Stream Tender Magazine

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December 2017 Issue

Fall Colors

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”



  Can You Find The Brook Trout in this Photo?

Brook trout have the ability to utilize any available cover to hide under. Even when the water is only inches deep. You need a “trained eye” to find them on small clear water spring creeks where they thrive. Keen observation is required.

Local Brook Trout Population —  Still Holding On

    For years now, there has been a local brook trout population that has struggled to survive. In a time of habitat loss, an undependable supply of cold, clean quality water, it is a dangerous time for wild trout. Yet, the area brook trout always manages to find a small length of stream with all that they need to exist.

    The streams that you find the brook trout in are usually quite small, with a cold and clean spring ground water supply that flows with consistency. This ability to survive in small water is a well known trait of the Eastern brook trout. Larger streams, like the Bow River, are usually occupied by either brown trout, bull trout or rainbow trout.

    Brook trout seem to prefer living on the fringe, in habitats that no other variety of trout would endure. I have seen them occupy the smallest of spring creeks, sometimes only a trickle of flow.

    Once, while riding a horse in the foothills, I spotted movement in a puddle of water where the trail crossed a drainage. Upon closer inspection, I noticed a small brook trout that was trapped in the small pool. I knew that there was a brook trout stream a ways down slope, so this explain where the brook trout came from.

    During a rain, when there was water flowing down the drainage, the brook trout had migrated up the drainage and then been stranded when the flow subsided. This demonstrated to me how brook trout tend to explore new habitats when the urge prompts them to swim into the unknown.

    There are a few small spring creeks that enter the Bow River in our area, which contain brook trout. Hopefully, these trout will survive the encroachment of human development in the area. Especially the impacts to the water and natural habitat that they need to survive.

Above: Brook trout, even at an early age, blend into the bottom cover of a small stream. Sometimes, only the eyes will give away their position, as they hold motionless on the bottom.

Riparian Stream Bank Planting and Water Quality

     This Fall, on one of my daily walks along the Bighill Creek, I stopped to look at the water from one of the path bridges on the creek. As I gazed down onto to the flowing water, I noticed a movement that stood out from the waving flow of pond weed on the creek’s streambed. It was a large fish.

    The big trout was feeding on something behind a large boulder in the stream and by chance I happen to catch it’s movement from directly above. It turned out to be a huge brown trout that was moving around feeding, in only a foot of water, amongst the large sheath pond weed on the creek bed.

    After fumbling to get my camera out of it’s case, I did manage to get a few photos of the trout before it moved upstream and out of sight. Because it was spawning time for brown trout on the Bighill creek, I suspect the trout was on the move that morning and I just happen to be lucky enough to spot it below the path bridge.

    The brown trout was approximately 17 or 18 inches in length and it had a very large head for its size. Probably a male I thought. The fact that the water in the Bighill Creek was running so clear that morning, it was easy to see this trout and I wondered where it had made it’s home for the summer months.

    The Bighill Creek is flowing a lot cleaner these days, when compared to a decade or so in the past. I suspect that part of the reason for this has to do with the riparian planting that has been completed on the creek in recent years. Especially on  eroding stream banks that were allowing large volumes of soil to be washed into the creek channel annually.

    When you see a large trout in clear water on Bighill Creek, you can definitely consider the stream to be on the healthy side of its overall recovery from year’s past. Hopefully, this trend will continue into the future.

Right Photo:

    This photo shows a mature brown trout lying in a freshly excavated redd or egg nest. Its mate is probably in the some nearby cover, out of sight. When they are not disturbed by observer’s like me, they will lay the fertilized eggs in the depression of gravel and fan fresh gravel over top of the eggs.

    I suspect that the trout in this photo is a large male, due to its color and the shape of its head. Males have a hooked lower jaw which is easy to spot on these large trout.

Above: This is the photo of the large brown trout that I saw from the path bridge that morning this past fall. You can see how large the head is on this fish. The trout could easily disappear into pockets of the large sheath pond weed that covered the bottom of the creek bed. It is very important that the water flows clear during the fall spawning period on the creek, to help in a successful egg hatch over the winter months.

