Stream Tender Magazine

December 2016 Issue

“Mystery Solved on West Nose Creek”

    During the fall 2015 spawning survey redd count, I was puzzled by the number of smaller sized trout redds or egg nests that I identified on West Nose Creek. There was speculation that they may be brook trout redds which are typically smaller in size than brown trout redds.

    Trout Unlimited had electro fished a brook trout on the lower reach of the West Nose Creek in 2010, so the possibility of them being brook trout redds was definitely under consideration. I was hoping to find out during the 2016 angling survey, if there were any brook trout still present on the lower end of the creek. I found none.

    Finally, this mystery was solved while conducting the August angling survey on the lower reach of the stream. I caught a smaller sized mature brown trout hen or female, that was laden with eggs for the upcoming fall spawning period.

    The female brown trout was only approximately 13 inches in length and it was showing the typical bulge of a egg laden female trout. The fish had a thickness back inbetween the ventral fins that convince me that it was full of eggs for the upcoming fall spawn.

    It was also speculated that this trout may be from a generation reproduced on the West Nose

Creek, which may result in a smaller maturity size. A female brown trout is normally ready to produce eggs by year four, so the 13 inch female may be of that age.

    The next step is confirming this theory would be to actually observe the smaller trout spawning on the creek. This may happen this fall, but it would be a matter of timing and a little good luck to find out.

    It is surprising how much you can learn from an angling survey, which is a valuable tool in the study of a stream’s trout population. My preference is for a fly rod when conducting such a survey, the trout are returned back to the stream in good shape.

Above: This is a photo of one of the smaller sized trout redds observed and photographed in the 2015 fall spawning survey on West Nose Creek.

Above: This is the photo that I took of the mature female brown trout that I suspect was full of eggs for the fall 2016 spawning period on West Nose Creek. The trout was 13 inches long.

The Fly Pattern That I Used

To Catch The Brown Trout

    This Streaming Wet Fly Pattern is called the “Streaker” and it has produced many a good catch, while fly fishing my favourite brown trout and brook trout streams. It is tied most often on a size 8—3X streamer hook and I always use the barbell eyes for the well needed weight, to get the fly down deep.

    The bouquet of peacock herl for the tail is a common ingredient on many of my streaming wet fly patterns. The calf tail wing is the best choice that I have found for most of my stream wet flies. There is a bit of a crinkle in the hair that adds body to the wing pattern and makes it undulate with a superb action, when stripped through the water.

    I like to use the streaming wet flies when I am hunting for large trout. They just can’t seem to resist the color combinations that make the fly a great attractor pattern. Years of good success have proven this, for my own personal angling experience.

“Future Overhead Cover for Resident Trout”

    The title “Bio-engineering trout Habitat” is sometimes used to describe the creation of trout habitat by the use of native natural plants as a building material. In our riparian programs, native willows and trees are used to create long term natural habitat for trout.

    Both willows and trees growing along the water’s edge of a flowing stream will create fish habitat above and below the water’s surface. Over time, the woody debris created in a stream channel will help to constrict the flow and increase velocity as well.

    It is common knowledge to fish habitat professionals that woody debris in a stream channel also creates spawning habitats. This is achieved by causing the collection of spawning gravel at key locations, where the gradient and depth are ideal collection sites. This will happen if there is already suitable gravel present in the stream channel.

    On areas where there is adequate velocity and depth, willow and tree roots will provide good undercut banks and the overhead cover will provide shade and security for resident trout in the stream. After planting and at some point in the future, the willow and tree branches will end up in the water, further enhancing fish habitat in the stream.

    Any submerged woody debris creates invertebrate habitat, which increases the food supply for resident trout. The constriction of flow will also clean the silt from the bottom and reveal a gravel, cobble and boulder habitat underneath. This is also vital for various invertebrate habitats.

    Areas of stream channel that are exposed to sunlight, can develop thick weed growth that can smother the stream channel. When shade is created, the amount of weed growth is reduced and a more health habitat for trout is created.

