Stream Tender Magazine

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Small Western Green Drake - D. (Flavilinea)

Whirling Disease—New Developments Hold Promise

    In the September 2017 issue of “Stream Tender Magazine”, I published an article on a disease resistant strain of rainbow trout. There have been a number of developments over the past few years that deserve mention, so this is an update. The original article that I wrote can be viewed at the following link:

    The latest development that has the focus of my attention is the breakthrough in genetic science for whirling disease infection and resistance. This has me really excited, and there is real hope that we may be on the verge of some real positive methods of dealing with the recent whirling disease outbreaks.

    Using genome mapping, scientists have identified the gene implicated in whirling disease infection and resistance. This was a major step in learning more about the disease and how certain disease resistant strains of rainbow trout can be identified.

    In the previous article that was published in September 2017, I wrote that a Kamloops Rainbow Trout strain that had ended up in Germany, on a trout stocking exchange, back in the late 1800’s, developed a resistance to whirling disease, over time. A German scientist with the last name “Hofer” , identified this resistance and thus the strain was named after him.

    The Colorado department of  Parks and Wildlife, cross breed the Hofer strain of rainbow trout, with their Gunnison River strain to see if the resistance to whirling disease could be past on to a new strain of rainbow trout. The result was a disease resistant Gunnision River strain. Now the Parks and Wildlife biologists could use this new strain to restock rivers across their state.

    The new disease resistant rainbow trout are now thriving in other rivers, such as the Arkansas River, which was stocked with Gunnison River hybrids in 2016, and other recently stocked streams. This approach to revitalizing decimated rainbow trout populations in whirling disease infected waters, is the best way, in my mind, to deal with the whirling disease problem.


What Does The Future Hold?


   Hybridization with whirling disease resistant rainbow trout is definitely a proven method of successfully dealing with infected rivers and streams, but are there other options?

    Now that the whirling disease genome in infected trout has been mapped, is there potential in future gene splicing to create a disease resistance in our local known strains of rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, brook trout, bull trout and mountain whitefish?

    The simplified definition of gene splicing is as follows:

“Gene splicing is a form of genetic engineering where specific genes or gene sequences are inserted into the genome of a different organism.

    Genetically modified fish may be the answer to saving our native and non-native trout, and other native fish. Presently, I have major concerns about our mountain whitefish populations, which seem to be especially vulnerable to the outbreak. There are no disease resistant mountain whitefish strains, so our best hope is in genetically modifying the fish’s ability to fight the disease.

    It will take some good science to solve this problem, but some great science is happening south of the border right now. I will keep you posted.

The Millennium Creek Spawning Records

The Trude Wing Dry Fly  -  Tied With Deer Hair

    For years, tying a Mitch's Sedge was normal practise for tying a Traveler’s Sedge pattern. The fly could also be used as a hopper and stonefly imitation. The pattern, originally conceived by Author Mikulak of Calgary, for fly fishing BC lakes during the sedge hatches, has since become famous. I found a simple single wing pattern, rather than multiple wings of deer hair, could also catch trout and it was a lot faster to tie.

    The trick to making this pattern work for you, is the collar and hackle tied over the wing, to help form the perfect trude, tent wing design. By lightly wrapping a dubbed collar and hackle over the wing, you can form a wing with less flare than a standard deer hair wing.

    Elk hair can also be used, but it won’t be quite as buoyant as the deer hair. The copper wire that I use, helps minimize the shredding of your dubbing, which results from catching a lot of trout with sharp teeth. Sometimes I will use silver wire instead, but this is entirely up to the tier and availability of fly tying materials.

    To reduce the twisting of the wing on the body, a figure eight loop is used on the initial wrap of the wing onto the body. This should help reduce the problem of a loose wing that constantly needs to be adjusted back to normal.

    I have caught a lot of trout on this fly and other fly fishers that I have tied for, love the pattern as well.

Left: This Trude wing deer hair dry fly pattern is the one that I like to tie and fish with. The copper wire is optional, but it does increase the mileage of the fly, if you are catching plenty of trout.

    The coachman brown hackle is a favourite color, but you can also use grizzly, dun, ginger or variant. My favourite hook size is 8 with size 10 coming in as a close second.

    You can use Elk hair for a more durable tail and wing, but it doesn’t float as well as the deer hair. A 3X hook shank works good for the length and a lighter wire hook is optional. With the copper wire rib, a lighter wire hook is the best.

    I have fished a single pattern for a full day, catching lots of trout in the process, without having to change flies.

