River Conditions

Dispatches from beside the Pink Bridge, 2015

This report will be updated when there are significant changes in flow, temperature, bug activity or shifts in fishing pressure.

Southern Alberta river flows

Check River Views for a May 30 update.
March 21, 2015, the date of the last report, found the river waiting to receive melt-water from a near two-foot dump of snow.  While both Allison and McGillivray Creeks did muddy the following weekend, snow holding back sediment and a very slow warming kept turbidity to reasonable levels for the most part.
Blairmore and Lyons Creeks again led the turbidity hit parade over the last while with York, Star and others displaying some colour before clearing nicely after the melt.
Anglers are now reporting successful outings on the lower Crowsnest River and there are bugs in the air.  Spring has sprung!
mcgillvray
The turbidity in McGillivray Creek March 28, shown at side, came from above the suspected and usual sediment load points in the Knowles Flats staging and random-camping area.  The following picture, taken from the second last bridge on the spur road to the Bible camp shows the need to investigate load points along what Sinister 7 organizers suggest “could be the wettest and dirtiest trail in Canada”.  The trail, which parallels the creek for many kilometres is simply a horrific example of what an OHV trail can become when poorly placed and poorly maintained.
Due to the noted conditions, I was unable to proceed past this point and paused to wonder why Sinister 7 chooses to use it and the many similar industry roads, right-of-ways and OHV trails on the course?  Many would perceive Sinister 7 as a race for those who are likely to care about such things; perhaps the exposure will assist in the creek’s recovery?
Flows in the Crowsnest River approached 10 m3/sec during the late-March melt, nearing the low-end of historic spring run-offs and is understandable when one considers most of the snow below 5,500 feet has melted several times over the winter and again during this event.
Disturbingly, the Crow’s flow has continued to drop all month, now below 5 m3/sec putting it within the normal range, but moving in the wrong direction for April. Other than Lyons and Blairmore, all headwater creeks have run exceptionally clear this month and even those two have cleared considerably.
Visibility in Lyons Creek is three to four feet as of this writing; exceptional indeed!  Rumour has it, help may be on the way for Lyons Creek.
allisonAs clear as the Crowsnest River now runs, it’s a false reality as the sediment has only paused, waiting on the rain. The above picture shows one of many sediment load points on the Atlas Road. The East ditches drain freely to a braided tributary from the West flank of Crowsnest Mountain before entering the actively collapsing culvert.  After picking up run-off from the West ditches, the now channelled tributary, continues down-slope to Allison Creek, the home of imperilled Westslope Cutthroat Trout.
I’m working with ESRD ( a process begun last Fall), to secure this, and similar issues on the Atlas Road, which after summiting this watershed, continues on through Bull and Cutthroat Trout habitat in the Racehorse watershed; any encouragement provided to ESRD to attend to this would be most welcome.
Copy and photos by Kevin Turner, a Crowsnest Pass-based naturalist focusing on fisheries and cumulative effects issues.
March 21, 2015

Sadly, the turbid nature of the Lower Crowsnest River experienced by fly fishers last weekend and reported on the Fly Fish Calgary forum was primarily due to only two tributaries: Lyons Creek which consistently pumps tremendous amounts of sediment into the Crowsnest river due to the lack of any meaningful effort by the responsible agency, ESRD, to mitigate the aftermath of the Lost Creek Fire (could this be connected to the Southern Rockies Watershed Project?), and new to the list of primary offenders since Riversdale Resources started working on their Grassy Mountain project – Blairmore Creek which has run relatively clear for many years prior to this disturbance.crowlyons

Fortunately upstream tributaries, except for York Creek which presented a slight greenish-brown tinge, remained clear. This was likely due to the higher elevations of these tributaries, snow acting as sediment barriers, the previously thawed ground accepting melt water, and the gratefully slow warming experienced after the major snow event early in the week.

This weekend may present a different scenario with temperatures forecasted to hit the high teens with plenty of sunshine. Historically, this finds both Allison and McGillivray Creeks joining Lyons as the ‘dirty three’ due to runoff from the many cut-blocks and OHV trails in the watersheds and from the Atlas Road in the case of Allison Creek.

Also, this weekend will likely be the first test of the considerable effort put forth by Canfor to protect both Star and Girardi Creeks from the Southern Rockies Watershed Project’s experiment currently underway. Canfor ceased operations March 14, 2015 in keeping with the primary mitigation strategy for protecting the populations of Westslope Cutthroat Trout present in both streams of working only on frozen ground.crowblairmore

It’s my understanding that ESRD may allow the work to resume in July, the ‘dry season’ ( a misnomer in this regard given the springs, seeps and geology of the area), as the project is currently only around 70% complete. This viewscape, now horribly scared by the project and visible to all who travel Highway Three will now be a constant reminder of the need to “measure twice and cut once”.

