Toward the light on the Crowsnest

Turkeys off Burmis road

Wild turkeys off Burmis road

Dec. 21 is always momentous for me, because it’s the turn-around day from darkness to light, from shorter-to-longer days, and the start of a longish climb to spring-summer-fall when I can enjoy most of my outdoors activities.

Burmis lease mid-section

Burmis lease mid-section

It also coincides with a years-long tradition in Southern Alberta, when fly-fishers meet at the TUC Oldman River Chapter’s Burmis lease on the Crowsnest River to test their skills in temperatures around zero or less. Actually, this year it happened the day before, but was no less symbolic. It illustrates the passion some have for connecting with one of our prime fisheries and all that has to offer.

They happen to do it where the chapter has committed for 25 years to baby-sit (as an old friend calls it) 2 km of river frontage for the sake of fish. The stewardship effort also provides a wonderland for walkers – those with dogs included – hikers, and equestrians as well as anglers. Restricting vehicle access helps us keep the area in a more natural state. It seems to be appreciated.

The most recent fish survey by Alberta Conservation Association, in 2010, showed “the highest main-stem fish densities and the highest incidence of hooking damage occurred between the Highway 507 and the East Hillcrest bridge crossings.” The Burmis lease is in the middle of that stretch. But the ACA report on the survey also points out threats to the fishery, which includes Crowsnest River tributaries such as Gold Creek, Blairmore Creek and Allison Creek, among numerous others. The Chapter shares the concern and works to try and limit or eliminate the threats.

2013 lease clean-up volunteers

2013 lease clean-up volunteers

Chapter members such as Mike Lamb, who died early this year, Malcolm Bennett and Clive Schaupmeyer have helped with dozens of volunteers to put the lease in its current state. Bill Paton is now taking a leading conservation role there, as he has been doing for several years at the Hillcrest lease, another chapter stewardship effort upstream of Burmis a few clicks.

So, although TUC and the Oldman Chapter are not about fishing, we are about fish and healthy water for the long term. We also realize, or at least hope, that most people who fish have a similar conservation ethic, without which the fishery would almost certainly suffer.

Hillcrest lease middle section

Hillcrest lease middle section

The day fishers gathered at the Burmis lease, I couldn’t make it. But, I was nearby and as I drove down the Burmis road, I saw a flock of wild turkeys in the field to the south. Symbolic as well, perhaps.

From the Chapter, thanks to all the supporters over the years. Have a Merry Christmas, including a delicious turkey dinner, if that’s in your tradition, with your families. And, we hope you are facing a New Year with the same positive anticipation as we are. Stay tuned.

Read Paul’s report on the 2015 Winter Solstice state of the Burmis lease – and fly-fishing on the darkest day.


Richard Burke, president, Oldman River Chapter Trout Unlimited Canada


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