    Since the restoration project on Millennium Creek was completed, a record of spawning activity has been documented, starting in 2008. By monitoring spawning activity annually, a indicator of the health of the brook trout populations can be established. This data can also be used in the future, to determine the state of the fishery.

    So far, the Millennium Creek spawning events show a consistently healthy fishery, up to 2018. All of the years of spawning have been followed by successful trout egg incubation and hatch, since this part of the reproductive cycle has been monitored, starting in 2014.

    There are other spawning tributaries to the Bighill Creek, but the Millennium Creek spawning has been the one event that has received the most attention. This is due to the close proximity of the creek, to where I live. Also, because the entire spring fed creek was restored, over a four year period, starting in 2005 and being completed in 2008.

    The spawning on the creek started just after the stream restoration work was completed, in the summer of 2008. It is my hope that this reproductive trend will continue on the Millennium Creek, into the future. It will be interesting to see how things develop over time.

Above: This Millennium Creek brook trout was one of the first trout identified and photographed.

2020 Riparian Planting Program — In the Works

    The seventh year of riparian planting is now being planned out and by March of 2020 we will have another spring planting program ready to start. The “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program” is still going strong, with a total of 71,914 native willows and trees.

    It is my hope that we break the 80,000  mark for our planting of native willows and trees this next season. So far, things are looking pretty good, with some commitments already made for next seasons program.

   The plan is to continue planting on sites on Bighill Creek, West Nose Creek and Nose Creek, with some new planting sites to be added in 2020. On the previously planted sites, we will be adding extra plants to fill in some of the areas where plant growth is poor. This is due to poor soil conditions, but it is just part of the planting process.

    Two school groups are already committed to help out again this next spring. I am hoping to add on to the student planting program by

approaching some more schools. The goal for this next year is 10,000 new plants for all three streams.

    I really enjoy planting with young students, because they are really keen on helping out with some local environmental projects. While streamside, the kids learn a little about the aquatic life in the creeks and how a healthy riparian zone is an important link in the cycle of life in the streams. The fact that there are sport fish in the streams, always helps out with project interest.

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Ranch House Spring Creek Spawning Records

    A spawning survey was also documented by Bow Valley Habitat Development for the Ranch House Spring Creek, starting in 2013. This small spring creek had the greatest potential for providing excellent spawning habitat, until a storm drain inflow was constructed on the creek.

    The large storm drain was from a nearby development, and it totally disrupted the creeks ability to support a juvenile brook trout population. This was evident when large volumes of flow started to erode the stream banks on Ranch House Spring Creek.

    The frequent high flows started to flush any juvenile brook trout downstream into the Bighill Creek, where other hungry mouths were waiting for the YOY brook trout.

    There was a peak spawning season, while the stream channel was still in relatively good condition, but after that, things started to look pretty gloomy. The spawning season in 2017 and 2018 was just terrible, with only 10 pairs of trout spawning over the two year period on Ranch House Creek.   

    In 2014, when the Cochrane Lake was being pumped down, in level, the water was spilled into the upper reaches of the creek and it totally disrupted the entire 2014 spawning season. So no redds were mapped during that season.     

    I have no idea what the future holds for this small, but important, spring creek.  At this point in time, it doesn’t look good for the creek or the trout that depend on it for reproduction.  The stream bank erosion continues.

    The photo to the right shows an average storm drain in-fow volume for a rain event, on Ranch House Creek. This volume of flow entering Ranch House Spring Creek, is more volume than the existing natural stream channel can withstand.

    The long-term result of excessive volume of flow will destroy the natural stream channel and disrupt the historic spawning of wild trout that occurred annually.

    Bow Valley Habitat Development has been monitoring the erosion effects of flooding, since the storm drain was first installed on Ranch House Spring Creek.

These photos show a typical length of channel on Ranch House Spring Creek, prior to the installation of the storm drain, in to the creek channel.

The photo on the right shows what the Ranch House Spring Creek channel looks like, up close. This was a section of channel that was restored in 2010, by  a Bow Valley Habitat Development work crew.

More Volume of Flow Than The Stream Channel Can Handle

    The photos below show how during a rain event on Ranch House Spring Creek can produce more water than the natural stream channel can handle. This is just an average rainfall run-off from a storm drain, just upstream. Over time, this consistent flooding will erode the stream banks. This will destroy the stream, as a spawning tributary, for brook trout.

    The storm drain could have been installed further to the east, where a natural wetland already exists. There was never any stream habitat or fisheries assessment work completed prior to the construction of the storm drain on Ranch House Spring Creek. This is unacceptable in modern times. Creeks should always receive consideration!