West Nose Creek Water Quality is an Issue  -  But There is Hope

  Right Photo:


    West Nose Creek flows pretty dirty during the spring and summer months. Similar to what you can see in this photo. The willows in the photo are from our riparian planting program and this may be the key to improving water quality on the stream.

    The dirty water is caused by cattle grazing upstream, stream bank erosion and storm drain inflow. Recent construction, from new housing development, creates a problem with what ends up in the storm drains and then the creek.

    The riparian planting will help improve the water quality in the stream, but other issues should also be addressed to improve the water quality that enters West Nose Creek.

Above you can see the new willow plants along the stream bank on West Nose Creek, in Calgary. On some days the creek looks like a mud puddle.

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Bighill Creek’s Winter Flows  -  Running Clear and Clean

Above: Just before the ice covered the Bighill Creek this late fall, the water was running clear and clean. This riffle shows how the stream looks on a stretch of good gradient, with a fast current flowing over boulders on the stream bed.

    We didn’t get as much fall rain and early snow as I was hoping for, but we did get enough to insure decent flows in the Bighill Creek this fall. This past year has been a dry one and the creek was flowing really low at times. This can make life a little difficult for the trout population.

    Trout need cover and depth to hold in and the later is in short supply when the water levels are low. Fortunately, there were a number of beaver dams on the creek where trout could retreat to. Beaver dams insure good depth for pool habitats.

    Finding deep water habitats is especially important for trout when the water is flowing clear and clean for extended periods of the open water season. The clean water in Bighill Creek will be very beneficial during the fall and winter months, when there are trout eggs incubating in the spawning redds or nests.

Left:  The Hares Ear Wet Fly

The late Bill Griffiths and I watched fellow fly fisher, Dave Christianson, catch a few nice rainbow trout, while fishing a size 16 Hare’s Ear wet fly, on the Bow River. Both Bill and I agreed that the Hare’s ear most likely represented a diving caddis adult, laying its eggs after diving to the bottom of the river channel. This is just one of the occasions when a wet fly pattern can still be a deadly choice for the fly fisher. The wing on this pattern is tied with secondary pheasant tail wing sections and the hackle is Grey partridge.

 Off Season Memories  -  A Fly Fisher’s Winter Thoughts

    We got an early taste of winter this fall, when the first weeks of November dropped well below freezing and the ice started to skirt the stream banks. I didn’t get out to fly fish that much this spring,     summer or fall, but that is just the way it goes these days. Having the opportunity to carry out riparian plantings along some area streams was enough to keep me content.

    With the recent news of the whirling disease outbreak still on my mind, I have had plenty of time to think about how good the trout fishery has been to me and others over the years. Thoughts about where this latest threat to our sport fishery is going and what may be the end result are also repetitive in my mind.

    Now that the snow and ice have locked in our local trout streams, some of my spare time will be directed at some fly tying and other indoor hobbies that are related to fly fishing. Just to keep the interest up and start to build up some excitement about next year’s possibilities.

    Sorting thru some old fly fishing photos always brings back some pleasant memories of great fishing on local waters. I have a pretty extensive library of slide photos that I rarely go through anymore, so this is a good way to fill in some free time. I can scan some of these pictures to a digital file, so that they are easily accessible for future use.

    Today, I found some old photos of rainbow trout that I had caught and released on the Bow River, during the spring spawning run, up from the Bearspaw Dam. Memories of beautiful clean rainbow trout that averaged anywhere from 17 inches up to 23 inches were the norm back then. I wonder if or when the fishery will ever be the same as it was up until the millennium. Hopefully, someone else can enjoy the great spring fly fishing that a number of us had and did back then.

    I have always tried to be optimistic and look at the promise that future fly fishing holds for us, but these days, this is difficult.

Left: This old slide photo shows a nice clean spring caught rainbow trout. The trout was caught and released in the Town of Cochrane back in the late 1990’s.

    Trout catches like this one are rare these days, now that the Jumpingpound strain has declined in numbers. Not a great thought for an old local fly fisher.

Above: This is what the Bow River in Cochrane looks like during low spring flows, early in the day. Fly fishing for spring rainbow trout was once a rewarding pastime under these conditions, but not so much anymore. The decline in rainbow trout populations has become quite evident these days. Both fisheries management and Environmental impacts are suspected by some fly fishers as the bottom root cause.