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Tag Archives: Snake River Finespotted Cutthroat Trout

After a cold night in the hammock, we got up early that morning, packed our stuff and headed on to our next stop.  I’m not sure what the actual temp was that night, but it felt like upper 30’s/low 40’s and I was under-dressed for it – it was the coldest night of the trip for me.  Lesson learned and the rest of the nights I was fairly comfortable in the hammock.  Using a fleece blanket as an insulating layer under the back was a life saver – the 35 degree mummy bag just wasn’t enough.

Our next stop was on a bit bigger water that we hoped would also hold bigger Bonneville cutthroat trout.

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It did not take long for me to upgrade my best Bonnie as one slurped a dry right next to the bank.

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Unfortunately that was the biggest on the day for me and one of few – not that I didn’t have opportunities, just that most of my fish either came unbuttoned or I pulled the fly right out of there mouth.  A much slower hookset was needed on these fish and I guess I was just too excited when I saw the slow eat.

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Blake fared much better and even had a local cheering section on top the hill.

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He took big fish honors on the day and it was great to both upgrade our Bonneville cutthroat.  Size doesn’t matter for the slam, but I had hoped we would each catch an above average version of each species.

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Satisfied, we called it quits after lunch and decided to make our way to our next stop where we hoped to catch our second cutthroat species, which is a mouthful to say, the Snake River Finespotted Cutthroat Trout.

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The first road we traveled to get to the Snake River Cutts was dicey at best and had us questioning our better judgement in at least one spot, but we made it through and onto a road that was better maintained and more frequented as it took us through the Tri-Basin Divide.

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Arriving safely at our destination definitely called for a cold beer and unfortunately when going to restock the ice chest I was a little overzealous, used a bit too much force with a few too many beers and we had our first tragedy of the trip.

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If we could make it through the night we would be able to get another ice chest the next afternoon.  You live and learn I guess.

We hit the river a bit high up in the watershed with the idea of knocking out the requirement, and the pressure of just catching one, with perhaps a smaller, more eager fish.  It worked for me, but not so much for Blake.

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A celebratory beer before they got too hot and we kept on further down the road.

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We stopped at a run that looked too good to pass up and Blake was able to quickly hook up on a decent fish.  Of course his first Snake River cutthroat would best mine, this theme continued throughout the trip – he had a knack for holding his mouth right.

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We continued to fish our way to where we planned to camp that night and in doing so picked up a few more small cutts.

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We called it a day before it got too dark on us and headed to the campground.  Once at the campsite we were greeted by one of the locals who graciously allowed us to set up in an adjacent site.  Day two was another success as we were on track to get the slam by catching two different species in two days.  We did hope to be able to upgrade our Snake River Cutthroat before the trip was over though.  In the morning we planned to head over the pass and fish a Green River trib. for Colorado River Cutts.  If we stayed on track we would have an opportunity to catch more Snake River Cutts on the last day of the trip, hopefully bigger ones too.

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The salmonids are in family Salmonidae, which has 10-11 genera that is divided into 3 subfamilies; Coregoninae(whitefish), Thymallinae(grayling), and Salmoninae(char/trout/salmon). Living in the Southeast you have access to a very limited amount of salmonids and I’ve caught the 3 that occur in Georgia.  The brook trout is the only native trout species in Georgia and it is actually a char.  Update, June 2018: I made my first trip out West in September of 2012 to Colorado and caught several greenback cutthroat trout in Rocky Mountain National Park – or what were considered greenback trout at the time.  Made another trip out West in August of 2013 to Teton and Yellowstone National Parks where I picked up a couple more cutthroat species.  In August of 2015 I was able to complete the Wyoming Cutt Slam, picking up Wyoming’s four native cutthroat species (they do have a fifth, the Westslope, that is not required for the slam – I’ve yet to catch a Westslope).  Finally in July of 2017 I completed the Utah cutthroat slam, which didn’t necessarily add any new species to the list, but I was able to add Bonneville cutthroat outside of the Bear River drainage. Update, June 2021: Made it out to Arizona and New Mexico to catch Apache and Gila trout in their native range. 

Dr. Robert Behnke is the man when it comes to salmonid knowledge. Pick up his book if you want to learn more about this particular family, “Trout and Salmon of North America”. Another great resource is Gary Marston’s Native Trout Fly Fishing blog, he has a Trout and Salmon species page with pictures and information of all those that he has caught (which may be all that are found in the U.S.). Gary’s trip reports are a good read as well, he has had some epic road trips to catch trout in their native range.

Salvelinus fontinalis – Brook trout

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Brook trout are the first native trout species I ever encountered as they do live in Georgia.

Salmo trutta – Brown trout

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Brown trout are not native to North America.

Oncorhynchus mykiss – Rainbow trout

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The first trout species I ever caught, I’ve still yet to catch them in their native range.

Oncorhynchus apache –  Apache trout

Oncorhynchus gilae –  Gila trout

Cutthroat Trout

Western native trout range map source: Coyote Gulch blog

Oncorhynchus clarki stomias – Greenback cutthroat trout

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At the time this fish was considered a greenback, but it’s more likely that it isn’t after genetic research determined that the true greenback was limited to only one stream, outside of it’s native range, in Colorado.  Work has been done to re-establish populations throughout it’s native range and hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to fish for a true greenback cutt.  Their historic range is pretty much in the state of Colorado on the Front Range, with some watersheds slipping into Wyoming. They are found in the headwaters streams of the South Platte and Arkansas River drainages.

Oncorhynchus clarki pleuriticus – Colorado River cutthroat trout

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Their historic range is headwaters streams in the Green and Colorado Rivers, as far south as the San Juan River, west of the Continental Divide.  They are currently limited to a few small headwater streams of the Green and upper Colorado rivers in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, including the Escalante River drainage in southern Utah.

Oncorhynchus clarkii utah – Bonneville cutthroat trout

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Their historic range is pretty much in the state of Utah, with some watersheds slipping into Wyoming, Idaho, and Nevada.

Oncorhynchus clarkii utah – Bonneville cutthroat trout – Bear River strain

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They are found in the headwaters streams of the Bear River.  No range map was given from NatureServe or the USGS for the Bear River cutthroat trout, but they are native to the Bear River and it’s tributaries, including Bear Lake.

Oncorhynchus clarkii bouvieri – Yellowstone cutthroat trout

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Their historic range is the Yellowstone River drainage in Montana and Wyoming and the Snake River drainage in Wyoming and Idaho.  Their current range overlaps with that of the Finespot in the Snake River drainage above Shoshone Falls.

Oncorhynchus clarkii behnkei – Finespotted Snake River cutthroat trout

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Their historic range overlaps the Yellowstone cutt in the states of Wyoming and Idaho. They are found in the headwaters streams of the Snake River, particularly the South Fork.

Other Native Salmonids

Prosopium williamsoni – Mountain whitefish

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Thymallus arcticus – Arctic grayling

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