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

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

august

Early August. There is smoke in the air some days. Fires are burning west and southwest of us. Seems that’s a given every Summer. The ground is dry. Rivers are low. The wind is warm. Cloths dry quickly outdoors on the line. My dog is panting a lot. I add a bit of powdered Gatorade to my water bottles when I head out for a day of angling due to the heat.

The Cutthroat streams are fishing well. I need to visit them more often. They are cool and clear, and the trout willing. The tailwater rivers that I frequent have been challenging. Generally poor hatches in comparison to past seasons and therefore often not a lot of opportunity at least until the end of the day, sometimes not even then. If you spot a good trout you want to make it count as there might not be another chance.

I’ve had several fine fish eat my small impressions lately but no hook up. A tiny hook can catch or sometimes simply slip out of a big mouth. That’s all part of the small fly game. Hopefully things will balance out by the end of the angling season.

The past few weeks I’ve walked a number of rivers. Here are some photos. I’m still getting accustomed to a new camera and at times experiencing some framing problems…

Abby snoozing riverside
cutthroat color

low light browns and the mole

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”

RAIN. A LOT OF IT in the past two days. The rivers were starting to drop but now they are pumped-up again. High fast water. Most rivers can’t be crossed.

brown trout on klinkhammer bwo size 18

When the forecast calls for heavy skies and rain I always try to head to one of my favorite rivers, especially if it’s not going to be too windy. My best brown trout of the year usually come in these conditions. They show-up in low light as long as there are insects around. You just have to be there and watch the water, even high water.

high water into shore grasses and willows

On both days I got drenched and my soaked camera started malfunctioning. It’s waterproof but old and has many cracks in it and the battery/SD card door doesn’t always close properly. Water got inside. On the way home I was able to dry the SD card on the car dashboard with the heat on high. I managed to save it. The camera, however, I could not. Time for a new one.

brown trout

There were mayflies around: olives and a few pmd’s. I prospected the slow shallows with a beetle pattern early in the day. Then I fished a size 18 Mole fly when I started seeing some surface disturbances. It’s a simple shuttlecock style pattern by Charlie Craven, a professional fly tyer. He ties his with a CDC wing. Due to the heavy rain I tied mine with polypropylene and some with deer hair, or a combination of both.

A blogger/angler I follow (Jim) often fishes the Mole pattern and that’s were I first took notice of it. I pay attention to his fly selections as he visits some of the most challenging tailwater rivers and spring creeks anywhere and consistently catches impressive trout on dry flies. Check him out at: http://jims-wanderings.blogspot.com

simple mole fly size 18

When my casts were on target trout ate the Mole fly without hesitation.

brown on size 18 mole fly

Here are some photos. Some are blurry due to the conditions.

rainbow on size 18 mole fly
mole
cuttbow on mole fly size 18
mole gathering and beetle…all that I fished in two days
brown on mole fly

a black post

” ALL OTHER COLORS are reflections of light, except black. Black is the absence of light”.

I recently spent a few days fishing a large wide tailwater river. Most of the time the water’s surface was a silvery-grey due to glare. It looked like the element: Mercury. Many trout were feeding on tiny BWO emergers and bulging in the riffles. The wind was also constantly blowing which further ruffled the river’s surface. All of these conditions (glare, riffles, wind blown water) made seeing a small size 18 fly impossible, even when relatively short casts were made. Deer hair winged emerger patterns and comparaduns didn’t show-up. Same with a parachute pattern tied with a white post. Hackled flies also pulled a Houdini on me (vanished). Hi Vis orange post flies also couldn’t be seen. Hi Vis ended up being No Vis!

The secret to success on the insect rich river that I was on is to consistently place your fly right in front of a selected feeding trout as there are thousands of naturals (insects) drifting towards it and the fish isn’t going to move any distance to eat your fly. Your impression has to be right on target. It is all about accuracy. And in order to be on target you need to see your fly.

The only fly that showed up in the aforementioned challenging conditions was one with a black post or a black wing. And I found that the flies that I had tied with a very exaggerated, robust tuft of black obviously showed best in the silvery-grey, ruffled water.

Many of my favorite trout rivers are wide and flow in open terrain under a big western sky. These conditions give birth to glare which is a serious hinderance to seeing a small fly. One third of the flies in my boxes have black material incorporated onto them in the form of a post, a wing, etc. In the flies below (photo) I used black polypropylene. In some other flies I’ll use black cdc or comparadun deer hair which has been dyed black. The key is something dark; a dark beacon.

