Tips & Tricks

Cutthroat cannibals

After I normally consider cutthroat trout — irrespective of the place I am going to catch them, from northern New Mexico to southern British Columbia — I consider elegant wild trout which can be fast to rise to dry flies. Given the place they dwell, and the fish with which they typically share habitat, I seldom consider cutthroats as fish that, nicely, eat different fish.

And that’s a mistake.

Native cutthroats from the Rio Grande north to the Elk River do, certainly, munch on massive bites of fishy protein, and they’re, in my expertise, extra tuned in to chasing different fish when water is excessive and somewhat murky, significantly within the spring and early summer time as runoff begins to wane.

Lately, on a neighborhood trout stream that will get a large spawning run of native Snake River fine-spotted cutthroats from an space reservoir, I’ve taken to throwing massive articulated streamers that get down deep and transfer water. These massive flies, usually tied for fish most of us would assume to be extra predatorial — browns, rainbows and even massive char, like bull trout — appear to drag the largest cutthroats within the creek out from beneath logjams and overhanging banks. And when these massive fish hit, they actually hit — it’s not the tentative, considerably lazy, cutthroat “sip” that happens later in the summertime because the water clears.

For lots of fishy people, it’s no epiphany that cutthroats will chase and eat different fish. In Utah, for instance, when it got here time to try to get rid of the “tough” fish from the fabled Strawberry Reservoir some 30 years in the past, state fisheries managers didn’t flip to unique brown trout or Lake Michigan lake trout. They planted non-native Bonneville cutthroat trout from Bear Lake that straddles the border of Utah and Idaho (sure, the native Colorado River cutthroat trout might need been a better option for Strawberry, however the chubs and suckers the reservoir have been so prolific {that a} predator accustomed to consuming different fish was wanted). Bear Lake’s native cutthroats are fish eaters in an enormous manner, current largely on a weight loss plan of cisco, a big, education relative of the whitefish.

On the South Fork of the Snake River right here in Idaho, a streamer on the swing is simply as more likely to entice a 20-inch cutthroat as it’s a 20-inch brown — the river is so prolific in relation to aquatic life, that the native fish have their choose from younger whitefish and even younger rainbows and brown trout. And, sure, they’ll even ingest their very own younger.

The dry-fly fame typically utilized to cutthroats is well-earned. That fame is probably going why the South Fork is such a well-known river for anglers who like to forged massive dry flies. However, simply 4 years in the past, an angler on the South Fork caught on a streamer a local Yellowstone cutthroat that possible weighed shut to eight kilos and, had the angler measured it, it may have very nicely stretched the tape to 30 inches (she released the fish after snapping a couple of images, as is required Idaho laws). For those who assume a fish like that received to be so massive by sipping PMDs off the floor, you’re sadly mistaken.

Assume too, concerning the Lahontan cutthroat trout fishery in Nevada. Traditionally, the native cutthroats migrated from Pyramid Lake all the best way up the slope of the jap Sierra, the place they spawned in Lake Tahoe. Whereas that migration is now possible not possible, because of irrigation diversions and fish limitations, the massive fish are being restored to Pyramid Lake, and anglers are catching increasingly more trophy trout. And, for probably the most half, these massive natives aren’t consuming bugs. They, like their cutthroat cousins all throughout the West, are fish eaters.

On my native cutthroat stream, I benefit from the cutthroats that spend a lot of the yr in a big reservoir, however begin to run up tributary streams in April and Might. In a few of the tributaries, the fish will spawn beneath the quilt of excessive water, however in a few creeks which can be extra productive from the meals perspective, the “lake fish” will hang around all summer time and benefit from the high-country largesse that ranges from prolific Inexperienced Drake hatches in June to grasshopper and terrestrial hatches that final into September. It helps, too, I feel, that this explicit creek can also be dwelling to an enormous run of native Utah suckers — these fish college up and swim upstream like salmon, the place they load the creek with eggs within the spring, after which with fry and fingerlings because the eggs hatch in early summer time.

However the cutthroats spawn there, too, they usually’ll go after their very own younger. The truth is, maybe my favourite streamer to forged when the water is coming down from its peak at excessive runoff, is an orange and yellow Slumpbuster, weighted with barbell eyes to get it down in quick water. On a current outing, this “cutthroat fly” helped me convey a number of cutthroats at hand between 16 and 20 inches in a reasonably unassuming high-mountain stream that the majority people may affiliate extra with non-native brook trout or small, wild cutthroats that hit dry flies with abandon (fortunately, brookies by no means discovered their manner into this stream, and there are many small cutthroats, however they have an inclination to stay to the thin higher reaches of the stream till, like their dad and mom, they migrate to the lake).

Whereas the dry-fly-eating habits of cutthroat trout have garnered appreciation for the fish throughout their native vary, it’s a mistake to assume that cutthroats are one way or the other much less inclined to chase massive streamers than their non-native rivals. Like every trout, they subscribe to a various and opportunistic weight loss plan. Within the Bear River of southern Idaho, native Bonneville cutthroat trout have been caught and dissected. Their abdomen contents, simply as typically as not? Child carp.

The lesson? When the protein is there, cutthroats will eat it. Don’t assume that these stunning native trout are so pure that they’ll solely eat mayfly duns and that the one solution to chase them is with the related imitations forged upstream.

The fish which may eat a dimension 16 Adams in July possible spent the month of June chasing and consuming child suckers … and even child cutthroats.

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