About this blog

This blog is all about fly fishing for native trout. On it I cover trip reports, fishing tactics, conservation, the latest news about native trout species and much more. This site provides a companion to my web page nativetroutflyfishing.com.

Gary

Monday, October 6, 2008

Finishing up the Cutt Slam

About a month ago my sister invited me to join her on a trip to eastern Idaho to visit her husband's family. This area just happens to be on of my favorite parts of the to world, so of course I jumped at the opportunity. The trip also prompted me to decided to finish up the Wyoming Cutt Slam, in which anglers have to catch four of Wyoming's native cutthroat in their native streams. Back in 2006 I had fished in Wyoming and caught three types of it's native cutthroat, so I just needed one more to finish it up. That last fish was the Colorado River cutthroat, which is native to the Green River drainage in central Wyoming and that was only going to be a few hours from where we were staying.

Day 1: Saturday September 27th 2008: The entire day was spent making the 13 hour drive to Driggs Idaho. Not much exciting happened except for some issues with our hotel reservation, which ended up being at a place that expedia forgot to mention on their website isn't open during the fall. Once we got things cleared up with expedia, we ended up at the Best Western which worked out alright.

Sunday September September 28th 2008: My sister and I took the day to check out the area (and fishing), which is located just on the slightly less famous western side of the Teton Mountains. We started out getting some lunch at a small grocery store in Victor, ID, which happened to have some of the best Potato soup that I have ever had. After this we ran down to the Teton River where I tried my luck fishing for a little bit.

The Teton River

Esentially the Teton River in the Driggs area is a huge spring creek with a strong population of Yellowstone cutthroat and a few brook trout and whitefish. The only problem is that the river gets pounded by other fisherman, so needless to say that fish were extremely picky and I didn't have much luck.

The next place that we went to check out was the Grand Targhee Ski Resort, which is just outside of town. Even though it was way to early to think about snowboarding this place looked like it would be a fun slope, and the fall colors in the Tetons were awesome.
The fall colors at Grand Targhee

From here I went to try a little fishing at a local stream. When I first walked up to the creek I spooked a trout, but this was also the only fish that I saw. Even though the fishing wasn't any good, the scenery was great so I had a good time.
The creek

Day 3: Monday September 29th 2008: Today was a day that I had for fishing, so I headed up to a small stream in the Tetons to see if I could find any Yellowstone cutthroat. I arrived at the trail to the creek little after 9am and started hiking.
The wilderness area boundary

I reached the creek about a 1/4 mile up the trail, and rigged up my rod with a size 12 royal pmx and copper john dropper. The creek was a classical medium gradiant mountain stream, consisting of riffles, runs and a few pools and pieces of pocket water once and a while. I started systematically covering the water and working my way upstream, but after a half an hour I still hadn't had any hits. I finally came to a small pool where a few fish were holding, but when I got closer wasn't to happy to notice that they were all brook trout. Outside their native range brook trout generally outcompete other trout, so they have been a big problem to the continued existance of many populations of native trout. Even so I was here so I might as well fish for them, and just upstream of the pool I rose one but lost it. I continued working my way upstream, without any further hits until I came to a small piece of pocketwater where I saw a fish rise. I made my cast and it eagerly ate my dry fly, than began fighting in typical brook trout fashion, going deep and doing a bit of thrashing around but little else.
Even though they aren't native to the west, brook trout are an extremely beautiful fish
The creek

After this I started noticing a few more brookies here and there, but they are all extremely spooky so I had to be very careful not to scare them when I approached some promising looking water. This often meant that I had to hide behind something or make an extremely long cast to get a response from the fish. The sneaky approach tactic worked great though, and I started hooking up and catching brook trout left and right, but still no cutthroat.
A spawning pair of brook trout

About a mile upstream from where I started fishing the creek began to change in character, having a much steeper gradient and consisting of more pools and pocket water. It was just at the begining of this high gradient section that I hooked a fish that didn't act like the typical brook trout. Instead it shot strait out of they water, than followed up with several more jumps and when I brought it to the net it ended up being a beautiful little native cutthroat.
My first Yellowstone cutthroat from the stream

After this the amount of cutthroat drastically increased, although the brook trout still seemed to outnumber them about 3:1. If I had to choose a favorite type of water to fish for trout it would probably small pocket water streams, so I felt like I was in my element here. Just about every pool that I came held at least on fish, and as I progressed further upstream, the Tetons began to come into view, really adding to the experience. After a while I came to a perfect looking pool with a small water fall at its head that just screamed trout. I hid behind a large blouder and made a short cast upstream, only to watch a "monster" cutthroat materialize from the depths, and slowly but confidently rise to the surface to enhale my dry fly. The fish turned, and I set the hook and it was fish on. Even though the cutthroat put up a valiant effort and a good bend in my fly rod, it really didn't have anywhere to go and I brought it to the net after a short fight. Against the basket of my net I figure that the fish was about 14", which was extremely impressive for the surroundings that he was living in.
My big cutthroat
The pool where the cutthroat came from

A few pools above where I got the big cutthroat I got a slightly smaller but still impressive sized brook trout. Not to far above where I caught this big brookie, the stream began to level off again and I decided that I had probably fished enough for one day so I made my way back to the trail and hiked back out to the car.
The big brook trout
Looking upstream toward the Tetons

That evening after fishing my sister and I joined her husband's cousin on a horseback ride to a small lake in the mountains, which was a lot of fun and a new experience for me.