Copy and photos by Kevin Turner, a Crowsnest Pass-based naturalist focusing on fisheries and cumulative effects issues.

January 7, 2015

Nymph fishing was fine during the early holiday period, but continued cold snaps have frozen most stretches of the Crow, Some banks fed by underground springs remain open, and  often attract trout. Wading and walking is difficult due to ice and snow.crowwinter
A cougar killed a young whitetail buck 80 paces from the bridge last night, and ravens and a bald eagle now are making a feast of the sparse remains.

October 7

It’s early in the week, so of course the fishing forecast for the next several days looks splendid. Mostly sunny skies, temperatures well above normal. Shirt-sleeve weather again, and the bugs are out in abundance.crowautumna
The Crow is well known as one of the best fall trico fishing rivers around, especially for large and wary rainbows, so box your Griffith’s gnats right next to your BWOs and hoppers. That might be all you need.
Autumn colors are beyond peak, depending on what area you’re fishing. Heavy snow of a week ago, followed by strong winds knocked many leaves to the ground even before they could turn color.
This is the fourth or fifth “dull” fall pageant in a row, and oldtimers say it’s due to unusually wet and humid conditions for this time of the year.

 

October 2
The “flurries” that were forecast turned into a shin deep dump of snow last night and early this morning.
That’ll make overland travel a bit tough, but it shouldn’t do much to dampen the BWO hatches that have been a happening recently.
Not surprisingly, fishing pressure is way down. Expect good hopper angling to return during the weekend. The forecast looks promising.
Once all the snow melts off the leaves you’ll also find a return to autumn colors as well.

 

September 9
No doubt about it, the Crow and all other regional rivers are higher and flowing at far greater velocity than normal for early September.
The added volume, caused by nearly eight inches of rain in the already saturated headwaters, has made flshing even more challenging, although some anglers are reporting sporadic hatches of midges and blue winged olives. And some caddis as well.
The hoppers are so sluggish as to be non-existent.
Cold rain and snow is in the forecast for the next two days, followed by mild sunny weather later in the week.
September 8
Make no mistake about it…the Crow, Castle, Oldman and other regional streams are running fairly clean. But boy are they fast and high. Unusually high for this time of year.
If you think it’ll just be a stroll upstream, be aware. And extra wary.
Fishing has been fair with small mayflies and midges. More rain and snow is in the forecast two days from now, followed by a clearing trend.
September 3
Whoa . . . what happened to the crystal clear flows and sunny, warm conditions of a few days ago?
And what’s with all that snow up in the hills?
That’s what a lot of numbed and disoriented anglers are wondering today.
Rack it up to six inches of rain that have fallen at valley level during the past week. The Crow like all other regional streams is running high, fast and muddy.
It’ll take a few days of dry, sunny weather (which happen to be in the forecast) to bring things back to near normal.

August 26

All streams in the region have dropped and cleared, and very good fishing has resumed.

The three-plus inches (75 mm) of rain of a week ago quickly soaked into the parched soil, and seemed to have little impact on either this year’s hopper or mosquito crop. crowflowaug27

Fishing lately on the Crow has been best using pale evening duns, pmds, midges and caddis.
The mayflies this time of the year,  generally speaking,  start getting smaller and darker.

Angling pressure seems surprisingly light this summer.

There are some black bears in the area, but the berry cop this year is generally poor so it’s likely most of the bruins will move on.

August 23

A three-week drought here was drenched the past two days with nearly four inches of steady, moderate rain. As a result all regional rivers from the Belly to the Oldman are running fast and dirty . . . with the exception of the Crownest.

The Crow remains quite clear and easily navigable, although trout may be a bit disturbed by the sudden rise in levels. Thankfully the dry earth quickly absorbed much of the precip.

The water temperature at 7:30 p.m. Friday was 49F or 9.3C. That’s a couple of degrees higher than the air temperature.

Rain remains in the forecast today, but a week-long clearing, warming trend is expected to begin Sunday.

July 25

The mosquito problem has been solved.

They’ve all blown to Manitoba, along with a lot of ball caps, lawn furniture and anything else that’ll try and find purchase on solid ground. Howling winds of 80 to 100 kph have wreaked havoc with fly lines and patience the past few days, but alas the forecast looks great . . . of course, as soon as the weekend is over.

All that aside, angling has been very, very good on the Crow and all regional streams. Hoppers are in abundance as are Caddis and golden stone flies as well as some drakes and pmd’s.

