Stream Tender Magazine

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December 2017 Issue

Fall Colors

 A Fly Fisher’s Blood Worm Fly Patterns

    The reason that they are called blood worms is because of the red haemoglobin that is revealed thru a transparent exoskeleton. The blood worm is actually a midge larva. Red is just one of its more common colors. The red can vary from bright red to claret, maroon or burgundy in color.

    For many fly fishers, this is the go to fly pattern on those days when all else seems to fail, or those fly fishers may just skip the rest, and tie it on their leaders as a starter fly, to begin the day with.

    I know a few fly fishers that use this fly pattern consistently and catch trout and whitefish regularly. One fly fishing guide that I knew, promoted the blood worm. He would encourage all of his clientele to fish the pattern on the Bow River.

    You can fish the blood worm in a standard chironomid pattern as well. On some emerging midges, they retain the red abdomen but have a dark color thorax. I have fished the blood worm chironomid in very small sizes on the Bow River and did well on some occasions. Hook sizes down to size 18 will work for large trout.

    For novice fly tiers, the blood worm is a very easy tie. You can experiment with the vast number of variations available to the fly tier. I like to tie the pattern with a D-rib plastic body, using a red tying thread. This pattern works get for me and a large number of fly fishers that buy the pattern from me annually.

    The D-rib creates a very attractive segmented body when it is wrapped tightly around the hook shank. You can use midge tubing  as well.

Above: These bright red color blood worm larva fly patterns were tied with D-rib, on a 3X fly hook. I bent the shank of the hook a bit to give the worms the appearance of movement, when fished.

Right: These blood worm pupa patterns are fished during the hatch. They can be tied in a variety of hook sizes.

Stabilization of Eroding Stream Banks  -  By Planting Willows

    The Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program is into its fourth year and the 2018 season will be the fifth. Part of the riparian planting program involves planting willows on eroding stream banks, usually on the outside bends of meanders, oxbows or other steep slopes where the water has undermined the bank and created instability.

    Bow Valley Habitat Development has been planting on such erosion sites before the present and ongoing BVRR&E program was started, so we already knew of the benefits, over time. It does take time for the newly planted willows to take root and grow thick over unstable soil. The challenge is in getting the willow plants started. Once they have survived the first year, the following years of growth and survival are more likely. The biggest threat during that first year is flooding.

    Over the years, I have noted that some willow stabilization sites grow quite slowly in the years following the first planting. I suspect that this can be directly attributed to the soil conditions and the amount of moisture that the plants get.

    For those plants that grow slowly above the ground, there are probably very good root systems established below the ground, and this is the important part of bank stabilization. Even if some of the willows die off over the first few years, the root systems will stay in tacked for many years. This will help hold the slope soil in place.

    It is very rewarding to watch the transformation of an eroding stream bank that has been planted. In the first few years, you wonder if the plants will hold on and survive. Usually, after the third year, you know if your time has been well spent. It most often is.

    Once the toe erosion on a slope has been slowed down or stopped, the entire slope will stabilized over time. The end result will be a slope with less gradient and lots of willow cover. Once the exposed soil is covered with foliage, it no longer deposits silt into the creek channel.

    It is a very cost effective way of stabilizing eroding stream banks in a natural way. The end product provides good fish and wildlife habitat and it also improves the stream’s water quality.

Above: This is what the willows planted on an eroding stream bank look like, by the end of the growing season, in the first year. Often, you are planting is what appears to be 100 percent clay, but the willows still manage to grow.





Above: This is a planted erosion site, two years after planting. The native willow plants are now well established with a network of root systems that are working to keep the unstable soil from sliding into the creek channel. The willows are varieties of Salix.

Above: This is the same site, three years after the first planting of native willows was completed. The willows are now starting to provide some cover over the surface of the water. The fourth and fifth year of growth will be dramatic at this site.

Above: This photo was taken looking down from an elevated steep slope. The willows below were planted three years earlier, along the water’s edge.

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Ranch House Spring Creek Brook Trout Spawning in 2017

    It was a tough year for the brook trout that tried to spawn in Ranch House Spring Creek this fall. The water levels were down and the stream channel is widening, making it more difficult for brook trout to migrate upstream to spawn. At least the season was not a total right off and some trout did manage to lay their eggs. I

noticed plenty of juvenile brook trout from last year’s hatch, so that was nice to see.

    The Ranch House Spring Creek is an important spawning tributary for the lower reach of the Bighill Creek. It also serves as a nursery habitat for juvenile brook trout and brown trout during their initial years of life.

Long Term Objectives for Riparian Planting Program

    In riparian restoration programs you have to be committed to the long term, if you expect to make a real difference. You also need to have a stream or streams that are obviously lacking native willows and trees along the stream banks. We have both of these things. I can only speak for myself and those partners and volunteers that have proven this commitment over the past five or so years.

    For most things that we try to accomplish in our lives, we expect immediate results. When you are dealing with mother nature and willow and tree planting, you have to learn to be patient. The results will come, but they may not start to be obvious for at least five or six years. The “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program” was first started in 2014, so plants from that years will start to stand out  on the landscape in a few more years. Most likely in 2019 and 2020, we will see a real difference.

    A number of the volunteers are a little disappointed in the slow growth rate of the plants, but they will come along in time. In cities and towns, plants that are chosen for parks and open spaces are often on the larger size to get an immediate effect, but our plants are just small cuttings with roots and small top development. This means that our native  plants will take at a number of years of growth to be tall enough to really stand out.

    One of the first things that I expect to notice, is the improved water quality and also the plants on the stream bank stabilization sites. Both of these things are already happening on the Bighill Creek, in Cochrane, Alberta. The water quality has definitely improved, with less silt on the streambed. The native plants that we planted on the bank erosion sites are really starting to cover the exposed soil and stabilize. This has allowed native grasses to also take root and grow. This is great to see.