By Judy Hillaby –

The Cariboo is an exciting place to live and work and getting out in the lakes and streams is an important part of enjoying life here.

Streamkeepers helps with this—it is a volunteer organization that has existed in BC for 40 years and has over 100 member groups. Horsefly Streamkeepers is now among them, and we have a long list of go-to places to find and examine. The Pacific Streamkeepers Federation ( helps with science support, training and practical advice, liability insurance, mapping, data archiving, and an impressive network of watershed stewards that will help you see things with new eyes.

A pair of Sockeye salmon in the Horsefly River, identified by their bright red and green colouring that intensifies and then fades as they approach their spawning condition. However, salmon are not always so easy to spot. Streamkeepers will show you how to count adult fish in a stream. Photo: Ivan Hardwick

For instance: see the beauty and intricacy around you. While the Horsefly Lake Provincial Park is closed, you can still get to nearby Dillabough Creek in November. It’s an interesting, lively, and productive place, with abundant vegetation and leaf litter, including beautiful lungwort growing on a log across the stream. Walk slowly up the creek and you will appreciate the complexity of pools and riffles, cut banks and overhanging logs, the predictable sinuosity of the stream channel, and the patterns of gravel and cobble within. Yes, fish are there, and in the spring we’ll lay out some traps and determine precisely what fish and invertebrates we have (note: you need a permit for this, Streamkeepers helps).

Why not spend an afternoon with a few friends, having a picnic in a little glade and picking through a collection of stream insects? You will use hand magnifiers, a special capture net, a bucket or two, some ice cube trays, and a little gentle handling to look closely at mayflies, stoneflies, caddisflies, and other things. When you can spot some of the differences and make counts of what you have, you can also make some assumptions about the health of the stream and why that may be so.

Appreciate our history. Cariboo streams may look pristine, but they’re usually not. Ernie Gruhs in Horsefly can tell you that he put in a fish habitat structure at the outlet of Nikwit Lake. It was mostly buried, but carefully situated—a weir with a v-notch in the centre. Twenty-odd years later, we found it, naturalized and invisible to everyone but Ernie. It was intended to scour a deeper stream channel to allow trout to move more freely in and out of the lake. It worked. Nice work, Ernie.

This fall we ran several training courses delivered by PSKF members, including how to catch, handle, and identify juvenile fish. We also learned about water quality, invertebrate identification and capture, and how to survey a stream on different levels—the opportunities to learn and do things are impressive.

If this sounds like something you’re interested in and you are the kind of person who likes to get out, get right into it, and get wet, call Judy Hillaby (250) 620-3495 or Ian Coates (250) 620-3495 to become involved. In April, May, and June we will work with the Horsefly School to collect fish and bug specimens and tell the kids a bit more about what lives in the streams. Spring fish capture, handling, and identification is now being planned, and we will soon be sorting out the best times and places for our outings.

This is the beauty of Streamkeepers—having fun, but also applying a little science. We’ll keep you posted.




1 Comment

  1. Steam Keepers is a great organization that gets you out and about in your own backyard. Young and “seasoned”, can learn and explore, making friends along the way. Keep up the good work.