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Final Spring Planting Competed on June 8th

    The final spring riparian planting for the 2017 season was completed on June 8th this year. Volunteers from ATCO chipped in to plant the final spring batch of native willow plants along the stream banks of West Nose Creek, in Calgary. In just a few hours of hard work, a total of 500 plants were in the ground.

    This is the fifth year in a row that ATCO has completed a riparian planting project, as part of the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program”. The day of planting was part of ATCO’s annual “Day of Caring” event. A total of 12 volunteer planters helped complete the project.

    We have been luck with the weather on all five planting events that ATCO has participated in. The weather on the 8th of June was overcast, warm, but with a breeze. This made for idea planting conditions for the crop of new willow plants. Later on in the evening, we had a good rain that helped the new plants get off to a good start in their new environment.

    The soil along the West Nose Creek was moist and soft, which made for easy planting. When the conditions are just right, the planting goes very well and the survival rate on the new crop is generally pretty good.

Above: The new willow plants were planted by a group of happy planters, right along the edge of the stream bank on West Nose Creek, in the City of Calgary. The soil along the stream bank on the June 8th planting was moist and made the job of planting the 500 native willow plants a lot easier. As forecast, it rained later on that night.

Above: Overcast skies and a breeze made for ideal planting conditions for the crew of  ATCO volunteers.

Above: Volunteers start by filling their planting bags with the new willow plants. Then it is off to the edge of the creek to plant.

Beaver Grazing on Riparian Planting Sites  -  Willow Recovery

    When people ask me about beavers eating our plants, during a planting event, I tell them this: “Beaver’s don’t bother with our young plants until they are two or three years into growth”. It is not worth their time, because the plants are so small. And by the second and third year of growth, beaver grazing will not kill the willow plants in most cases.

    Willows are very resilient once they have established a good root system, so they can be cropped right to the ground surface and still continue to grow. When they do get sheared off at the base, they will recover with thicker growth. This can happen throughout the summer months, because it is natures way of the plant’s survival.

    In April of this year, while conducting a tour of a 2014 planting site on West Nose Creek, I noticed some of the plants from the 2014 planting had been sheared off, right at their base. On June 22nd, I returned to the site and took photos of the plants that had been grazed upon and saw that they were already producing new thick growth.

    This was not the first time that I had witnessed this, but I thought that I would take a few photos and share this bit of knowledge with you readers. Knowing that beaver damage is not the end of life for a previously planted willow can be a comforting thought.


    Soon after starting the riparian planting program on West Nose Creek, it became immediately apparent that beaver damage was going to be an issue on our planting program. However, when I say damage, it is only in the short term and eventually, our efforts would show good results over time.

    The key is too plant enough willow plants that future abundance of native willows will overtake the landscape, despite the beaver populations on the stream. This will happen, if enough plants are established on West Nose Creek. From that point in time, it will be up to the City of Calgary to manage the population and keep it in balance.

    The root systems from willow plants that have been grazed upon are still intact, so stream bank stabilization will still occur. It may just take a little longer for the visual aspects of riparian restoration work to be evident. The plantings completed on Bighill Creek, in the Town of Cochrane, have been more noticeable in recent years, due to the town’s beaver management policy, which I think is a good one.

    We will continue to conduct our riparian planting program on West Nose Creek and over time, the stream will start to transform into healthy riparian habitat for both fish and wildlife. There will also be great benefits to the water quality on the creek.


Above: The base of this willow was sheared off in April of this year, by a beaver. The new growth shows the plant’s survival was not threatened by this grazing.

Right Photo:


    You can see two of our 2014 plants were eaten down to the ground but continue to grow; even thicker than before. This is just part of natures way of having willow plants provide food for beavers,  yet they continue to grow after this type of grazing activity. Nice to see.

Great Rainbow Trout Hatch on the JP Creek

    It has been a long spell, since I last observed a new hatch of rainbow trout from the Jumpingpound Creek. After a friend told me of lots of small rainbow trout were seen on the JP this year, I decided to walk down to the Bow River to see if I could spot some small rainbow trout rising.

    A few days after the report of a new generation of rainbows, I did my morning walk down to the Bow River. Hunkering down, I watched the water for a few minutes before I saw the first small trout rise, then another. The next step would be a fly fishing trip to confirm that the small trout were in fact rainbows and not browns or brook trout from the Bighill Creek, which was a short distance away.

    A day past, before I decided to talk an hour or two to fish the Bow and see if I could hook a small trout. It was very hard to actually hook into such a small trout, but after countless hits and brief hook ups, I managed to land a small trout. Yes, the good news was that they were indeed rainbow trout from the 2016 spawning and hatch on the JP Creek.

