Stream Tender Magazine

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December 2017 Issue

Fall Colors

    2017 Fall Trout Spawning Season on Bighill Creek Spawning Habitats - Closely Monitored

    Another fall season of spawning is now complete on the Bighill Creek system. The trout eggs deposited in the gravel will now incubate into the winter months, with some hatching starting in January of 2018. Most of the trout eggs were deposited in the gravel of small feeder spring creeks, so the consistent flow of clean water will result in a higher hatch rate than the main stem spawning on the creek.

    The spawning habitats on three different spring feeders for the Bighill Creek have been vital in the trout recovery program. For the past decade, consistent trout hatches on some of the feeder springs has helped maintain a growing trout population. Primarily for brook trout. This confirms the importance of small feeder spring creeks on any stream system. Even if they are producing a minimal volume of flow.

    The benefits of small feeder springs for spawning brook trout can be attributed to the quality and temperature range of the ground fed water in the channel. With quality gravel available, this is all that brook trout require for reproduction. With spring feeder creeks of short distance, there is less chance of human impact, such as storm drain inflow or other silt loading from development that can destroy a spawning habitat.

    For the two spring feeders that are within the town limits of Cochrane, there are annual maintenance requirements to keep the spring creeks accessible and in working condition for spawning brook trout. Carrying out an annual maintenance program is a small price to pay for a yearly productive trout hatch on the system. For volunteers conducting annual maintenance, the reward is in seeing another successful hatch of trout every year.

    There are some that suggest turning the annual spawning event into a public spectacle, but this would surely lead to the destruction of it. Also, trout need to be left alone during their reproductive process. Having a crowd of onlookers would disrupt the spawning cycle.

The ongoing reporting by Stream Tender Magazine helps keep the people that are interested, informed of how things are developing over time. This should be enough.

    Bow Valley Habitat Development also has produced video footage of spawning on all the streams in the program, so you can check this out on the video link on the cover page.

Above: A pair of mature brook trout are ready to deposit eggs into a redd on Millennium Creek this fall. I watched this pair for some time, and took a few photos.

Above: This large male brook trout ignored the abundant stream of midge larva that was floating over its head. The trout was too focused on spawning.

Above: A colourful brook trout holds in the spawning channel on Millennium Creek, while its mate has already fled to cover.

Above: A pair of brook trout spawn in a habitat that was constructed on Millennium Creek. The spring water is clean and well oxygenated for trout eggs.

  Fall Planting Fun on West Nose Creek, Calgary

Above:  Taylor (Front left), Emma (Front right) and father John Schmidt are dressed for the weather of planting on a very cold fall day, on West Nose Creek. The team was part of the Evergreen/HSBC planting event on October 14th of this year. In a matter of a few hours, over 700 native willows and trees were planted, as part of the “Uncover Your Creeks” program, organized by Evergreen. Despite the cold weather we all had fun keeping warm by working hard.

     Salamanders  -  In Local Creeks and Lakes

Above: I am not an expert in salamanders, but I think that this one is a Tiger Salamander Larvae. The creature was photographed in nearby Harmony Lake. I encountered Long Toed Salamanders on Canmore Creek in 1997 and 1998, during a stream restoration program. It is always nice to see these unique members of the Amphibian Family. You can see a small shrimp in the bottom left corner of the photo. This is most likely what the salamander was feeding on, while searching around in the large gravel shallows of Harmony Lake.

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Local Streams Like Bighill Creek  are Wildlife Corridors

     As is usually the case, I spend a lot of my spare time these days, walking the banks of local streams. Especially Bighill Creek, just a short distance from my house. This fall, there was a nice four point mule deer buck that moved into the area along the creek during the rut or mating season. The buck let me take a few photos while it was in the neighbourhood.

    With the abundance of poplar trees and willows along the stream, there is enough wildlife habitat to support a small resident deer population, along with other native wildlife. This is nice, because residents of the community that utilize the path system are greeted on their walks thru this habitat by both birds, furbearing animals and ungulates, such as mule deer. I have even encountered a few moose right in the Town of Cochrane.

