cutthroat trout

“WELL THAT FLY DIDN’T WORK and he’s still rising. Change fly! Let’s go smaller. Nope, no response. Try again. Wow, same response. Change fly! Let’s try an ant. Nice cast. He’s looking. Closing in. Nope. He rejected it the last second. Wow, tough fish. Throw the ant again. Hmm. No go. Change fly! Let’s tie on a Klink/Emerger. No response to that. Change fly! I see some Drakes in the flow but the fish is ignoring most of them… but not all. Try this CDC version. Nope, he didn’t even move over to take a look. Toss it again. Change fly! I have a Drake Emerger pattern. Let’s try that. No luck. Maybe we need to rest the fish. Let’s go upstream. We’ll come back later. Hopefully he’ll still be rising then…wow, picky Cutthroat. Hard to walk away. Look at him still feeding. Some naturals passing overhead. He only rises to some; not others. Passing on the Duns, sometimes…maybe he’s mainly cueing in on Emergers. Well he just took a Dun but then let several others drift overhead. He ignores some, then eats the odd one. Yikes, challenging trout…we will come back.”

Cutthroats. Simply beautiful. Some say they are easy to catch. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes, however, they are as challenging as any other trout. It depends on the river. It depends on how much food is in the flow. It depends on angling pressure. It depends on water clarity. It depends…

Late season low water can make things extra challenging. You have to try and stay out of sight; and don’t move too fast; and don’t drag that dry fly; and don’t do this, or that, or they’ll disappear. They’ll go hide in a log-jam. Remember, Cutthroats have been around for several million years. They’ve survived. They’re always on alert…

one of Roman’s best

I recently spent four days fishing with a good friend, Roman, on different sections of one stream. A clear, pristine cutthroat stream. We pulled-up fish in the faster water on dry flies and came across several fish rising occasionally in slow water. The slow, flat water fish often required multiple fly changes in order to be fooled and a few tough customers couldn’t be enticed. With our fly selection we went big, we went small, we went slim, we went chubby, we tried low-riding patterns, emergers, terrestrials of varying sizes, a nymph dropper, lighter tippet…We caught many but a few couldn’t be fooled.

Some say Cutthroats are easy. Sometimes that’s true. Sometimes, however, they are as hard and challenging as any other trout. Here are some photos from our four days of walking clear water in pursuit of this beautiful trout. All Cutthroats were taken on dries. All released…

clear water


terrestrial box
flies that often worked
pool with a log-jam… always a good spot
cutthroats were thick

10 thoughts on “cutthroat trout

    • Jim: Thanks for comment. The “changing flies” remarks are fairly accurate and took place over what seemed like one hour of casting to that one fish. I’m sure we changed flies a dozen plus times. I was 6ft above the fish spotting and could see its response to each fly change and provide feedback. My friend was casting at river level and could see most of it but not as well. It was a fun fish even though we never made a connection. Never got back after resting fish as we went way upstream, shadows were creeping in and we were in the heart of bear country so decided to hike out.
      Hope you are making preparations for Fall angling.

  1. Hi Bob,

    Great post! Nice fish and scenery photos. You’re right, cutts can be as selective as any trout. At least you know where these picky ones live and can always return another day when, hopefully, they are more cooperative. I like the photo showing your wading boot and the pebbles along the stream bottom. That’s crystal-clear water at it’s finest. If it wasn’t for the ripples created by your foot, you wouldn’t know you were standing in water. It looks cold, too!


    • Vic: The clear water boot shot was my favorite and without ripples ( as you say) you wouldn’t know I was standing in water! I put a ” clear water” comment under photo as thought maybe people quickly scrolling through photos wouldn’t notice it was water. Unbelievable clarity. River tempature mid afternoon, 2pm, in one foot of flowing water, in full sun, Dog Days of August, 51F….also unbelievable. That’s for commenting.

    • Thanks Andrew for kind comment. I check your blog: truttablog……regularly and enjoy your creative writing, your passion for your regional waterways, wonderful photos, and your skilled tying. Good luck with the new book…

  2. The Mole Fly was crazy effective on the Frying Pan in early August. The PMDs were on every day and a size 18 Mole Fly was the most successful, second best a size 18 no hackle (if you could find any to buy, since tying them is something I have yet to master.) Looks like your cutts were even more picky than the Frying Pan browns. Must have been fun – present but challenging fish make for a good day. Big fish and great photography as usual. Thanks!

  3. C of B: I’ve read about the Frying Pan and it sounds like a neat tailwater river with great bug life. I’ve got to try it out one day. Sounds like you had a great daily PMD hatch…fish up and the Mole fly did its thing. Tying no hackles is a pain ! I don’t even try any more…I tie hacklestackers instead…which aren’t easy but I’ve been doing them a long time so I can knock them off quickly. Good pattern for picky fish. Don’t know if my cutts were as challenging as your tailwater browns.. but always fun to find some challenging trout. Thanks for dropping in and comments. Great success on your next trip.

  4. I fished the St. Joe in Idaho a few years back and slayed those cutts on a LaFontaine Emergent Sparkle (caddis) Pupa. I believe its as much an attractor as it is imitative, but it was pure magic. Even here on the Delaware which is a prolific caddis river, the ESP is a go to for any baffler (fussy fish). More often than not, they will eat it when their actual prey item is impossible to discern. I have a Calgary wedding next August and going to stay for two weeks.
    Looking forward to fishing the region as your blog has been a great inspiration.

  5. Rick: The ESP is a good fly and sounds like you had a great time on the St Joe. I’ve never fished it but heard from others it is very good water…I have been down to south central Idaho.
    Next August you’ll get to experience some of SW Alberta. Good stuff. Feel free to contact me for info if you wish.
    Thanks for dropping in.

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