In Search of Alpine Cutthroat Trout

I can never quite put my finger on it, but I always get excited when I know I will be fishing for Westslope Cutthroat Trout. There is something to be said for chasing a native fish in their home streams where they have been for thousands of years. Sadly the places where this fish exist are getting smaller and smaller each year and within a 1 hour reach of where I am located they are very few and far between. In fact I have never caught one in my local region and honestly believed it was a bit of a myth for a long time. Well, I set out one evening after work to put that myth to bed.

Cutthroat trout

I believe the entire cutthroat population in my area all exist in the alpine streams and lakes that have natural barriers that prevent other species from entering the system such as large waterfalls. Now how the cutthroat got up there to begin with is beyond me, but who am I to question the power of Mother Nature? I had a creek in mind that I set out to right after work. Okay, I left work early that day, but I was going fishing so it’s not really my fault. The road has seen better days for sure and with the large snow pack and huge run off this year it was pretty torn up. I powered through and ended up at my first location on the creek.

Trail through a forest

Needless to say there was way more water coming down the creek than I had imagined there would be. The pools that I thought would be there were churning white water reigning terror on whatever may have been lying beneath. So I continued on my merry little way up the dirt road until I reached the lake at the top.

Alpine river

The lake was like glass and the sun was still out shining down on it all. When I arrived at the water’s edge I could already see fish jumping all over the place. None of them monsters, but they all seemed eager to eat anything that touched the water. I had a small beetle pattern on my 3wt from a previous weekend fishing with my brother so I started with that, they liked it! As the evening progressed they stopped hitting the surface for a little bit so I switched to an olive hare’s ear with an orange bead because why not? I fished this under an indicator and all the fish seemed to enjoy it as well. The sun had finally made its way behind the mountains and the fish started jumping again, so I went with a #18 elk hair caddis. The fish really didn’t seem picky on my fly choices at all as the caddis worked as well.

Alpine lake
Holding a Cutthroat

Fishing in the alpine is always fun as the fish just seem far less picky than down in the valley bottoms. They may not always be as large as the ones down below, but when you lose count after an hour it sure makes up for it. It’s also safe to say that the myth has been officially busted and I can rest assured there are cutthroat in my backyard.

Kootenay Kid selfie