Yellow Chromer

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The Two Green Drakes

    The Green Drake hatches are of major importance to Alberta fly fishers. There are actually two different varieties that keep the interest of late spring and summer fly fishing, “Match the Hatch” enthusiasts.

    The large Western Green Drake which is usually first to appear on the water, is a Drunella grandis and doddis and this large mayfly is usually tied on a size 12 nymph or dry fly hook. This hatch brings large trout to the surface in feeding pods.

    The other Western Green Drake hatch which is often overlooked is a sub-species of the larger fly and it is called the Drunella flavitincta or flavilinea. Often this smaller Green drake fly is referred to as the “Flav” in short. I use a size 14 hook for both the nymph and the dry fly.

    The nice thing about the Small Western Green drake is that it has a longer hatch time and it is available late into the summer months on some local waters.

    The large Western Green drake has a short stubby body with three tails and just after and during hatch times the color is a dirty green with yellowish ribbing along the thorax. The small Western Green drake is more slender in body form, so standard dry fly ties such as the Adams will work fine.

    Both of these drake mayflies hatch in riffles in streams, so that is where a fly fisher will notice large trout scooping this tasty meal, as it drifts down the choppy water. Trout will often move up into a riffle area at the head of a pool or run, to feed on this hatch.

    The trout will always start feeding by targeting the nymph, which floats on the surface as it transforms or emerges from its nymph exoskeleton. Some times an emerger pattern will be the best choice for the fly fisher.

    Some fantastic dry fly fishing can be had if you are on the water at the right time and place.

Above: The large Western Green Drake has a stubby body shape with three tails. The color is a dirty green with a yellowish ribbing. You can usually tie this fly on a size 12 dry fly hook.

Above: The parachute dry fly is the most commonly used dry fly design. I tied this one using elk hair for a tail, brown and grizzly hackle and a gray poly-propylene wing. The ribbing was a fine brass wire. The fly was tied on a size 12 dry fly hook.

West Nose Creek — 2014 Planting Update

    This past June, before the shoreline grasses and sedge got too high, I visited a number of planting sites on West Nose Creek, in Calgary. Some of the sites were from the 2014 “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program”.

    Although beavers had been grazing on a number of the plants, there were still areas where top growth stood out along the stream banks. The plants that had been sheared down to ground level were still alive and they should show above the grass in a year or two.

    The 2014 planting will transform the riparian zone along the creek in the next few years, providing more shade and cover along the stream banks.

Above: A number of 2014 willow plants that have avoided the attention of resident beavers in the creek. These plants will be the first to stand out on the landscape.

Another Stream Bank Stabilization Site

Above: This is a stream bank stabilization site on the Bighill Creek, one year after the first planting. The creek was in high flow conditions in this photo.

Above: This is the same stream bank stabilization site on Bighill Creek - four years after the first planting. The stream bank is still stabilizing with new willow growth.

Mid-Summer Trout  -  A Fly Fisher’s Challenge

    When the tall summer grass and sedges along small trout streams reaches its peak in growth, some streams are difficult to approach thru the dense, tall cover of willows and grass. But if any fly fisher is determined to find the wild trout that inhabit the narrow stream channel, the rewards can be significant. You just have to be prepared for some frustrating challenges.

    This is not your typical fly fishing, with standard casting techniques. The fly fisher has to adopt some simple dip and flip methods of getting your fly to where the trout are holding. Precise “bow and arrow” casts, along with some roll casting is also required. It is a great training ground for a totally different fly fishing experience for fishing small water. I personally love it.

    My preference in equipment is a light weight 7 foot 6 inch rod and sometimes I will use an 8 and 1/2 foot for the challenge. Short fly rods are a lot easier to travel thru the thick bush and work in narrow openings of tall shoreline grass. Especially canary grass, which can reach heights of over 6 feet in mid-summer.

    Over the years, I have met other keen fly fishers that also enjoy fishing on small trout streams. Like me, they love to find small creeks that don’t receive the fishing pressure that larger streams do, and you will often have a large area of creek that has not seem very much traffic thru the spring and summer. The trout also are not as picky as if they had been fished for on a regular basis.

