The cutthroat trout is in the family Salmonidae native to cold-water tributaries of the Pacific Ocean, Rocky Mountains, and Great Basin in North America. It's a member of the Pacific trout, a group that includes the widely distributed rainbow trout. Cutthroat trout are popular fly fishing gamefish. The common name "cutthroat" refers to the distinctive red coloration on the underside of the lower jaw.
Cutthroat trout usually inhabit and spawn in small to moderately large, clear, well-oxygenated, shallow rivers with gravel bottoms. The 14 subspecies are found in four evolutionary groups—Coastal, Westslope, Yellowstone and Lahontan.
Famous for its rainbow trout, the Crowsnest River begins at Crowsnest Lake in the Canadian Rockies near the border with British Columbia. It weaves past Crowsnest Mountain and through ... moreseveral towns before cascading over Lundbreck Falls and flowing into the Oldman Reservoir. The upper river above Blairmore meanders through beautiful alpine meadows with solid, grassy banks and predictable flows.
Below Blairmore there is a short stint of Stillwater created by what was to be a “temporary” blockage built in 1903. Anglers here will spot highly educated, big fish that tease you with a glance and disappear between Turtle Mountain boulders the size of trucks.
The most prized water on this blue ribbon, spring fed, freestone river, is between the towns of Bellvue and Lundbreck Falls. Here the river lies in a valley walled off by tall stands of evergreen, aspen and willow trees. From Lundbreck Falls to the Oldman Reservoir the landscape opens, the river widens and strong winds from the Crowsnest Pass register their mark on misshapen trees. In addition to rainbows, large numbers of cutthroat and bull trout appear on this stretch.
Observers and guides account for the river’s productivity by its proliferous hatches. Especially worth noting is the Salmon fly hatch in the last week of May. Named for their orange colored throats, these salmon flies migrate to the river before entering dry land, creating a wonderful opportunity for anglers.
Unaware of borders, the Wigwam River courses across two countries. The Wigwam starts in the Galton Range of the Rocky Mountains in Lincoln County, Montana, at the confluence of Wolverine ... moreand Bluebird Creeks. It twists and turns, crossing international lines 4 times until it reaches Mount Broadwood; there it abruptly runs west and empties into the Elk River near the town of Elko.
To fish the river, you travel through wilderness on old logging roads, making it a great choice for those who yearn for an authentic backcountry adventure. Spring fed, its waters are incredibly clear and more importantly, very cold. Each spring, bull trout travel from the Kootenay River to the Elk River and spawn upon reaching the Wigwam. Insect life is active and its Western Green Drakes hatches are considered to be in a class all their own.
Guides can open a range of experiences to you while walking the riverbed. Plan to enjoy fishing deep pools, large pockets, churning riffles, logjams, undercut banks and hefty boulders while hauling in a native, west slope cutthroat.
Like other rivers running through southeast British Columbia and southwest Alberta, it’s possible to find knowledgeable guides in either Calgary or Fernie. Named after Na’pi, a great ... morespirit in Peigan tribal legends, the river begins high in
the Rocky Mountains, flows east, gathers tributaries and after a journey of over 225 miles, eventually merges into the Bow. The two rivers form the South Saskatchewan that finally empties into Hudson Bay.
Most interesting to fly fishers is the upper 70 miles of the river, from its headwaters to the Peigan Indian Reserve. Located within the Rocky Mountains Forest Reserve, this section of river is narrow and gin clear. Both native cutthroat and fairly large bull trout can be found here. As the river continues southward, it picks up the Livingstone River and other smaller tributaries. At Racehorse Creek it suddenly turns east and flows through an aptly named passage known as the Gap.
Open ranch land dotted with cottonwoods, aspen and pines characterize the river’s middle section. Here it’s not unusual to spot deer, black bears, grizzlies, elk, and of course, cattle. Fish here vary due to the introduction of rainbows throughout the 1920s and 1930s. The result is pure cutthroats, pure rainbows and scores of hybrids. In early July, hatches of Western Green Drakes and Flavilinea give rise to great dry fishing. It’s possible to wade the middle section although its depth can be hard to gauge accurately and rock ledges can make walking difficult.
