Rocky Mountain Cutthroat Hunt!!


Native Trout Hunter
Warning: This may seem a little long winded but this was a huge trip and to completely tell about it I would have to write a heck of a lot more than this!!

Pre Trip: This trip took a major bite out of the remaining trout that I have made it photographically document. I started planning it last September, and browsed through countless fishing website, fish and game survey and scientific papers until I came up with a list of streams that seem to fit in a decent route and held the best possible populations of native cutthroat with out hybrid influences. I ended up fishing for every type of cutthroat in the rocky mountains except Westslope Cutthroat which I had caught way more than my fair share of in the cascades a couple weeks before the trip.

The first day of this trip was pretty much completely spent in the car to reach Yellowstone which was our first stop. The second morning headed to Soda Butte Creek in the Northeastern corner of the park to target the Yellowstone Cutthroat, the first targeted cutthroat of the trip. We arrived at the creek to find it extremely crowded, and we had to hunt to find a stretch that we would have to ourselves, or so we thought. We ended up being constantly low holed and high holed all morning. We still rose more than our fair share of trout including one that was close to 20", and I only managed to catch a couple of small cutthroat. With Soda Butte Creek being a larger more famous piece of water in the park, decided to turn my attention to a relatively unknown small stream that found it to be completely vacant of anglers, and full of very willing smaller cutthroat with some around 12” and most likely larger present.

After fishing for the Yellowstone Cutthroat, we headed to on of my favorite streams in the northwestern part of the park. Where numerous brown trout, rainbows and cutbows averaging about 10". I fished the stream until we got chased out by a thunder storm then I went looking for some brook trout in the upper Gardner River. A ways above where the road crosses the river I found a nice section of stream full of rising brookies, which took my fly very willingly, and well above this I found some decent pools that held plenty of Zug Bug loving brookies.

We woke to find frost on everything in the morning, and decided to head further south to test some waters out for Snake River Fine Spotted Cutthroat. The first spot that I hit was a stream in the Tetons that had treated me very good on previous trips, however I found the trout to be less then what I would call willing. I only managed to catch one small brook trout and had a few hits on nymphs and streamers from cutthroat.

After what I would call a less than successful outing in the Tetons, we decided to head into Jackson to get lunch and possibly a hotel room so that I could try to get a Fine Spotted Cutthroat again in the evening or in the morning. However Jackson was so overrun with tourist that we headed a little further down the road to Afton, and stayed the night there. That evening I decided to head out to try my luck for a Fine Spotted Cutthroat again in a small tributary of the Salt River. The stream that I chose was only about 15 feet across in the wide spots and was extremely fast moving with very little holding water. However the trout that I ended up finding in the stream seemed way to large for their surroundings, and I ended up hooking into an 18+ inch cutthroat which pulled my size 18 lightning bug out of its jaw just before I could net it. All of the rest of the fish in this stream were extremely good at throwing the fly, making them live up to the reputation that Snake River Fine Spotted Cutthroat have gotten for fighting hard. I still ended up getting my share of cutthroat here though and decided to call it a night.

The next morning we continued on our route and drove over a mountain pass from the Snake River Drainage into the Bonneville basin. We headed to a small stream that my research had indicated held a fair amount of Bonneville Cutthroat and I managed to find a good looking stretch of stream that had a large concentration of beaver ponds. I started in the largest of the beaver ponds where water was relatively murky so I chose a thin mint woolly bugger which had a good amount of flash followed by a zug bug. As I stripping it in, I could see golden flashes from Bonneville Cutthroat and after a missed hits I finally hooked and brought a nice 15" cutthroat to the net. I then tried some of the other beaver ponds and caught several other smaller cutthroat.

While I had planned on staying the night at this stream, I figured that I had gotten what I came for so we continued down the road to Rocky Mountain National Park which we reached right at dark.

The next morning I decided to head after some Greenback Cutthroat so we set out for a hike in stream on the eastern side of the park. The scenery of the park was absolutely awesome, with the main road through the park winding along the tops of the peaks at elevations above 12,000 ft.

