Are the Red Deer browns in trouble?

Recent columns have drawn considerable reader comment and queries about the Red Deer River tailwater and its recovery and that of its creatures — mainly its formerly rich biomass of aquatic insects and its developing trophy brown trout fishery — from the ravages of the “200-year flood” exactly four years ago.

Recent columns have drawn considerable reader comment and queries about the Red Deer River tailwater and its recovery and that of its creatures — mainly its formerly rich biomass of aquatic insects and its developing trophy brown trout fishery — from the ravages of the “200-year flood” exactly four years ago.

The bugs seem to be back en masse, although their hatches are running two to three weeks later than usual owing to this dark, cold “spring.”

No sooner was I able to confirm that, finally, the chokecherries were in full bloom on the river’s banks than several angling readers took my advice to be there then and were reporting that, at last, the tailwater’s famous Skwala stoneflies were hatching.

But the eternal-infernal winds were blowing the Skwalas off the water and away from the trout; when the wind would subside briefly the stoneflies would return and get down to their egg-laying on the surface and the big trout would gulp them like tossed peanuts.

That keenest of all observers of the tailwater, guide Garry Pierce, reports the heaviest Skwala hatch he has ever experienced on June 1st, by far the latest he can recall. He is excited about the future of the river as a trophy brown trout fishery with such an abundance of fish fodder.

Well, maybe, but still I worry about the absence of younger age classes of browns in the river and if the surviving big spawners can breed them back into abundance, and the annual redd counts (brown trout “nests” the spawning trout scour into the gravel) for the four years since the ’05 disaster justify my worries.

In the fall of ’05, after the flood, the redds counted were down to 208 from the high of 547 in ’04. The redd numbers rose to 254 in ’06 and to 296 in ’07, then crashed to only 173 last fall, the lowest since 1999.

I am pondering possible reasons for the most recent drop.

Without really having had a spring yet, an important sign of fall landed in my mailbox a few days ago: the annual Hunting Draws booklet for the 2009 seasons, with its reminders that the deadline for applying for most draws is June 25th.

Many readers know that in most years the first half of June is absolutely critical to the hatching success of upland game birds.

Several readers have asked what I am hearing from pheasant country. The answer is absolutely nothing, and I am almost afraid to pack up my Brittany, Beau, and head south and east for “spring” training and the chance it gives us to assess what the cold spring has done to hatching success.

Last June’s trip was sad.

We found no young of the year because broods had sickened and died from the heavy rains just as the chicks were leaving the nests. The few second-nesting adults we found were mostly in alfalfa fields, a prescription for death when it comes time for the first hay cut.

There was a time when nothing could drive me crazier than the old chestnut that what we have here is a temperate climate.

Now I hear people exploding when they are told that the three lousy springs in a row are all because of global warming causing climate change.

What change? I ask. As far back as I can remember, the climate in this country has always been lousy and too intemperate: too wet, too dry, too hot, too cold, too you-name-it.

But Beau and I should probably steel ourselves and take the traditional June trip to Brooks.

If the pheasant hatch is late we can always chase the story a couple of faithful readers have tipped me on and find out what happened in the court case of pheasant hunters from B.C. caught and charged last fall with having in possession grossly over their limits of pheasants.

We could always take the long way around and see if Pincher Creek is fishable on its June 16th opening day for the first time in three or four years. Farther west, up in the Crowsnest Pass, Vic Bergman of Crowsnest Angler reports that the famous salmon fly hatch has started on the Crowsnest River, but fishing it was day-to-day, and more snow was expected, not to mention that, if it ever warms up, high runoff from the big snow pack in the high country will roil the waters. Summit Lake will remain clear and has been fishing well for triploid (eunuch) rainbow trout running to 3.5 kg

Over the Pass to the west, Fernie and waters in the vicinity will be hosting the 7th National Fly Fishing Championship and Conservation Symposium Sept. 21 -26.

The choice of dates has to be an act of blind courage, considering what the “temperate” climate in that area frequently serves up about the time of the fall equinox.

Bob Scammell is an awarding-winning outdoors writer living in Red Deer.

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives at the 2021 budget in Edmonton on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta launches COVID vaccine lottery with million-dollar prizes to encourage uptake

The premier says the lottery will offer three prizes worth $1 million a piece, as well as other prizes

Dharmesh Goradia, and his daughter Vidhi and wife Chaitali, at the 2017 festival for the Godess Durga, held at the Golden Circle. (Photo contributed)
Draft curriculum misses the mark for central Alberta Hindu society

Meeting scheduled with Alberta Education officials

Air Canada planes sit on the tarmac at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. Air Canada says it will recall more than 2,600 employees who were furloughed during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Alberta’s tourism sector hurt by COVID-19 pandemic: ATB Financial

Between border closures, public health measures and hesitancy to travel, Alberta’s tourism… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

A man wears a face mask as he walks by a sign for a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, May 16, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Canada paid a premium to get doses from Pfizer earlier than planned

OTTAWA — Canada paid a premium to get more than 250,000 doses… Continue reading

The Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., is shown in this 1930 handout photo. HO — Deschatelets-NDC Archives
Calls grow for Ottawa to review settlement decisions for residential school survivors

Lawyer Teri Lynn Bougie still cries when she talks about the final… Continue reading

Syringes are readied at a COVID-19 mobile vaccination clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, Friday, April 30, 2021 in Montreal. Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for Canada to donate some of its doses to other countries or international aid organizations and in at least three cases, for the doses to be resold.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada’s vaccine contracts allow for doses to be donated, in some cases resold

OTTAWA — Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for… Continue reading

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, responds to the report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Vancouver, on Monday June 3, 2019. As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Two sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

VANCOUVER — As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after… Continue reading

A woman sits and weeps at the scene of Sunday's hate-motivated vehicle attack in London, Ont. on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. Four members of a family in London, Ont., are set to be buried today. The public has been invited to help celebrate the lives of Talat Afzaal, 74, her son Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, and their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Salman.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins
Funeral to be held today for London family killed in attack

LONDON, Ont. — Four members of a Muslim family killed in what… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden listen to United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson deliver opening remarks at a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, United Kingdom Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau to discuss foreign policy with G7 leaders at second day of summit meeting

CARBIS BAY, CORNWALL, ENGLAND — Foreign policy is on the agenda for… Continue reading

Most Read