Wading is easy and waters are now gin clear. Fishing should only improve for the next 10 days or so.

July 3

The Crow continues to drop and clear rapidly after a warm-weather-week void of thunderstorms. For the first time this spring it is crossable in select spots. The current is still swift, but you can see the clarity improve by the hour.

Caddis hatches now add to the array of stoneflies hovering over the river.
The forecast for the coming week: sunny, warm and dry.
Mosquitoes remain horrific along the floodplain.

June 23

The Crow has dropped considerably the past several days, and conditions look promising for the weekend, if not before.
And if thunderstorms can be kept at bay.crowjun28a

Water temperature at noon was  9 C (48 F). Visibility almost waist deep, but flows remain swift.

The usual bridge abutment inspection shows a lot of golden stones and a few salmon flies emerged the past couple of days.
High flows earlier this month have altered the layout of some runs. Expect changes.

Mosquitoes are horrific again.

June 18

The river runs high and dirty, but only the most minor of flooding is being reported along the Crowsnest.fallsjune18

Despite more than nine inches of rain during the past 48 hours the Crow is staying within its channel this afternoon and most flood forecasts have been called off. Luckily most of the mountain snowpack melted away during the past month, and rains the past two days were accompanied by cold air which slowed mountain stream flows.

The forecast calls for an end to the drizzle and a return to hot sunny days. Still it should be a week or more before things settle down enough to consider serious angling.

(This is not a sink-hole photo of the river above the Pink Bridge !  This is a shot of the Crowsnest River in flood 6/18/14 at Lundbreck Falls.)

June 17

Anglers on opening day (yesterday) generally had good conditions and good success on the Crowsnest from the upper reaches to below the Three Rivers (Oldman) Reservoir.

Today, after a four-inch (100 mm) rainfall, it’s a totally different situation. The river is running fast, muddy and at the top of the annual high-water mark. Ditto for all other rivers and streams in the region which have stream flow advisories attached.

With another three to five inches in the forecast don’t expect the situation to change for the better any time soon.

June 10

Amazingly, the Crow is flowing at manageable rates with visibility to three feet. Mind-you, you’ll be stuck on one side or the other, as flows are too fast and deep to think about crossing any time soon.

Salmon flies have been fairly common along the lower portion of the river, And the few anglers who’ve been out the past few days report that angling is good enough to hold one’s attention. Most success recorded on stonefly nymphs and streamers. Few trout have been taking surface bugs.crowjun11

Meanwhile, the smell of blossoms and the symphony of thousands of mating songbirds fill the air. Morels are a bonus.

The five day forecast into next weekend calls for mixed sun and showers, some thunderstorms and cold nights that should keep remaining snowpack at bay.

The general fishing season begins next Monday June 16.

May 26

Might as well mend those waders, search for that missing box of stone nymphs, and replace your leaders and tippet.
It’s gonna be a while before you’ll need any of the above, especially if you’re considering virtually any East Slope river.maycrow

The Crow is still in the very early throes of spring runoff, which this year looks to be exceptionally furious.

The first “warmish” temperatures of the year arrived last week and thankfully whisked away a lot of low elevation snowpack. Yet a record-breaking high elevation snowpillow remains nearly unscathed.

One promising note comes from the lake anglers who are doing well on waters that were freed of ice two weeks ago. Most have been stocked with rainbow fingerlings that merely get in the way, but a few regional lakes were just recently stocked with brood stock that run to 10-pounds.

May 16

Good weather for tying flies and reading.

The Crow is running at its highest and muddiest level of the spring. And with rain in the forecast it’s bound to remain that way into next week anyway.

April 22, 2014

A record March snowfall across the Rockies from Waterton Park to north of the Oldman River has assured yet another long, drawn-out spring run-off.

A quick glance at provincial figures shows moisture in Southern Alberta’s mountain snowpack is 20 to 40% above the 40 year average, as well as last year’s snowpack that aided the floods of June 2013. Spring rains will have the final say on this year’s runoff and just how long into July it will last.

The Crow is currently running dirty and at a moderate pace. With cold temperatures in the forecast for the next week, expect it to drop and clear. Fluctuating conditions will continue through May. The colder the nights, the clearer the flows the following day.

April 17

Overcast, calm conditions and temperatures just above freezing should have prompted some small mayfly hatches today.
The Crow is running clear and low again with ankle-deep, fresh snow lining the banks. That will slowly change by the weekend.