We arrived at the trailhead that lead to the stream hold Greenback cutthroat and it was so crowded that you could hardly find a parking spot. We hiked up the trail about a mile before we started fishing, and after cover several hundred good look feet of stream I had only managed to rise one Cutthroat. I decided to head up stream about another 1/2 mile, and this decision made all of the difference in the world, as I almost immediately began catching Greenbacks on Royal PMX's and Tellico nymphs.

After catching my fair share of Greenback Cutthroat, we headed back to the campground to get some lunch, and so I could see if I could find a few Colorado River Cutthroat in a nearby stream. When I arrived at the stream, I found it to be much smaller than what my pre-trip research had indicated. However not too far up the stream I spotted a decent trout which turned out to be a brookie but took my fly right away in a small pool above this point I caught my first Colorado River cutthroat on a Royal PMX, which was quickly turning out to be one of my most successful flies of the trip. Not far above where I caught my first cutthroat, I ran into a fish barrier and above this point every fish that I ran into were nicely colored pure strain Colorado River Cutthroat.

We broke camp early in the morning and headed out of Rocky Mountain National Park bound for Northern New Mexico to try my luck at some Rio Grande Cutthroat. It was about a 5 hour drive to the stream that I had planned on fishing, which was in the middle of nowhere but ended up being full of fly fisherman. The Rio Grande Cutthroat proved more challenging than expected as these fish extremely quick risers than spit the hook before you even knew that they had taken your fly. After a while I managed to catch my first cutthroat which was followed by several others as I began to get used to their lightning fast rises. I fished this spot till we were driven out by a thunder storm and caused us to decide to continue down the road for about another six hours when we decided to find a place to camp.

That night was rather interesting one due to a thunderstorm that moved in around midnight and stayed till morning as well as a hole crap load of noisy coyotes. The next day we spent driving from Colorado to Wendover Nevada, which is a nice little casino town where we stayed the night.

The next morning we headed up the North Fork of the Humboldt River drainage until was came across the forest service road that lead to a stream that was reported to have a good population of cutthroat by a Nevada Fish and Game survey.

On my second cast at the stream, I hooked a Humboldt Cutthroat that shook free before I could net it. I then headed up stream and rose a nice 14" cutthroat, but failed to catch it, above this point the stream traveled through multiple channels and was impossible to fish so I headed back down stream where I caught my first Humboldt Cutthroat on a Royal PMX. A little below this point the stream did the same thing it did upstream so I hiked down stream further till I found a section where the entire stream flowed in a single channel. This section of the stream had been totally ravaged by cattle, which had caved in the banks causing it to flow in a small canyon. However I found small pool in this section that had been created by these bank cave ins, and I caught several other cutthroat here by jigging a zug bug. After I caught this trout we drove for about 11 hours and got home around 10:30 at night.

All in all I ended up catching every trout that I targeted, for a total of 10 different types of trout or 11 if you count cutbows as being their own type. It was about 3,600 miles of driving through nine states and I ended up spending over $100.00 on the five different fishing licenses that I had to buy but it was worth even penny of it!! Now the only cutthroat that I haven’t caught is the Pauite in California, which I hope to fish for next summer.

Photos: Top Left to Bottom Right: Yellowstone Cutthroat from Soda Butte Creek, Snake River Fine Spotted Cutthroat, Bonneville Cutthroat, Greenback Cutthroat, Colorado River Cutthroat (smallest one I caught but the nicest looking), Rio Grande Cutthroat, Humboldt Cutthroat, Our Route, the Greenback Cutthroat Stream, Me at the stream I caught the Bonneville Cutthroat at, A Pronghorn in Yellowstone, a small Yellowstone Cutthroat stream, the Tetons, Some Bull Elk in Rocky Mountain NP, Rocky Mountain NP, the stream I caught the Colorado River Cutthroat in, the Rio Grande Cutthroat stream, some cow damage on the Humboldt Cutthroat stream, the Nevada desert and home of the Humboldt Cutthroat, a coyote in Yellowstone, a spot that held a brookie on every cast, a cutbow, a small brown trout, a rainbow trout, a brookie.


Would that I could, I'd do the same trip, ghff.
An awesome report with detail, though I did miss some of the detail as far as the exact locations.:hmmm:
Thanks for sharing.
I'm a few a few sub-species behind you but I do love the cutthroats!:thumb:

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