Sometimes you can see your fly better by changing your positioning to a fish on a river. However, this is not always possible. Some people fish a two fly rig with one fly being much larger than what is hatching. The large fly is used as a sight and strike indicator to help an angler spot or at least hone in on the approximate location of the small fly. Even large flies, however, tossed some distance on silvery-grey wide open water tend to disappear. Also two fly rigs in windy conditions often get tangled, at least mine do. I always prefer casting a single fly. I simply cast and fish better with one fly.

Trout that are feeding aggressively on a dense hatch don’t seem to notice the color of a post or wing. The size of the fly, its attitude/positioning in the water (on top, in the film, or dangling below) and a natural drift (presentation) are much more important, as is casting accuracy and being a stealthy angler. You want the body color of the fly to be somewhat similar to the naturals but the wing color is less important.

Black polypropylene is inexpensive and with one package you will be able to tie hundreds of flies.

Here are some small size 18 parachutes tied with a black post…

scenes: brief road trip south

rainbow on size 18 BWO dry

Cold at home. In fact snow hit the ground. So I headed south across the border to a Trout Town on a wide tailwater river. The weather was slightly better but still behind schedule for May. Most days it was fairly cool. My dog’s water bowl was frozen most mornings.

I camped in a section called Mid-Canyon to try an avoid the ever present wind. The dry fly fishing was for the most part poor. I rarely saw a head/nose break the surface in spite of some good hatches. Most surface disturbances were trout displacing water when feeding on emergers an inch or two below: BWO’s. I still managed to catch several on dries: Klinkhammers and Parachutes while sight fishing.

There were no sipping trout on the banks or even in collector areas, or on the flats. And there were few fish feeding in some of my favorite side channels. The water was as low as I have ever seen it. That’s a ongoing condition out West. There was high wind and a lot of sun. Not the best conditions to find large rising trout.

side channel

Trout would bulge (emerger feeding) in the riffles when clouds rolled in, then disappeared when direct sun light returned. It was a yo yo (fish up, fish down) event on days with a mix of sun and cloud. Fun to watch as it became so predictable.

home
3 feet of shucks and spent insects against shore
main river
fly shop
another fly shop
side channel

october

Crisp in the mornings. Sun is arcing low. Noticeable long shadows mid-afternoon. Still windy. Still mainly hanging out in the mountains trying to escape the wind. Still fishing dry flies. Did spend one half day on a tailwater river out on the Plains sight-fishing a slightly sheltered back bay.

Some October photos…a lot of shadows.

sight-fishing a river back bay
back bay rainbow
up high sight fishing
creek cutthroat
creek hybrid: rainbow-cutthroat
flat water fly, size 18
drive to mountains
creek cutt
creek cutthroat
another wet lens shot
small creek cutthroat

gimme shelter

WIND. It has been making rivers out on the Plains challenging. Top water angling out in the great wide open has been poor. So I’ve been looking for calmer conditions, some shelter and hopefully some sight-fishing opportunities up in the forested mountain valleys. Here are some nice cutthroats and hybrids (cuttbows) found in some sheltered streams caught on olives, small and mid-sized drakes, and beetles…

some color

parameters…

When you head out to a river for a day or evening of angling you often have a set of parameters that you operate by. For some people these criterion are broad. For some they are very narrow. The longer you’ve been at something like fly fishing, or any other pursuit, the more you have probably refined the way you practice it; the way you go about it; the path you chose to take. Over time you focus more intensely on some things and discard much of the rest.

Here are some fine trout fooled with small dry flies: mostly ants, beetles and pmd’s in contrasting landscapes and rivers. Some wide flat flows in open austere terrain and smaller clear ones in a treed mountainous landscape. Trout, from the Plains to the Rockies…

irresponsible ranching
brown trout
same brown
rainbow
golden retriever hair pmd
cutthroat stream
cutthroat
clear water
cutthroat
cutt
pmd box
some color

small flies

Cooler air and water lately and improved flows with some rain. Mornings chilly. Afternoons really perfect. The wind has been in check. Fewer people around. I’ve been on some creeks and a wider river. A great time to hunt for rising trout in the slower sections. Some found. My success has been with small stuff: cinnamon ants, a hacklestacker pmd pattern, some emergers and most importantly a lucky hat…

lucky hat this week




hacklestacker fly
ant pattern
flat water

Mid August

Due to the drought and intense heat, local reservoirs have dropped significantly. Agricultural irrigation (the aqueduct system) is the priority not main stem stream flows. Low reservoirs mean whatever is released to the rivers now often contains silt which of course affects sight fishing and fishing in general. Two of the three tailwater rivers I fish have been affected.

The good news is we just had a solid 24 hours of rain and lower temperatures. There is even some snow in the high peaks.The intense smoke is gone at least for now.

I’ve been walking a variety of rivers (contrasting water and terrain) and spotting some rising trout….they have been selective, especially on tailwaters…