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Tag Archives: Cutthroat

I am a fool for small streams. I love them. I can’t get enough of them. I’ve got to fish them whenever I get a chance. So of course I had a day planned on a tributary to the river system we were staying on and day 3 was that day. The idea here being that the tributary may be colder than the main stem of the river and perhaps we’d have a better opportunity at a bull trout there due to it being a sort of thermal refuge for the juveniles. I would have been ecstatic catching a bull trout of any size on this trip.

An empty parking lot is always a welcome sight on any of my fishing trips and, expectedly, that was the scene when we pulled up to the trailhead that morning. The idea was to hike up a ways before we hit the creek and that’s what happened, but I cut my hike off much shorter than I expected to after I came across the hole pictured above right off the trail. I had visions of big bull trout sitting under all that timber, but I was only able to pull two small cutts out of that spot. Unfazed, I continued fishing my way upstream from there.

Fish were on the smaller size to start as Blake and I played a loose form of fisherman’s hopscotch working our way upstream. Fish size, for me, increased as we kept moving on up. I began the day fishing an oversized dry-dropper and had several fish just nose the dry. Downsizing resulted in far more committed strikes and hooked up fish on both flies.

At some point after my next fish I would lose my net. I don’t keep it on a zinger, just tucked behind me into my waist pack, so I’m not sure if an overhanging branch snatched or if I just left it on a rock after netting that last fish. Either way, I didn’t have it for the rest of the trip and probably need to ask for a replacement for Christmas (hint, hint to whomever wants to make that happen).

No matter the trip, there are always the “fish that got away” stories and mine happened just upstream of the big rock in the pic above. The creek had split and I opted to fish the side with less water as I could see there was a big tree laying down in the creek making a deep pool, ideal habitat in a place like this. I cast my dry as far up and as close to the tree as I could get and sure enough a monster fish came out in a flash to eat it and instinctively I set the hook far too quickly and pulled that fly away from the fish too soon. I never got a hook in him, but he never gave me another shot either as every subsequent drift came up empty. It looked like it could have been bigger than the big cutthroat I caught the day prior, but we’ll never know and because of that it will probably keep growing.

We ended our blueline day trip at the nice hole that Blake pulled his fish he’s pictured with from. Blake caught a few in that spot and I managed one there as well after catching a couple of nice cutts in the runs leading up to it. Unfortunately we didn’t come across any bull trout in this stream. Maybe they were higher up or maybe we just didn’t throw the right flies, I don’t have any experience with them so I don’t know. After busting my leg earlier in the day while wading I was just happy there was a trail running alongside the creek that we could take back down.

Wading can be dangerous and I had a scary moment earlier in the day. I was trying to work my way up above a rock ledge from one pool to the next and I took a step in the wrong spot and had my leg punch threw some loose rock and settle much further down than I anticipated. I was briefly stuck with my leg lodged in the rocks and I had to holler at Blake for a hand. Once I handed off my rod and backpack I could focus on pivoting my foot to the right angle that I needed to slip it out. It came out once I applied enough force. I’ve been wading for a long time and that was a first. My shin was bloody and would stay that way the rest of the day. I applied bactroban later back at camp, but had I been taking my time I could have avoided being in that situation altogether.

Good fishing continued into the afternoon and for me average fish size went up, which was awesome. I still caught smaller ones, so numbers didn’t drop, but larger ones were sprinkled in more frequently. I captured a story in three pictures below of Dad setting the hook on a fish, lifting it out of the water, and then a long distance show off.

Not all the water was fishy though. There were some long, flat riffle stretches that didn’t yield many fish. The fish we did catch in those places tended to be smaller. Just like the rivers I fish in Louisiana for spotted bass, you really wanted to target anywhere there was deeper water. Around boulders, around timber, undercut banks, where tributaries dumped in, and definitely in deeper runs and seams. Places you typically find fish, it wasn’t too hard to find them. There weren’t any long, deep, slow pools in this section of river either.

We fished our way up to a crossing trail and then took it back to the main trail along the river to make our way back to our campsite. I was sufficiently worn out when I made it back to the campsite. Absolutely whooped. The long, upriver wading mixed with the hike back took a lot out of me. It was so worth it though. It made the Sky Kraken from Fremont extra delicious that night. It may have been my favorite beer from the trip.

We continued fishing our way upstream and catching fish along the way. While in Spokane we stopped at the Silver Bow Fly Shop for a little intel into the area, and the main takeaway, for me at least, was to fish purple flies. Following that advice I was fishing a purple psycho prince nymph as a dropper and having a good bit of success on it.

Blake may have a better shot of the fish above on his phone, but that morning he caught what was likely the best looking Westslope cutthroat I saw on the trip. It came off a downed tree that was lying along the riverbank. The deep, dark colors on that fish were fantastic – a beautiful fish.

We then came across a pond and some old mining equipment just off the river. We’d find out later from our campground neighbor that the trail we hiked in on was actually an old road that followed the river a long way and led to different garnet mining operations. As you waded in the river the purplish colored garnet sand was hard to miss. It was a pretty neat sight mixed in with the various colored river rock. It really made for a colored up streambed.

I think this is a Columbia spotted frog (Rana Luteiventris)

I caught back up to Dad after checking out the old mine equipment and playing with the local frogs and just before I made it to him, behind the rock above, I noticed a little bit of trash tucked under the rock. I found it a bit odd because I had not seen trash anywhere on this river. I went to retrieve it and put it in my pack and noticed that it was a crushed can, but tucked further behind the crushed can was an unopened one. It was a cold beer! The river gods had looked favorably upon me and rewarded me for my efforts! Hopefully it was a pay-it-forward moment and not a stashed-for-later one for whomever left it there. It was definitely the best Blue Moon I’ve ever had though.