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In search of Westslope Cutthroat Trout

By Troutnut on July 22nd, 2017
Since moving to Washington in April, I've had a few chances to escape the crowds of the Seattle area and explore east of the Cascades, but one of my longtime goals -- to finally catch my first unambiguous, bonafide, beautiful Westslope Cutthroat -- had eluded me due to high water from spring snowmelt or fishing streams dominated by other trout. This weekend I went fishing and camping with my wife Lena & dog Taiga to check out a couple possible trout fishing spots.

Saturday, we dove into a labyrinth of forest roads, creeping along precipitous cliffs and changing one severely flat tire before arriving at a tiny stream in a high-altitude meadow. Having no previous information on this stream besides an old scientific report documenting the existence of the species, I was delighted to find one of the best small-stream fly fishing experiences I've had. There were fat, colorful Westslope Cutthroat in every likely-looking pool, and a few were pushing 10-11 inches, giants for the size of the water.

Photos by Troutnut from Mystery Creek #199 and the Yakima River in Washington

Comments / replies

Jmd123July 24th, 2017, 6:37 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2140
Love those little creeks, Jason! "Brookies of the West..." Hey, nice wildflowers too! I also like the wind farm.

Jonathon
No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
MartinlfJuly 25th, 2017, 11:26 am
Moderator
Palmyra PA

Posts: 2740
Gorgeous, Jason. Thanks!
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
CrenoJuly 25th, 2017, 2:46 pm
Grants Pass, OR

Posts: 273
Did I miss an update? What took you to Seattle? Pretty big city for Alaska folk :-)
TroutnutJuly 26th, 2017, 10:36 am
Administrator
Fairbanks, AK

Posts: 2423
Creno, I guess I never did a proper update post, but yeah I moved to the Seattle area for a new, hopefully long-term job with a small fisheries research company working on Columbia basin salmon & steelhead.

I'm living far enough out of town that interesting natural areas aren't too far away. Plus I've got the upper Columbia, Puget Sound, and Olympic peninsula all within 2-3 hours' drive, which was about the minimum drive time to go anywhere really cool from Fairbanks (with 1-2 exceptions) anyway.

The traffic is driving me crazy, though.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
Jmd123July 26th, 2017, 2:29 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2140
Ah yes, the Pacific Northwest...many memories. BIG trees, lots of mosses, ferns, and lichens...and pretty little coastal cutthroats! Oh, and don't forget the rough-skinned newts, Pacific giant salamanders, red-sided garter snakes...and slugs everywhere! It's a very lush, green, wet place...and if you need snow, just drive up into the Cascades.

I lived in Coos Bay, OR for a year, '92 - '93, right near the bay and a mile inland from the Pacific. Used to fall asleep listening to the crashing of the surf off in the distance...and I had a great job doing field biology, collecting aquatic insects, electroshocking fish, measuring trees, ID-ing plant species, hiking up little coastal creeks or mountain-biking old logging roads (many of which we had to brush out with machetes) to get to more remote parts of our Research Reserve to save time (2-hour walk vs. 1-hour ride).

I'm a bit envious, Jason. It's a very nice part of the world. But, I'm pretty happy here too - the only thing we don't have is mountains, and our "ocean" is Lake Huron! One of my friends has a t-shirt that says:

TAWAS BAY - No Salt - No Sharks - No Problem

Enjoy and keep posting the photos, including other flora & fauna!

Jonathon
No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
CrenoJuly 27th, 2017, 9:25 pm
Grants Pass, OR

Posts: 273
Jason - That is nice country all around there (having spent alot of time with the caddis/country in Mt. Rainier area and Whatcom and Okanogan Counties) although I don't think I would want to commute. When I was in Denver I lived close to work and appreciated the short commute twice a day day in return for the hour to get out of town when I could. Big cities have alot to offer in their own way.

However, I have a good friend here from Alaska and I know he is struggling with "all" our 36,000 people :-) I think he is too old to adapt - I suspect you will make it OK. If you get to southern OR be sure to check in.
TroutnutJuly 27th, 2017, 10:03 pm
Administrator
Fairbanks, AK

Posts: 2423
If you get to southern OR be sure to check in.


Will do!

Without traffic, I'm about half an hour from work, and half an hour from the nearest trout steams wild enough to have cougar tracks on the sandbars. I've been doing a lot of evening after-work fishing at places up to an hour and a half away, though it's maddening if I don't leave at the right time and that drive stretches to three hours of crawling along in traffic. I'm slowly learning to be more strategic about my travel.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
WbranchJuly 29th, 2017, 10:52 am
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2214
Jason, I just have to ask why do you and your wife wear chest waders when it is likely there is no water much deeper than your knees. To ward off mosquitoes perhaps? Protection from vipers?
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
TroutnutJuly 29th, 2017, 11:24 am
Administrator
Fairbanks, AK

Posts: 2423
Just convenience. We don't really have good gear for wet wading, we don't have hip waders, and didn't really know what depths to expect when exploring new spots. I tend to just wear chest waders for almost everything, out of habit.
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
WbranchJuly 29th, 2017, 12:16 pm
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2214
Okay, I have a pair of waist highs for streams I know are no deeper than 2' -4'. I too wear my chest waders most of the time but I fish big water 90% of the time. I wet wade the Missouri in the day time and don waders for the evening fishing. As soon as the sun goes down it gets darn chilly at 6000 feet above sea level.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
Jmd123July 31st, 2017, 2:05 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2140
It's definitely wet-wading time around here. I was out two weeks ago on the Rifle and I felt like I was on a spirit quest in a sweat lodge...wondered when I was gonna start hallucinating or something. The waders will be taking a rest for a couple of months, at least.

Jonathon
No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...

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