Day 4: Tuesday September 30th 2008: I spent the day with my sister going to meet her husband's family. No fishing, but we got some killer Indian Tacos at the Fort Hall Indian Reservation for with her relatives for lunch. After visiting the family we left Idaho behind us and headed over to Jackson, WY for the next couple of days.

Day 5: Wednesday October 1st 2008: This was my day to see if I could finish up the Wyoming Cutt Slam by catching some Colorado River cutthroat. Prior to leaving Dave had pointed me in the right direction for a decent stream, so I got up early to make the long drive over to the Green River drainage. Even though it had been nice every day, the mornings showed signs that fall was in progress, and the temperature was 25 degrees when I left Jackson in the morning. Once in the Green River valley, it became pretty evident that that pronghorn antelope were making their annual migration to their overwintering grounds, as every open field had 10-20 antelope in it. About 8:00am I turned off on the road to the creek and covered the 30 miles of dirt road to finally reach my destination.
The creek valley

One couldn't ask for a more perfect little stream, and besides a few hunters driving up and down the valley, I had the place to myself. This was a steriotypical little meadow stream, that lazily flowed through the valley doing a series of perfect U turns with a few beaver ponds thrown in here and there. I hit the water using my ever dependable royal PMX and copper dropper set up and caught a fish almost right away.
A Colorado River cutthroat
However after this initial fish the fishing unfortunately slowed down a bit and even though a put my fly in every likely looking spot, I didn't find anymore fish for about a 1/4 mile upstream. It seemed as though the combination of the cold morning air and the fish moving to more suitable over-wintering water may have been working against me. I finally found some fish at a where riffle came into a deep pool as the creek turned a corner. The first fish I got was a cutthroat, but the second was something unexpected; a Mountain Whitefish. While whitefish don't have the best reputation with fly fisherman and the one that I caught was tiny, I was pretty happy about my catch as it was a first for me.
The little whitefish
A beaver pond on the creek
After this the fishing continued to improve and I caught several more cutthroat. After covering about a mile of the stream, I put a wooley bugger and began working my way back downstream. none pool that I came to I caught a small brook trout while stripping the wooly bugger in, which was an unwelcomed sight in this beautiful little cutthroat stream. Since this was the only brook trout that I saw, it can only be hoped that they will not establish themselves in this creek. On the next cast I got one of my better cutthroat from the creek, then made way back to the car wishing that I had more time to spend in the area.
A Colorado Cutthroat caught on a wooley bugger

I got back to Jackson around 3:00pm and my sister and I wandered around town for a while check out the shops and sights. Next we ran up to Teton National Park and drove around for a bit doing some wildlife viewing and sight seeing. While there, we saw our first moose, which was exciting even though our view was pretty obstructed by some willows that it was laying behind. After going up to the Tetons, went back to Jackson where we got some Sushi for dinner at a little restruant called Nekai. The Rocky Mountains and good sushi do not seem like something that would go together, but this place was excellent and I would highly suggest it to anyone.
Teton National Park
Day 6: Thursday October 2nd 2008: Today we would begin working our way back home. My sister had never been to Yellowstone, so we decided to drive though park on the way back. While driving through the Tetons, we saw four more moose, which was really cool. It is kind of crazy though that I have been to the Yellowstone area seven other times and this was the first trip that I had seen any moose on and I end up seeing five of them...
A moose from across the river
October is a great time to visit Yellowstone, as the crowds have died down, the animals are out and the trees are in their fall colors. The first stop was at Old Faithful, and our timing couldn't have been better as the geyser went off right as we got to the viewing area.
Old Faithful

From here we went up to a hotspring area along the Firehole River and walked around for a bit, than drove up to Mammoth and out of the park.


The Firehole River in the hotsprings area
A bison in Yellowstone

The entire day was spent crossing Montana, and we ended up staying in Coeur d' Alene Idaho for the night.

Day 7: Friday October 3rd 2008: We spent a little bit of time in Coeur d' Alene, then headed back home to Washington.

Overall it was an awesome trip, and felt great to just get away for a while. Beyond that the fishing was great and I managed to catch three native salmonids including one that I hadn't caught before, plus I finished of the Wyoming Cutt Slam.

1 comment:

Cutthroat Stalker said...

Gary,

Way to finish off the Cutt-Slam! You fished some very beautiful areas. Those places are about 3 - 3 1/2 hours from my house, so I get the chance to fish that area a bit. Count yourself lucky to be there with the fall colors. I enjoyed your photos. I'm like you, I love the brookie, but they're in the wrong places.