make passage upstream easier, for spawning trout to navigate for their fall spawning.

    Millennium Creek will be in great shape for lots of good flows this fall and with some luck, we may see a really good year for more brook trout hatching in 2020. The spawning spring creek has seen years of more than 30 egg nests or redds mapped on this tiny spring fed creek. The results of the incubation and survival are usually very good, because of the stable flows and exceptionally clean, well oxygenated water.

    The results of this fall’s spawning may be posted on this issue, if plans are followed. Every year, BVHD conducts a spawning survey of Millennium Creek, and documents the results for future comparison and data spread sheet and charts.

Above: The stable, crystal clear water’s of Millennium Creek, make it ideal for incubating trout eggs over the winter months. This insures a good survival rate of newly hatched brook trout, every year. Without a safe and protected spawning habitat, wild trout don’t have a chance in our modern times. All wild trout spawning habitats should be protected during the spawning season, but this is something that our fisheries managers still can’t seem to grasp.

Awesome Pike Catch By Young Airdrie Anglers

    CW Perry Middle School’s Outdoor Education Class students learn to fly fish as part of their program, instructed by teacher Michael Dow. So when Mike sent me photos of some of the groups pike fishing success on Nose Creek, I was really impressed. In particular, young anglers Alec Dollimount, Josh Erickson and Darius Roberts having been doing very well at fooling some of the creek’s larger pike.

    The group has been helping Bow Valley Habitat Development plant native willows and trees along the stream banks of Nose Creek in Airdrie, over the past three years. The conversation often turns to pike fishing, while we are putting plants into the stream banks on the creek.

    The news that some students had been doing great while fishing for pike, was especially interesting for me personally. One of the primary goals of our riparian restoration program is to enhance the sport fishery on the creek, by boosting the fish habitat in the stream. Finding out that the creek was already providing great sport for some young fisher’s, was important for the creek’s reputation.

    If you can convince the general public that the creek is supporting a good population of sport fish, the easier it is to gain support for taking care of the stream. It is surprising how a population of sport fish in a stream, adds a level of protection, into the future.

Thanks to Michael Dow ….Teacher for  - CW Perry Middle School

Planting Along The Water’s Edge On Creeks

Above: Willow Plants are planted right along the water’s edge in some areas and this provides good cover over time. Below: As these plants grow, they provide lots of shade and in-stream habitat for trout and other life.

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