Yellow Chromer

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Future Trout Habitat

Above: In this photo, there are six willow plants that have been planted just above the surface of the pool in this photo. Some are three years old and the others were planted two years ago. Eventually, the plants will grow out over the pool’s edge and provide excellent cover and habitat for the stream’s resident trout population.

    Plantings such as these are an important part of the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program”, where part of the objective is too enhance fish habitat on the streams in the program. By simply planting a few native willow plants along the water’s edge, over the years, we will create prime trout habitat for the future.

The Lightning Bug

     It was late spring when I received a phone call message from Daryl Harrison, of Cochrane, about tying up some more fly patterns for the 2017 spring fly fishing season. I had tied flies for Daryl before, so it appeared he was satisfied with his previous order and wanted more.

    When I returned his phone call, he ordered 18 Lightning Bugs, which he also had me tie on a previous order, in the past. The pattern was easy to remember and I happen to have all the tying materials necessary to complete his order.

   On Daryl’s first order of Lightning bugs, I had heard about the “lightning bug” fly pattern, but I couldn’t picture it, so I went to the internet to do some research on the pattern. It was easy to find in a “Google” Search.

    The nymph is a flashy pattern with a Pearl Mylar abdomen and wing case, with peacock herl and pheasant tail, so I happen to have these ingredients in my fly tying supplies. His order was for a batch tied on size 14 nymph hooks.

    After tying up the first few patterns, I could see how the fly pattern had caught on, in the fly fishing crowd. Tinted Mylar is an incredible ingredient for a number of successful nymph fly patterns. Trout just can’t resist this little bit of flash when it is presented to them in the right way.

    When I dropped off Daryl’s order of trout flies, I asked him if it was ok to share this effective pattern with some of my readers. He informed me that their would be no problem. I didn’t want to mention oneof his secret fly patterns,

without his consent.

    It is my opinion that the nymph would work in both a size 16 and 14 hook range. Although, Daryl’s orders were both tied on a size 14 nymph hook. On this latest order of flies, I used tungsten (2.8mm) beads on the pattern, to get the fly down deep quickly.

    For the first time, I tried the slotted tungsten beads, which worked very well, when slipped onto a size 14 nymph hook. Once the fly is completed, most of the slot is covered with thorax material and wing case.

    The plan is too tie more of this fly pattern up next winter, when I do most of my fly tying. Because it is a proven fly pattern, I would like to try it out myself, sometime in the future. Fly tiers know that when a customer orders a particular fly pattern more than once; it must be a good one.

Hook: Size 14, 16—1X nymph hook.

Bead: Brass 5/32” or 1/8”.

Thread: Black or Dark Green.

Tail: Pheasant tail

Abdomen: Pearl Mylar Small or Medium

Rib: Copper wire

Thorax: Peacock Herl

Wing-case: Medium Pearl Mylar.

Legs: Peasant Tail


I like to use the smaller pheasant tail fibres located on the bottom area of the feather, for both tail and legs.

Bighill Creek Riparian Plantings  -  Before and After 4 Years

Above: This is a photo of a reach of Bighill Creek, in Glenbow Park, Town of Cochrane, before the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program” was started in 2014. The photo was taken in the late fall of 2013.

Above: This photo was taken in June of 2017, four years after the first planting along the water’s edge. You can see the new willow growth along the edge of the stream channel. In another few years, the willows will really stand out.

Urban Riparian Planting Sites

    The “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program” has thus far been  planting native willows and trees in the Cities of Airdrie, Calgary and the Town of Cochrane. Some planting was completed at a few sites on West Nose Creek, upstream of the City of Calgary.

    Riparian recovery planting in these populated centres is an ideal approach to restoring riparian habitat. There is no livestock grazing and the plants only threat is by rodent damage, which is to be expected in such planting programs on area streams.

    In a matter of 5 or 6 years, the first obvious signs of plant recovery become

apparent on the landscape along the three streams in the program. By then the new willows and trees are tall enough to transform a once barren stream bank into the first stages of a riparian ecosystem.

    The BVRR&E Program was first started in 2014, so we have another year or two to go, before the results start to show the transformation along the stream channels of Bighill Creek, West Nose Creek and Nose Creek.

