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Wily Westslopes

The sun was just coming up over the mountains as I awoke to a scenic morning. The local wildlife population was already up long before me, yet it was only 6:30 am. My fishing partner (my brother) Andy awoke to the "natural alarm" (squirrels), and began to get ready for another day of fly fishing. After a quick bite to eat, we grabbed our fly gear and headed on our way down to the little creek. Taking in the mountain morning air was refreshing, and the sound of moving water signaled that we were nearing the creek.

The creek awaits...

Emerging from the forested trail, we got our first glimpse of the little gem we would be fishing that day. Visions of beautiful westslope cutthroat trout on the end of my line danced around in my head as I took my first steps into the water. The water was freezing cold, though that was to be expected seeing as how it was the beginning of July; but I knew that if the weather was anything like it was in previous days, we would be in for a real treat. Up the stream we headed, as we found the first beautiful piece of water below a little falls, Andy decided to get his line wet. I sat back and watched as he worked the water with an attractor dry fly. After that proved unsuccessful, he switched to a smaller dry fly, then to a wooly bugger. After working that prime stretch for a while, we decided it would be best to keep moving Andy works the fallson.

The next few promising stretches of water proved to be the same as the first one. No fish were spotted in the clear water, and certainly none were hooked. Amazed that nothing had even given our flies a sniff thus far, we had to keep moving up. This creek had to have fish in it!

After stopping for a late lunch around 2:00, we rounded the next bend in the creek. We were taking in the scenery around us, when we almost walked through one of the best looking stretches on the entire creek. One edge of the creek had a nice undercut bank, and an excellent run that extended all along it. Sure enough, within seconds, the splashy rise of a westslope Tim casting to the wily cutthroatcutthroat broke the silence, and the hunt was on. Andy decided to crouch down to the side and watch the fish working the water, while I cast to it. Beginning with flies that had been dynamite on the other local cutthroat streams, I tried for over an hour with over 12 different patterns and sizes of flies, and different presentations. This cutthroat would not even give these flies a look as he passed up mine, and a bunch of the naturals that were coming down. Frustrated, I knew I had to catch this fish, but how? By that time, we decided to keep moving up the creek to explore a little more water. It was unbelievable water! Not far from the last spot, we watched as a nice cutthroat sipped flies off the surface at the head of a small pool, and a smaller fish that was most likely a brook trout was taking small mayflies at the tail out.

Andy had his chance in this spot, and ended up hooking into the small brookie in the tail out, before losing it. We explored a little more water, and time ticked away. It was 7:00, and we decided to head downstream, and back to camp for some supper.

A stunning cutthroat from a nearby streamThe next three days of our trip were spent on other waters around this creek, and each evening we would come back to the small creek to try and find more fish. Every night that we came back, the only fish that could be seen, or that would even look at our flies, were in the same spots.

The third night in, we had tied up some small tan mayflies to imitate a Patience pays off! heavy hatch that was occurring every night around the same time. As I approached one of the familiar spots, I watched for a few minutes, and finally saw the big guy give himself away. It took five casts with that #18 tan mayfly before the fish inhaled it, and the battle was on. Andy and I were both excited to finally hook into one of these gems. Patience and On it's waypersistence paid off, and after a battle of a few minutes, the cutthroat was landed. To our amazement, the cutthroat was around 15-16", in a creek not wider than 6 feet in most places. This was a special fish, and well worth the effort.

After a couple more nights, the first fish we saw near the bank on the first day was spotted again. This was five nights later, and I had been casting my entire fly box to this fish for days. Tippet was changed, leaders lengthened, and nymphs and dry flies were both experimented with to their death. This fish had to give in! It took three fly patterns, but that same hatch that had been present started up again, and this time the fish was actually looking at my fly. A #18 blue wing olive was tied on, and on the first cast, magic happened. The picky bastard slips up. (The cutt can actually be spotted in the water on the end of the line in this pic)

"FINALLY!!!" I yelled out. Even Andy let out a holler. We were definitely ecstatic after the amount of time it took to finally fool this gorgeous cutthroat. It zipped downstream, and almost took me into a couple roots and logs underwater, but the battle was mine. The fish took a couple more risky moves, but I managed to keep it from any hazards. This cutt gave and epic battle, but it was finally coming to my Five nights, but well worth the effort!hand. As it neared I couldn't help but take in the thickness and beauty of this cutthroat. I also discovered that the one side of the fish had a big mark on it, most likely from a bird. This might have explained why this fish was so reluctant to take my fly, but it was finally fooled once again. The other side of that gorgeous cutt. A bird must have taken a chunk out of her at one time as seen in this somewhat blurry picture.

After a few pictures, the trout was released to go back to its lair. We fished a little while longer, but then we headed on the long walk back. This time we didn't have the feeling of defeat, and it felt good to finally land that wily bugger. There was one day left to fish this area, and we had to make a choice on what stream to fish come morning....

We woke up the next morning to a thunderstorm, and pouring rain. It seemed that the storm would not let up, but by noon, all that remained was heavy cloud cover. Our decision was made, and we headed to the small creek once again. This day was much different than most of the previous days we had fished the creek. An area with a log jamb showed us three cutthroats in the (approx.) 18-20" range, and we cast to them for a while until Andy actually hooked one. He lost it, but the next spot was the ol' waterfall run. Once again, Andy hooked a big cutthroat and lost it. This was already a good day. The fish were pretty much giving themselves away without having to go through the entire fly box.

Heading upstream, we found ourselves in familiar territory once again. I had a #12 orange stimulator on this time, and there were a few small hoppers landing on the water by the undercut bank. I knew that I had to present the fly like I had been for the last few nights in order to catch this fish again. If hooked, you only get one shot. I cast the fly as tight to the bank as I could, and to my surprise the fish took on the first drift! The fish seemed angrier than ever, and instead of the usual "cuttroat roll" downstream, it took a couple headshakes, and tore upstream! SNAP! The tippet broke, and the battle was done. Round two went to old cutty.

An underwater picture of Tim's nice cutthroat. The second time he landed this one...A short time later, and a little walk upstream, I hooked and landed the same fish I had landed on the third night. Andy managed to finally  land a 15" cutthroat as well. These were all fish we had previously seen on other nights. The rest of the creek seemed to be empty, but those few stretches had enough activity to make us come back night after night.

Andy's 15" cutthroat caught on the final day of fishing this little gem.On the walk back I couldn't help but wonder if this day was a reward for the countless hours spent trying to lure these few fish from their respective "homes". I wondered how it was possible that, while the other streams in the area were fabulous for action, this one was a stubborn little creek even though it didn't receive anywhere near the same pressure as the others. Reality set in, and I realized that I had been fooled by the fish that just one night before, I had fooled myself. Could it be that we were both learning each others' ways, or was I over thinking the entire scenario. I still think about that trip to this day. It taught me a lot more about fishing tough streams, and I can only wonder if someone else had the experience of trying to fool that old girl last summer, I know I couldn't get her again. I'll take it though. After all, we are still tied 1-1, and it's a best of three...

Tim Tchir, WesternSportfishing.ca

Written by: Tim Tchir

Email: tim@westernsportfishing.ca