Small-stream westslope cutt movement & activity at this time of year?

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Troutnut, Aug 1, 2017.

  1. Troutnut

    Troutnut Member

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    I had an interesting experience yesterday evening (July 31st) fishing a very small stream on the east slope of the Cascades above 3,000 feet. When I was there for the first time eight days earlier, I was catching a pretty little westslope cutt (or five) in every likely-looking pool and pocket. Yesterday, fishing adjacent reaches at the exact same time of day, under similar weather conditions, I saw no sign of any trout. Not so much as a fingerling nipped at my fly, and no shadows darted away when I waded into a pool.

    I'm new to this area and cutthroat fishing, but I've fished a lot of small streams elsewhere, and they've always been really consistent unless there's some obvious weather or seasonal reason why the fishing would change. To have a piece of water that was teeming with fish a week ago seem totally empty now was really surprising. At first I thought maybe I had gone in too far upstream above some impassible barrier, so I went back down to where I left off catching fish last week, and there was still no sign of fish in several pools that should have been full of them.

    Finally, I guessed maybe the fish were making some spawning-related movements even farther into the headwaters, although that seemed unlikely. I should still have seen some immature fish scattered throughout the lower reaches. Nevertheless, I drove up even higher to try another reach, and the stream was back to normal: eager, beautiful fish everywhere I expected them. Fishing was great until dark.

    I don't think the fish I caught all moved up from the reaches where I got skunked, because there are just too many barriers to migration at this water level. Temperature doesn't seem to fit as an explanation, either, because the water was plenty cool in this shady headwater throughout both trips. Hatches also don't seem to explain it; they're rarely important in streams of this character, and only tiny midges were abundant.

    So I'm kind of out of ideas and wondering if anyone experienced with these fish and small Cascades streams has an explanation for the odd shift in action. Of course, I'm not complaining about briefly not catching fish -- but solving the mystery of some unusual pattern is part of the fun. The scenery was a reward, too:

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    My biggest fish from this stream so far:

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  2. flyawayfish44

    flyawayfish44 Active Member

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    OH MY GOD I WAS JUST WANTING TO ASK THIS.

    I do a lot of blue lining on the eastside and I cannot for the life of me figure out some of the shifts in fish behavior in some altitude waters. It's not info I figure people would want to give out so I don't ask; damned if I don't hope we can get an answer.

    Beautiful pics by the way. Love the little cutty - those are some of my favorite to target in high altitude streams. Some people don't appreciate the little mountain trout but I love 'em! Even the brookies!
     
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  3. Troutnut

    Troutnut Member

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    Glad to hear I'm not alone!

    I'm hoping nobody's going to be tight-lipped about something this general. General movement patterns & behavior are the sort of thing people should be sharing with each other. Specific locations of streams like this, though, can be carried to the grave.

    I had never caught a westslope cutt until 8 days ago, but they're in the running for prettiest fish I've ever caught! I've always loved fishing tiny streams, but they seem like an especially good option here. I've been fishing the Snoqualmie forks some, but if I'm going to catch 7-9 inch trout, I might as well do it in secluded water where a 9-incher feels like a proper whopper.
     
  4. Taxon

    Taxon Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Jason-

    Is it possible that you started fishing earlier in the afternoon on your most recent trip than you did on the one 8 days before?
     
  5. Troutnut

    Troutnut Member

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    Roger, I checked the timestamps of the pictures and it was right around 5 pm both times.
     
  6. JACKspASS

    JACKspASS Active Member

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    When conditions are right a trout will take up a feeding station and stay put until the food source or water conditions change. My experience from 25+ years of small stream fishing is very similar to your recent experience. Some days you'll catch 30+ trout and the next time out very few. On the west side small stream trout can be very migratory, always searching for comfortable holding water and food source. In mid July when rivers are tapering off from snow melt, a drop of a couple inches could send most trout out of their comfort zones into a new stretch of water. Rivers are always changing....daily... no two days are identical.
    When snow runoff recedes on the eastside, those westslopes love to move up high if they can, bring a water thermometer and find cooler water or when the water is warm (60+), find the holes with underground springs and especially cold tributaries.

    And sometimes, they are there but won't bite anything....this happens alot too.

    Good luck
     
  7. Cruik

    Cruik Active Member

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    I often blank on streams only to find out I've been fishing two runs behind some other guy all day. It's almost a relief to see "him." Some days I never see him, though. I've decided it's better for my sanity to blame my shortcomings on footprints of dubious freshness.
     
  8. Steve Kokita

    Steve Kokita FISHON206

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    My guess is why we call it "fishing" not going "catching" The fish gotta win sometimes and that's what keeps us going back! Beats the hell outa yard work.....or work.
     
  9. Greg Price

    Greg Price Love da little fishies

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    That has been my experience many times on my favorite, well known west side creek. If a guy or girl is fishing ahead of me it can make the fish tight lipped
     
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  10. Troutnut

    Troutnut Member

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    Yeah, somebody fishing ahead of me would be a good explanation in general. That's certainly happened to me on more popular waters, too. I doubt that happened here, though, because this place isn't well known at all (not a single mention by name on this site), and I got skunked in two separate reaches before doing well in a third. The odds that someone else fished both reaches on the same day seem very low.