    What I like about having a healthy riparian habitat, besides the benefits to the local trout fishery, it also provides an ideal nesting habitat for song birds that were once abundant along the local streams. In the early spring, before the leaves cover the willows, I always find small nests constructed by song birds later on in the spring. This was once quite common to see.

    There presently is a pretty big gap in riparian habitat thru part of the Town of Cochrane. It will eventually be filled with the native willows and tree plants that Bow Valley Habitat Development and other volunteer groups are now planting. Once this is accomplished, wildlife will easily move along the entire system, using the Bighill Creek as a  completed wildlife corridor.

    The section of riparian zone thru the Town of Cochrane may not be very wide at first, but over time, I expect this will widen. It will continue to need the community and partnership support required to plant and protect the natural eco-system that a riparian zone provides.

    This past fall, I really enjoyed seeing a large mule deer buck, mating right in the Town of Cochrane. It was the first time that I have ever experienced this sight. As did many whom walked the path system in the same area. The experience was a real treat.

    I suspect that the buck was probably reared in its first year along the creek, because it didn’t seem as afraid of humans as other wild mule deer are. Hopefully, the big deer will be around next year.

Classic Wet Flies  -  Memorable Patterns

    When I was a kid, before I was gifted my first fly rod, I would still buy wet fly patterns from the local hardware store. These cherished gems were fished on a spin cast reel and rod, using monofilament line. The flies came with a snelled leader already attached, so a simple loop to loop knot was how you could attach the fly hooks to your line.

    The flies were sometimes dressed with bait or they could be fished just as they looked. Trout and mountain whitefish were the target for a young angler, intent on providing a fish dinner. Those were care free days of great fun on the water. Either fishing solo or with a buddy.

    I still get sentimental when I see some of those old style trout flies on display, in a book, magazine or hanging on my wall at home. For a few years, I did some exhibition wet flies, some of the old classics, just for display purposes. This is something that I am glad I did, when pause to look at them from time to time. There are some fly fishers that still fish some of the old classics in modern times. Keeping the tradition alive.

Above: A few old classics that I tied years ago.

Remember The

Black Knat ?

Above: The Black Knat Classic Wet Fly patterns like the Royal Coachman and the Black Knat were very popular in the 1950’s and 1960’s on the Bow River. Especially in the fall, during the mountain whitefish run in Cochrane.

   The Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout  -  In The Yellowstone River

    One of the prettiest cutthroat trout that I have ever caught was hooked on the Yellowstone River, back in the early 1990’s. On that very memorable day, I hooked into 7 very large trout on a section of the river below the falls. It was early fall and the trout were just incredibly beautiful at that time of the year. The red slash below the jaw was a bright fugia red and the sides of the trout was a golden olive color, similar to a brown trout.

    This turned out to be an afternoon of trout fishing that I will never forget. Fortunately, I did manage to take a number of photos. One of the photos was used on the cover page of my second book titled “Fly Fishing and Other Stuff”. I took just the head section of the fish in that photo. There is something special about a Yellowstone cutthroat trout, and it was a real privilege to have the opportunity to catch this Rocky Mountain native.

The Famous Frank Sawyer’s Pheasant Tail Nymph

    Recently, I watched some achieve film footage of the late Frank Sawyer, tying his original pheasant tail nymph fly pattern. I had read his book “Keeper of the Stream” and was fascinated by his interest and knowledge of being a river keeper in England. This was something that both of us had in common. Of course there was also the fly fishing side

of things. The pheasant tail nymph has been one of my favourite patterns over the years.

    The original pattern was tied with just male pheasant tail fibres, along with copper wire to help hold things together. This pattern is a great still water trout fly, it imitates May fly and damsel fly nymphs.

Right: This is what an original Sawyer’s pheasant tail nymph looks like. Nowadays, many fly tiers will add a bead to the fly pattern, which works just fine when trout are in the mood. Other colors of dubbing is also used as a substitute on the thorax of the fly, in place of the original pheasant tail. This fly pattern is a must for your fly box, in a selection of difference hook sizes.