Yellow Chromer

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A Pleasant Surprise

    Something that I have noticed over the years is the ability of how some previously planted plants will recover after suffering a temporary stop in their growth. I have seen plants that appear dead, suddenly produce new growth from ground level, at the base of the cutting.

   This can happen a few years after the plants have appeared to have died. It is always a pleasant experience seeing this happen. Any additional plants that are destine to survive is always a bonus to our planting program.

    It is my belief that the new growth on these survivors is from deep growing shoots that maintain enough nutrient and water from the bottom of the cutting that they eventually break the ground and start to grow.

    One year, I conducted an experiment with some cuttings that I had grown for a fall planting program. I decided to keep a number of the plants for over wintering. In the following spring, the top of some of the willows appeared to be dead, but on the lower portion of the cutting, there were new shoots growing up the shaft of the cutting.

    This lead me to believe that you should not write off a plant that appears to be dead in the first season after planting. The number of times that I have observed this happening is relatively low, but it is interesting to see it happen.

    It will also be interesting to observe how the plants that do survive this way, fair over future years. I have also noticed this happen on more mature plants. Good to see these survivors still hanging on.

Above: This cutting appears to be dried out and dead, but at the plants base, new growth is starting to take place.

Still Hanging On

    On eroding stream banks, any plants that have been planted to help stabilize them need a number of years growth before the root systems are large enough to re-enforce the soil. Until this happens, the plants may be displaced by ongoing erosion, but they still hang on and continue to grow.

    When toe erosion occurs on loose slopes of exposed soil, the soil will continue to collapse and slide into the stream channel, even when they have received plantings a few years prior to this erosion occurring. However, once the root systems are allowed to establish themselves in the exposed soil, they help to anchor the new plants and prevent them from being washed away.

    I have observed this happen a number of times over the years and the plants manage to continue to grow, once the cuttings are totally displaced from the soil. The remaining roots will still keep the plants alive until further sliding of loose soil covers them back up.

    After this occurs, the plants end up growing right on the surface of the water, where they will provide great fish habitat in the future and help keep the bank stable. They will also reduce flow velocity along the bank.

    I have also observed newly planted willows being totally covered by bank slippage, but the willow plants continue to grow, showing foliage above the soil by the end of the season, or in the following growing year. The key is for the plants to have deep enough root systems to help anchor the plant when the bank slides or it is eroded at the base, or toe, by high flows in the stream.

    This natural recovery of the plants is a bonus to our overall riparian planting program. After this occurs, further planting treatments are usually planned for the eroding stream bank. Over time, with a little persistence in the planting program, the stream bank will be stabilized.

    The costs involved in stabilizing stream banks in this manor are minimal, when you compare the technique with other options such as wattle fences, log-walls and so on. A few dollars worth of plants can go a long way in stream bank stabilization work, if the streams have rich enough soil to support new native willow and tree plants.

    Willow and tree cuttings that end up still hanging on after continued toe erosion may appear to be in jeopardy, but surprisingly, they can live on.

Above: These planted willows have been undercut by toe erosion, but they are still hanging on with well established root systems. Over time they may survive and continue to grow. Future slippage of soil on the eroding bank, may cover them back up.

Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement

Program  -  July 2017 Growth  Progress Update

    The fact that the majority of plants were in the ground by the end of May this year, advanced growth has been the result. With all plants having both root and top development by the time they were planted, this gives them a head start for the year’s growing season.

    We didn’t have a lot of rain this spring, but what we did get came at the right time for our crop of native willows and trees. Also, the ground was very moist for every planting day. As is always the case, planting next to the water’s edge, in the capillary fringe, insures that the plants get good moisture for rapid growth.

    This year’s rodent damage hasn’t been as bad as on previous years. This may have something to do with ample forage being available, other than our plants. The rodent population could be lower than on other years as well.

    Both West Nose Creek and Nose Creek have been especially bad streams for planting, due to rodent damage, but not so much this year. The Bighill Creek beaver populations have been managed by the Town of Cochrane, so there isn’t as much beaver damage as there is on the other streams.

    When we experience a good growth season, the advanced growth of both willows and trees gives them a better chance of surviving the winter months, so I expect to see a lot of healthy plants this next year on all three streams. The root systems should be well established by the time the frost is in the ground, this year.

    I noticed that last year’s plants have also grown very fast this year. More so than on some previous years, when we have experienced a dry spring, like we did last year. I hope that this continues.