    In the dense forest of growth, trout will usually take a fly when ever it is presented in their feeding zone, if the fly is the right pattern, either dry or wet imitations. Small stream trout are opportunists, so they are eager to eat or strike when they see your offering. Brook trout are my most targeted small creek trout, so finding a good population of them makes for a fun filled outing.

    However, brown trout will often inhabit the same small creeks, so an occasional large trout can sometimes be the reward. This combination of both brook trout and brown trout is usually the case on streams north of the Bow River, in an area that I like to fish. Headwater areas of some streams is where you will find high numbers of the brook trout and further downstream, the brown trout is the dominant trout that is found.

    When I fish small creeks for spooky wild trout, a lot of walking is usually required to find the eager feeders. It is more like a hunt, when compared to fly fishing the Bow River, where you find a good piece of water and fish it until you get lucky. Knowing fish habitat and reading water is key to having a good day.

    Once you have hooked into a few trout, you quickly start to learn about where they like to hold and how the best approach to fish key habitats that will produce results. The second time that you fish a stretch of good trout stream, you will be familiar with where the good pools and holds are, so your chances for success will improve.

    Some small creeks that I have fished on for years, I can actually visualize the entire reach in my mind, knowing where the best crossing spots are to get at good  pocket water and deep pools. Also, once you have made a path thru the thick shoreline grasses, your second trip is already defined in trampled down grass with good access spots to cast a fly.

    On the first trip to a small stream in mid-summer, I like to clear the grass along the stream bank by tramping it down, so that I can get access to cast.

When I make my second trip to the same stretch of creek, the key fishing spots are already easier to get at. However, this clearing of access is also good for someone else that fly fish’s the creek.


Above: If you can stay in the shade to make a cast, this will help conceal your presence. Small stream trout are especially spooky when it comes to any movement revealed by your shadow.

Below: Keeping a low profile when you approach the edge of the stream channel will make a big difference in your success. Tall shoreline grass can help keep you concealed from wary trout, especially if you are wearing a light or dark color of clothing, which will contrast with the shoreline cover.

Whirling Disease Resistant Rainbow Trout May Save Our Sport Fishery

    In the late 1800’s, Kamloops rainbow trout from the Columbia River system were transported to Germany. We got their brown trout and they decided to accept an exchange of rainbow trout. The rainbows were reared in a German hatchery and then released into local waters. Over time, somehow, the rainbow trout developed a resistance to the Whirling disease that was present in German streams and lakes.

    The native German brown trout had always been resistant to this disease, but the introduced rainbow trout had not. However, for this one particular strain, it developed a natural resistance over time. This was confirmed in a German laboratory. The Kamloops strain, with its resistant genetics, was called the Hofer strain. This name could have come from the individual that confirmed the rainbow trout’s resistance.

    Word spread about this new finding, and in 2004 and 2005, the Hofer strain was first introduced into the Gunnison River, in Colorado. The Gunnison trout fishery had been wiped out by Whirling disease in the early 1990’s, so their department of parks and wildlife was interested in re-establishing the fishery, with this new strain of rainbow trout. The Hofer strain was also successfully hybridized with other strains of rainbow trout that also became Whirling disease resistant.

    This new approach to dealing with Whirling disease in rainbow trout fisheries brings new hope for maintaining a healthy rainbow trout fishery for many North American trout streams. The existing trout streams that are either wiped out by the disease, or under threat, are now open to the possibility of restocking with a disease resistant strain of trout.

    Due to the fact that the Hofer strain has been reared for domestic food and pond fisheries in Germany, the strain is being hybridized with other wild strains to make their survival in the wild more viable. This hybridization may be possible with the Bow River rainbow trout strain in the future. However, this may all take time and it may be years before a totally resistant strain of rainbow trout resides in our local streams.

    What interests me, is the fact that the introduced Kamloops rainbow trout in German waters had developed their own resistance to Whirling disease, over time. It may well be that thru natural selection, our own Bow River rainbow trout may also survive the onslaught of Whirling disease in the future. I have to say that doing research for this article has brought the first good news to me personally, that there may well be hope on the horizon.