    This means that next year the plants from the 2014 planting season will be tall enough to stand out above the summer grass on all three streams in the program.

Five or Six Years Growth  -  Before Noticeable results

    One common question from volunteer planters, for the Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program, is “How Fast Do the Willows and Trees Grow”? Everyone is in a big hurry to see results these days. So I tell them that it will take at least 5 or 6 years of growth, before the plants are large enough to stand out in the landscape.

    However, the benefits of riparian plantings can start during the first season of growth. This is especially true on the stream bank stabilization sites, where erosion is causing silt loading into the stream channel to occur. The new network of root systems from the native plants will only take months to start holding unstable stream banks together.

    Also, it only takes a few years before the plants will provide shade and cover over the stream channel. This will help keep the water cool and provide habitat for the resident trout populations. The

young plants will start to constrict the flow in the channel, causing it to deepen and expose gravel and boulder substrate, below the existing silt covered bottom of the stream.

    This year is the fourth year of the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program”, so I am looking forward to showing you some of the sites planted in 2014, next season, in this magazine and on my Stream Tender blog. I do have a folder of photos from different sites that were taken prior to the first plantings, so it will be interesting to see some before and after comparisons of restored lengths of stream channel.

    I have also taken some video footage of planting sites, just before they were planted or a year or two later, so I can post some before and after footage on the Bow Valley Habitat Development You-tube Channel in a year or two. This is also something that I personally look forward to doing in the future.

Some of the Benefits of Riparian Plantings

    In our riparian planting program, the majority of native plants are planted along the water’s edge, in what is called the capillary fringe. This approach to riparian restoration provides the best immediate results for both

fish habitat and improvements in stream channel flow dynamics.

    The illustration below shows a few of the benefits of planting native willows and trees right along the edge of the stream channel. It will take a few years to see these planting results.

Willows provide shade and cover for resident trout, when planted along the water’s edge.

Willows growing right along the edge of the stream bank will help constrict the flow in the channel, scour it clean of silt and deepen it over time. This will expose clean gravel and boulder substrate, increasing the invertebrate populations and creating better fish habitat.

As Long As You Enjoy Yourself

    While working on streams in Airdrie, Cochrane and the City of Calgary, people often stop to chat about the creek. Sooner or later, the topic of fly fishing seems to pop up. In July, I talked to a mother strolling her baby along a pathway in Cochrane. After discussing the riparian work that we were doing on the Bighill Creek, the conversation turned into a discussion about trout in the stream.

    As it eventually does, talk of fly fishing entered our conversation and she mentioned that her husband was a novice fly fisher. The degree of competency that her husband had in fly fishing was brought up, as if it was important to mention. I replied that it didn’t matter how experienced or competent a fly fisher is; as long as they enjoy the sport. This is the most important thing about any sport, in my mind.

    In my own experience, I found that the learning process was what kept me focused and made the journey into expertise interesting and a lot of fun. When I first started out, any trout that fell victim to my fly patterns made fly fishing  a very exciting experience and those first trout that I caught elevated my excitement and kept me addicted to fly fishing for many years.

    Fly fishing is really a non-competitive sport, so just enjoying it, solo or with friends, should be the main objective. The second objective is too enjoy the environment and nature that surrounds you, while you are on the water. The trick is too focus on catching a trout and forgetting about other stuff.

Fifth Year of Riparian Planting Coming Up

    This year marks the fourth year of the Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program. Next year will be the fifth, and I am already excited about the 2018 season. If all goes as planned, we will break the 50,000 native willow and tree planting mark.

    So far, we have planted on over 30 kilometres of stream bank on the three streams in the program, which is a lot of ground covered; no pun intended. It feels pretty good to know that we have enhanced the riparian zone along so much stream bank

over the past few years. The streams in the program are Bighill Creek, West Nose Creek and Nose Creek.

    The improvement in fish habitat will be most noticeable on Bighill Creek and West Nose Creek, which both have a struggling trout population. The improvements in water quality will also benefit the trout in these streams as well.

    So far, I have really enjoyed watching the stream banks transform into a more bio-diverse eco-system and there will be much more to come.