Stream Tender Magazine

December 2016 Issue

“Lower Bow River Trout Fishery — Three Years After the Flood”

    It has been three years now, since the 2013 Bow River Flood and the trout fishery is back in fine form. After hearing lots of good reports about the trout fishing on the Bow this spring and summer, it was now time to do some of my own assessment, with fly rod in hand.

    Floods are beneficial to the health of any trout stream. Large volumes of water can move trees and woody debris down a stream system, providing new valuable fish habitat in the stream channel. The movement of streambed materials, such as gravel, cobble and boulders, cleans the stream’s substrate and enhances new invertebrate populations.

    After fishing the Bow River since the flood in 2013, I have had the opportunity to experience the river’s trout fishing recovery. Starting this September, I managed to make a number of trips to fish the lower Bow. I noticed immediately that there was a huge improvement over my own results, when compared to last year.

    In 2015, there were lots of rainbow trout in the 12 to 14 inch size range, which held promise of a great fishing season in 2016. This prediction has proven true and this September I had the good fortune to experience this tremendous trout fishery’s recovery.

    One of the first things that I noticed, with the trout that I caught, was that they were in great conditions. Even the mouths of the fish, which usually show signs of being caught many times, were clean of hooking scars. The bodies of the trout were full and thick, with a bright sheen on the rainbows.

    Of course, the true test for any healthy trout is how well they battle, when hooked. There was no disappointment in that department. Acrobatics and freight train runs down the river by larger trout, showed that the trout were as healthy as can be.

    The late season rains had maintained good flows in the river, with ideal water temperatures and lots of food for the hungry trout, now fattening up for the winter months on the Bow.

    Another thing that I noticed this September on the Bow River, was the number of anglers, mostly fly fisher’s that get out on the water to enjoy this great fishery. Besides the many drift boats, full of fly fishing guides, clients and those that use them for recreational fishing, there were also plenty of walk and wade fly fisher’s like myself.

    The Bow River has maintained a world class trout fishery for many years now, and more and more people are partaking in this wonderful sport fishing resource. I like to get on the water to fly fish, early in the morning, to insure a good spot and less company on weekends.

    I may not fly fish on the Bow River as much as some other fly fisher’s do, or as I did many years ago, but it is always nice to know that it is there when I feel the urge to catch monster trout, or try to. There are many threats, such as different diseases that threaten this famous trout fishery these days. It is my hope that we can maintain a healthy population of trout in this river, so  all future anglers can continue to enjoy this fantastic resource.

“ A Few Nice Bow River Trout are Always Welcome”

“The Loch Leven Brown Trout — A Gift From Scotland Still Resides in the Bow River Watershed Today”

    The Loch Leven Scottish brown trout was the first strain of brown trout introduced into the Bow River in the 1920’s. Later on in the 1930’s, the German brown trout became the preferred strain for the Banff Hatchery. Today, genetic remnants of the Loch Leven are still residing in the Bow River watershed.

    Scottish brown trout don’t have the red or orange spots that are found on German brown trout. This makes it easy to recognize a Loch Leven strain of Bow River watershed brown trout. In the photo to the right, a close up of the side of this brown trout shows that there are no red or orange spots on this Bow River brown trout.

Right Photo:

    The large female rainbow trout in this photo took an interest in one of my nymph patterns this fall. It was too big for my net, so I removed the hook in the shallow water before releasing the trout.

    All of the larger trout that I caught this fall on the Bow River were fat and healthy fish, which is a good sign of things to come. Hopefully, next year I can return to fish the lower Bow River in the fall of the year, when trout are fattening up for the winter months.

Right Photo:

    The Loch Leven strain of brown trout in this photo also liked my fly pattern, which resulted in a brief photo session, before I release the trout. I caught this fine looking brown trout on a Copper John nymph, in late September this year.

    It was such a good example of a Scottish brown trout, so I decided to take its picture. The inside of my net hoop is 16 inches in length, so you can estimate the size of this fish. A great catch on that sunny fall day on the river.

Above: This rainbow had a size 4 bait hook in its mouth. I removed the bait hook before releasing the trout.

Above: There were lots of fat 12 to 14 inch rainbow trout available in the lower Bow River this last fall.

The Copper John

    One of my favourite nymph fly patterns for fishing the Bow River in the fall, is the “Copper John”. The distinguishing factor on this fly pattern is the copper wire abdomen and the peacock herl thorax.

    I like the pattern mainly because it sinks fast and it makes a good point fly, when nymph fishing a tandem setup, of two fly patterns on a leader. I fish both a size 14 and 16.

    Using a heavier gauge copper wire enhances the segmented appearance of the abdomen, which may be a little more enticing to a feeding trout. Also, the color of copper and gold seem to be very attractive to hungry trout, for some reason.

    In the fall, on the lower Bow River, there are important Baetis mayfly hatches that make smaller nymph choices the general rule. Smaller hook sizes can also be used for fooling well educated trout.

Below: This photo shows the red spots on a German brown.

This Year’s Volunteer Support Accomplishments

    This year’s largest donation of volunteer time was contributed to the “Bow Valley Riparian Recovery and Enhancement Program 2016”, with a total of 510 hours. Planting 16,425 native willow and tree plants takes a lot of work, but there were no complaints.

    If people know that their time and effort is being spent on something that will improve the natural environment, they roll up there sleeves and get the job done. I like to point out at volunteer events that the crew members will be able to return to the site, years down the road, to see what their plantings have accomplished.

    Streams such as Nose Creek and West Nose Creek are pretty much void of any willow and tree riparian growth, so working on a blank canvas will show dramatic results over time. A complete transformation of the planting sites will be easy to recognize.

    I have an extensive library of photos and video of the planting sites in their present condition, so in 5 or 6 years, I can create some great before and after comparisons in any future articles in this magazine and other publications.

    Besides the riparian plantings, Bow Valley Habitat Development had some help in major stream maintenance work on the Bighill Creek and West Nose Creek system this year. Mainly on the Bighill Creek and two tributaries; Ranch House Spring Creek and Millennium Creek. The maintenance work involved clean up and removal of blockages that would prevent fish migration both upstream and downstream.

    This work paid off during the spawning season this fall, especially on Millennium Creek, which needed extra attention. Another excellent spawning season on Millennium was the result. An ongoing stream maintenance program is very beneficial to the local fishery and volunteers that fish the area enjoy helping out, to take care and enhance their sport fishery resource.

    Another 55 hours of volunteer time was contributed to stream maintenance this year. You can also add 36 hours of spawning survey work to this total and 6 hours of angling survey effort, which isn’t really considered work. So it has been another successful year of both protecting and enhancing the local fishery. I look forward to 2017.