The forecast calls for breezy cool conditions until Saturday when melting temperatures will likely raise the river’s turbidity.
The ground is well saturated from one of the wettest winters in recent years

April 2

The Crow’s flows are low and clear with decent fishing for large rainbows using streamers and wet flies.
Any day now Blue Winged Olives and midges should appear…if they already haven’t.april2acrow

Air temperature today with near calm conditions was 12C at 3 p.m. Water temperature was 6.7C or 44F.
The river has been clouding over slightly late in the day as riverbank snow continues to melt into the flow.

The weekend weather calls for mostly sunny skies and warmer temperatures. Angling pressure has been light mid-week.

After the weekend warm temperatures (in the 20C-range) are forecast. If that occurs flows will increase and clarity will suffer, probably considerably. Snowpack along the river and across mid elevation benches is much higher than normal.

Jan. 8, 2014

It was one of those rare, beautiful January days where we benefited from Chinook conditions without the wind. A mix of sun and high cloud and temperatures that hovered about plus 4C nearly all day. Even better weather is in the week-long forecast. Wading is easy, but getting from run to run can be difficult if navigating a lot of wind-polished ice is involved.
Best to take it cautiously.

Dec. 2, 2013dec2crow

What a difference a day makes! Gloveless hands and light jackets yesterday, parkas and mukluks today.
 Mink and mallards seem to be the only things on the rapidly freezing river this afternoon.
No doubt they’ll be joined by the usual hardy groups of angl
ers who annually come a ‘casting on the Equinox Dec. 17 and New Years Day.

Meanwhile, Happy and safe holidays to all…!

Dec. 1

The year’s first serious cold front seems to be on the way. Fishing up to today had been unseasonably excellent.
A surprising number of flyrodders were giving it a go Sunday, nymphers having the best success.

The Crow has been crystal clear with flows higher than average for this time of year.
Overcast and dead calm. An air temperature of 6C at noon.

The first real blast of winter should come tomorrow night out of the north. Huge flocks of geese now fill the air just ahead of the cold.

Fresh grizzly, cougar and wolf tracks are present just two km east of here on the Sara property.

Nov. 26

A magical day beneath the Chinook arch. Forecasts for wind in the 70 click range never panned out. It was calm and the sun appeared about 2 p.m. Temperature reached about 10 degrees C. A couple of other fishermen on the river, one just leaving below the silver bridge at the Burmis TUC lease as I was starting.
The river was quite accessible above Highway 507, but ice on the shore was tricky. Around the Burmis silver bridge, ice could keep you off the water. Downstream at the pink bridge, access easy.
A grey goose nymph (it’s been in my box unused for 20 years) as a dropper from a stonefly nymph attracted one hefty rainbow.
Beaver on the water, 15 wild turkeys in a field near the river and a couple of deer always heighten the experience.
It’s worth watching for temperatures above zero and checking someone who lives in the Pass to see if the wind is actually doing what weather forecasters are predicting.

Oct.19

‘Twas the kind of evening that we’ll all long for in a month or so.
Sipping rainbows and no one around.
Dead calm with an awesome autumn sky and all you need, maybe, is a down vest.

A look at the forecast says this will last for a week.
To miss it would be sinful.

Oct.16

The weather and the fishing have sparkled this fall. The first killing frost wasn’t recorded until the first week in October, and although there’s snow in the mountains it remains fall-like on the valley bottom.

Large, sporadic midge hatches are producing some hectic dry fly fishing using Griffith’s gnats and small parachute Adams. BWOs still remain active as temperatures have been chilly at night and mild and humid during the afternoon.

Autumn colors, for what they were worth this year, peaked on the Thanksgiving weekend. Colors were dull again, seemingly the result of another wet fall. Aspen, cottonwood and choke cherry colors seem most brilliant when it’s hot and dry, and there hasn’t been a dry fall in several years.

Oct.1

Excellent dryfly fishing should return to the Crowsnest soon if forecasts for mild, calm weather hold true.

There was some superb fishing with BWOs and hoppers a week ago and before several windy fronts moved across the region leaving nearly three inches of rain. The forecast for the first week of October is much improved.

The river is clear, up a bit and running healthy. Black bears are still foraging for the fall’s last choke cherries, but have posed no threats.

Aug. 30

Those 70 k/p/h winds today are just adding to the challenge.

Aug. 20

Ahhhh . . . hot, dry and windy. The way an Eastern Slopes afternoon oughta be! Overdue this year by six weeks.

No afternoon thunder-busters chasing you off the river. A carpet of hoppers, but not a mosquito in sight. Water that you can almost watch dropping, and as clear as it’s bound to get. Forget that two-weight and pick up a five.

Fishing has been improving by the day.The forecast calls for more of the same . . . .

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