Good velocity undercutting

the stream bank

Planted Native Willows will provide overhead cover for resident trout over time

Slower velocity areas with enhanced weed growth

Above: This photo shows a future habitat for resident trout, with the newly planted native willows along the stream bank.

“More Rock Dams Removed on the JP Creek”

    This fall, in September, an inspection of the lower end of the Jumpingpound Creek revealed only a few rock dams in the Town of Cochrane. In the spring there had been four, which had been opened up to allow fish passage upstream.

    On my tour of the lower end, I only had to open up a few, after the summer activities in the stream. When I say summer activities, I mean kids playing in the stream channel and building rock dams to entertain themselves.

    It appeared that someone else had opened up a few over the course of the late summer, which is very helpful.

    My trip to the stream was to make sure that the fall spawn of mountain whitefish and the spring run of spawning rainbows was not interrupted by any blockages on the lower end of the creek.

    This past spring was a dry one, with low water conditions in the JP Creek. When this happens, it is important to make sure that all obstructions are cleared, so that fish can move up the system.

    With the lower reach cleared this fall, the early spring migration of rainbow trout can get underway, when the trout move in from the Bow River. It is nice to have a few helping hands involved in this program to keep the creek navigable for fish

Above: Small blockages like the one shown above, prevent both trout and mountain whitefish from migrating upstream to spawn.

Above: After the small rock and stick blockage is removed, there is a clear route for fish migration up the Jumpingpound Creek.

Below: These electro fished JP rainbow trout are a first and second year class fish, which is typical for rainbows that use the creek as a nursery habitat, after they hatch in the stream. Both trout in this photo have been anesthetised for collecting data and where release unharmed.

West Nose Creek Fisheries Recovery Program

    Presently, there are pockets of brown trout on West Nose Creek as far as 9 kilometres upstream of the mouth, on Nose Creek. Few in numbers, but there is real promise that someday the population will increase substantially. At this time, there are water quality issues and most importantly lack of habitat on the stream.

    The Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program has been planting native willows and trees on West Nose Creek for the past three years now. The total number of plants planted on West Nose Creek thus far is 25,401 native stock and there are many more plants yet to be planted in future years.

    This riparian restoration program has the potential of making a huge difference in water quality, water temperate and fish habitat, both in the stream channel and draped above the surface of the creek. I am especially excited about the benefits of stream bank stabilization sites on the creek. As of this year, there are 97 stream bank stabilization sites that have been planted on along the stream.

    Stream bank stabilization sites are the outside bend in the stream channel that is vulnerable to erosion or is presently being eroded. By planting on these sites, the amount of silt loading into the stream channel is greatly reduced over time. The reduction in annual silt loading will have a huge positive impact on the long term health of the stream’s fishery.

    This will help clean up the streambed and also increase invertebrate populations in the creek, which are vital to the food chain for trout. Many areas of the stream’s bottom will be scoured down to gravel, cobble and boulder habitat.

    This will all take years to happen, but the initial steps in that direction have already been made. On Bighill Creek, in the Town of Cochrane, riparian plantings have been underway for a number of years now. Already, improvements to the streambed have been noted. Visually, I personally have noticed a huge difference in both water quality and streambed rock and organic aggregate that has been exposed.

    Brown trout are known to thrive in streams where both water quality and silt loading are problems, when compared to habitat that is more suitable for both rainbow and cutthroat trout. This makes the West Nose Creek brown trout population the best suited for a stream’s recovery or transformation into a sport fishery.

    Having a small brown trout population already established in the West Nose Creek, is a major bonus, so any improvements to water and habitat issues will see an increase in the number of trout.

Above right:

This photo shows one of the stream bank stabilization sites on West Nose Creek, which was planted in 2015. The willow plants in the photo are growing well and established a network of root mass.

 

Right:

This photo shows a typical reach of the West Nose Creek, in the City of Calgary.