    As an avid fly fisher, I was really depressed when the first news of a Whirling disease outbreak on the Bow River had first been reported last year.


    In recent years there has been a noticeable decline of rainbow trout on our reach of the Bow River, between the Ghost dam and Bearspaw dam. When positive testing on a number of rainbow trout and whitefish samples were identified in 2016, I thought that the disease may be responsible for the decline in our local fishery on the Bow River.

    One of the positive samples was from a trout or whitefish that was captured on the lower part of the Jumpingpound Creek. With the Jumpingpound Creek being the only spawning tributary to the Bow River, between the dams, this was especially bad news. Juvenile rainbow trout are especially vulnerable to the disease, so newly hatch rainbow trout on the JP Creek, could fall victim to the parasite.

    Presently, there is also work being carried out by scientists to identify the genes in Hofer resistant strains that are immune resistant to whirling disease, so there is hope on that front as well. Is it possible to genetically modify strains of native rainbow trout? This is not a topic in my own wheel house, so I will leave it to the experts.

    For now, I will await to read more from our local provincial and federal fisheries biologists about this new approach in dealing with the latest scourge to our trout fishery. At least now I have something to hope for in the future.

How Will Whirling Disease Impact Our Fishery?

    It is still early in the game to know just what degree of impact that whirling disease will have on our local fishery. For many years now, the disease has been present in a number of river systems south of the border. Some rivers have maintained a sport fishery with the disease present and other sport fisheries have collapsed. This is probably related to environmental conditions and specific strains of trout that have some resistance to the disease.

    If the Hofer strain of Kamloops trout was capable of developing a natural resistance to the disease, other strains may also have this ability. Only time will tell. On some rivers to the south, biologists are studying new generations of juvenile rainbow trout to check the spore count in the fish to determine whether the fish has some resistance to the disease. Trout hatcheries a conducting selective breeding of rainbow trout to develop a resistant strain for re-introduction into the wild.

    All of this work will take time, but the promise of having an option or options available to deal with a whirling disease outbreak is encouraging. There has been a lot of press on the disease outbreak in our area and in these releases it is made clear that there is no cure for the disease. This

sad bit of news has left a lot of fly fishers very depressed about the future of their cherished sport fishery. Especially those that depend on the sport fishery for their livelihood, such as guides and outfitters.

    The outbreak of whirling disease has also been a disaster for those trout farmers that provide small lakes and ponds with rainbow trout for stocking programs. A number of local private trout hatcheries have been totally shut down, with huge losses. The lack of rainbow trout for stocking has had a tremendous impact of the  trout pond sport fishery in our area. Many private trout pond owners have invested heavily in their trout ponds and now are having trouble obtaining trout to stock them.

    If whirling disease has a major impact on our wild trout fishery, it will take years to deal with the problem of bringing the trout populations back. We can learn a lot from what approach fisheries managers to the south of the border have done over the last few decades to confront a whirling disease infestation, if it has a major impact on our own local fishery.

    The fact that it was first discovered in our Bow River watershed in 2016, means that it is still pretty early in the outbreak to know where we are headed and to what degree it will affect our fishery.

    One of the big questions that I have, is; “How long has the disease been present in our watershed?” The last time that testing for the disease was carried out on the Bow River watershed, before the 2016 discovery on Johnson Lake, in the Banff Park, was over ten years ago. During that testing no samples tested positive, so I am really curious to know how long it has been present in our watershed?

    It is my hope that our local strains of rainbow trout are better equipped to deal with this disease, than some of those in the USA. If they have a higher level of resistance to whirling disease, the long term impacts may not be as bad as we are afraid of. Only time will tell, with patience and hope being our best attitude.

    In the meantime, I will continue to monitor some of my favourite rainbow trout streams, watching for any decline in the fishery, especially with new generations that have recently hatched. I will be looking for any deformity.

    I have caught trout with deformed tails over the years, but I always thought that the damage may have come from electro fishing. Electro fishing does cause damage to young trout if the current settings are too high. This will result in damage to the spine on the trout. Now I will look at these trout with a different cause in mind.