    This was an excellent surprise for me personally. The lack of catch able size rainbow trout in the Bow River in our reach, has been terrible in recent years, due to the decline in recruitment from the JP Creek spawn. Now there was hope for a few years into the future that we would see more trout to catch and release in our home waters, between the Ghost Dam and Bearspaw Dam.

    On that day, I also did manage to catch a few small brown trout as well, which is always a good sign. Along with a 14 inch brown trout, so that was a bonus. With the whirling disease in our reach of the Bow River, it was very encouraging to see that a good number of small rainbow trout were finally present in the river.

    The Jumpingpound Creek is the only spawning tributary in our reach of the Bow River, so any successful spawning and hatch of rainbows is very important to this length of the Bow River fishery. I can guarantee that I will be closely monitoring rainbow trout reproduction into the future and hopefully report good news.



This small rainbow trout was caught and released in the second week of July 2017. The trout was from the 2016 rainbow trout spawn and hatch on the Jumpingpound Creek. The tiny trout was one of many that were present in the stretch of the Bow River that I was fishing on that day. This method of determining reproduction of our local rainbow trout population works well. Simply by fly fishing a small fly pattern, you can confirm how successful the previous year’s spawn and hatch was on our local reach of the Bow River.

Rock Dam Removal May Be Helping Out

    A few years ago, a rock dam removal program was untaken on the lower end of the Jumpingpound Creek, near the mouth. During the hot summer months, kids like to retreat to the lower end of the JP to cool off and play in the summer flows of the creek.

    During their recreation, a lot of small and some large rock dams are built to help create deeper pools for soaking in. These rock dams inhibit spring migration of spawning rainbow trout, so a volunteer program was put in place to open up the dams in the late fall, so that trout could move up the system.

    It only takes a few minutes to open up a rock dam and the benefits of this are of great importance to the rainbow trout fishery on the JP and Bow River. During low spring flow periods, trout have enough difficulty in moving up the system, to have to also deal with man-made obstructions on the lower end of the creek.

    By opening up the rock dams, a larger number of spawning rainbow trout can move up the system during the spring of the year. Any small programs to assist re-production of rainbow trout on our reach of the Bow River, are well worth the effort.

Below: Juvenile brown trout like this one are a good sign of successful re-production of brown trout on both the Bighill Creek and the Bow River, below Ghost Dam. Both are known spawning areas for the brown trout.

More Bow River  Brown Trout These Days

    One thing that I have noticed, from my own experience these days, is that there are more larger brown trout, than rainbow trout, in our local reach of the Bow River. Large trout in the local Bow River are pretty scarce as well. This seems to be related to the lack of rainbow trout re-production, in my view.

    The fact that the chances of catching a large brown trout are far better than catching a rainbow, is something that I have learned to accept. I am not complaining about the presence of more large brown trout, I am just pointing out that things have definitely changed over the years, on our reach of the Bow River.

    Ten  to twenty years ago, you could catch multiple rainbow trout in the 12 to 14 inch size range in the local Bow, and in the spring, larger rainbow trout were common. Nowadays, there are very few rainbow trout in this size range.

Below: This locally caught brown trout was safely released back into the Bow River, in Cochrane. The brown was approximately 14 to 15 inches.

    When I was trying to catch a small rainbow trout, to verify a successful hatch of rainbows in 2016, I got lucky and caught a 14 inch brown trout, to finish off my trip. Trout this size, are a real treat for me, on the Bow River in Cochrane. Every now and then, I will catch one, or hear of other fly fishers getting lucky the same way.

    The 14 inch trout that I caught that day, jumped clear of the water three times. This brought back fond memories of days gone by on the local Bow and I hope that some day I will see a recovery of the local river sport fishery.

    Now that there is a 0 catch limit on our reach of the Bow River, I feel that this should help a bit. For those that like to harvest trout, they will probably fish elsewhere. This reduction in angling pressure will insure more smaller trout that are released, can now survive into maturity.

Great Willow Growing Season This Year

    We may not have had a lot of rain this spring, but what we did get came at just the right time, for our willow plants. Ideal growing conditions means a high survival rate and lush growth for previously planted crops.

    With most of the plants being planted right along the water’s edge, moisture from the stream also helps to sustain the plants during dry spells. Later on in the summer this year, we had plenty of dry

weather, but by that time the plants had already developed good root systems.

    These good growing conditions don’t happen every year, but when they do, a high yield of new riparian growth is our reward.

    The first year after planting is always important for riparian plantings. If the plants are well developed by the fall frost, they have a much better chance of surviving the winter months.

    We will know for sure this next spring, when the ice leaves.