Below: This willow from the 2015 planting season, is starting to develop some thick growth over the last few years. The plant photo was taken on West Nose Creek in the middle of July this year.

Above: This West Nose Creek willow was planted in the first week of May and the photo was taken in mid-July.

The Black Squirrel  -  A Streaming Wet Fly

    I tie the Black and Red Squirrel Streaming Wet Flies, for fishing the Bow River during the high spring flows of run-off. The difference of the two fly patterns is the color of the body, one is dubbed with black yarn or dubbing and the other is dubbed with red. The tail and wing are red fox squirrel tail, using the hairs from the top of the tail.

    Both patterns are tied on a size 8 streamer hook, which seems to be the right size for enticing river brown and rainbow trout. The ribbing is pearl Mylar, the hackle is Indian Hen back (natural) and the head is dubbed with a tan dubbing. I use a medium size yellow barbell eye to sink the pattern and attract large trout. It is a simple but effective streaming wet fly for the Bow River.

    Back in July of this year, my plan was too fish a small brook trout stream, using my short 7 foot—six inch fly rod. In my hast to get out of the door at my house, in the early morning hours, I grabbed the wrong fly rod. This was only realized when I got to the small creek and started to put on my hip wadders and assemble  the fly rod. It wasn’t a really big deal, because I could still fish the 9 foot, 5 weight rod with little difficulty.

    The 9 foot rod still had a black squirrel streaming wet fly on the leader, so I thought that before I changed to one of my many other choices of fly pattern, I would give the black squirrel a try. Maybe I was also being a little lazy at the time.

    It was late enough into the summer that a dark color of streaming wet fly, might just be the hot pattern for the day. A similar pattern of streaming wet fly that I use for small brook trout streams is the Ruff McDuff, so the black squirrel wasn’t that far off in appearance. If it didn’t produce any action, early in my fishing, I could always change to something else.

    As it turned out that day, the black squirrel did its job just fine. On the first good trout holding pool that I came to, I hooked a nice brook trout of approximately 10 inches, which is a large sized trout for the creek that I was fishing. In the following two hours, a few more brook trout were steered into the net.

    A simple error of grabbing the wrong fly rod that morning had lead me to discover another good fly pattern for small creek brookies. It was a pleasant surprise — for a fly pattern that I hadn’t really considered a good option for small stream trout in the past. This is typical for fly fishing; you never know what fly the trout will respond to, before you hit the water.

Hard Fishing Pays Off

Below: Fly Fisher Ian George spends a few early morning hours fishing the Bow River in Cochrane. After two hours of hard fishing, he manages to catch a few whitefish and the chunky brown trout to the right.

    The lack of larger trout in the Bow near Cochrane makes the job of catching one hard work; with a lot of casts over likely looking water before a hook up is made. This is a game for only those that have the determination to find a trout in relatively barren water. .

Above Photo: Ian George

New Generation of Black Cottonwoods on the JP Creek

    This summer, I noticed lots of new Black cottonwood trees present on the numerous sand and gravel bars created by the 2013 flood. Black cottonwood trees require flood events to facilitate the propagation of new generations of the plant.

    The sand and gravel bars provide the perfect growing medium for the seeds from the mature trees upstream. Many of seeds are buried

beneath a covering of silt and gravel during a receding flood in the spring or summer, so the seeds have a moist environment to germinate in.

    The ongoing flooding on rivers and streams is vital for sustaining new growth. It has been noted that the creation of reservoirs and dams on river systems reduce the propagation of new generations of this majestic poplar tree.

The Jumpingpound Creek

Willows Growing For Fall Planting

    Presently, there is a total of 1,337 native willows and trees growing for the 2017 fall riparian planting. Six hundred of those will be planted on the Bighill Creek, in the Town of Cochrane and 737 will be planted on West Nose Creek, in Calgary. This planting, when completed, will bring the total number of native plants for this year’s program up to a total of 8,567.

    This will be another great year for the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program” on Bighill Creek, Nose Creek and West Nose Creek. Since the program was first started in 2014, we have planted a total of 50,398, when this fall’s planting has been completed. I am really pleased that we broke the 50 thousand plant mark this year and there is cause for celebration for Bow Valley Habitat Development and participating partners in the 4th year of this very worthwhile riparian planting program.

    Starting early this fall, Bow Valley Habitat Development will begin working on the 2018 Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program. As of this year, we have planted native willows and trees on over 30 kilometres of stream bank and this distance will increase as the program forges ahead in the future.