Below the Oldman Dam near Pincher Creek, it’s possible to fish tailwater for about 7 miles. Fishing quality varies greatly from season to season so it’s best to check the status before deciding to go.
Starting in the Tenmile Range near Quandry Peak, not far from Breckenridge, the Blue River can be thought of as a tale of two tailwaters. All 65 miles of the Blue have been classified ... moreby the state as a Blue Ribbon trout fishery. It follows the same basic route as the Williams Fork River; both run basically parallel to Route 9, which provides ample access to fishing in these waters.
Starting at an altitude well over 8,000 feet, the river courses north through the scenic, mountainous, Breckenridge area before it is impounded by the Dillon Dam, just shy of Silverthorne. The tailwater below the Dillon is flush with well fed, super-sized trout that obtain their girth from the consistent, ample supply of Mysis shrimp released from the dam. From here the river passes through town where access points are numerous, easy to find and easy to fish.
North of Silverthorne the river is impounded once again at the Green Mountain Reservoir; the water below this reservoir receives another distinction from the state, that of Wild Trout fishery. While the trout in this tailwater tend to be smaller than those pulled from the upper tailwater, they are still ample and sizeable. Below Dillon Dam, the river is managed as a year-round, catch and release fishery. Rainbows and browns dominate although cutthroat and brooks are also present. Kokanee salmon can be found during fall spawning season.
In addition to abundant trout, the river also flows through a variety of different terrain, providing a continuing feast for the eyes. Passing through the Blue River Valley, the Gore Wilderness Area and it’s looming peaks paint the horizon. There are other sections where the river runs through old cattle ranches, some dating back to the mid 1800’s. Wherever you are on this river, nothing disappoints.
Headwatered high in the Collegiate Range of the eastern Rockies, just north of Leadville, the Arkansas River begins its long journey to the gulf. It traverses the valleys of Mt. Ebert ... moreand other 14,000+ peaks, passes through Buena Vista, and turns east to Pueblo before reaching the Kansas state line. Measuring over 1,469 miles, it is the second longest river in the Mississippi-Missouri river system and the 45th longest river in the world.
According to several sources, including the Colorado Parks and Wildlife agency, this freestone section on the Arkansas River has become the most popular fishery in the state. This may be attributed to high fish counts, easy public access and its recently acquired, (2014) 102-mile Gold Medal Water designation, the longest continuous run in the state. Once polluted by mining runoff, state intervention and conservation efforts have restored the water making the Gold Medal status possible.
Once home to native cutthroat, the river is now predominately rainbows and browns. Densities range from 2,000 to 5,000 fish per mile with an average size of 13 to 15 inches, while 18+ inchers are not uncommon and are there to be taken. Within the Gold Medal section it is catch and release for rainbows.
In contrast to the upper freestone part of the river, east of the Pueblo Reservoir there is great tailwater fishing. Here the river is characterized by gentle bends, deep holes and majestic stands of cottonwood groves. Here cutthroats and rainbows are abundant while the trophy browns, usually older and wiser fish, tend to be difficult to catch.
Southwest of Denver, the South Platte River is formed by the convergence of the South Fork and Middle Fork rivers. Its drainage basin, on the eastern side of the Front Range Rocky ... moreMountains, is quite substantial covering large parts of Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska. Together with the North Platte, they form the Platte River that winds through Nebraska and eventually joins the Missouri River. There are three main areas along the South Platte that are known for great trout fishing, each a unique and worthwhile adventure: Cheesman Canyon, Dream Stream and Eleven Mile Canyon.
Cheesman Canyon has the rarified distinction of being ranked as both a Wild trout and a Gold Medal stretch of water. Known for its huge boulders, arid clime and towering Ponderosas, the river is also considered to be one of the most technically difficult tailwater fisheries in the state. It is also known for rewarding anglers with large rainbows (average 14-16 inches and many over 20) and sizeable browns. Throughout the canyon you can expect to find deep pocket water, rifles and small pools. Fishing is possible year round although it is catch and release only.
Open to the public, the Gold Medal Dream Stream runs from the Spinney Mountain Reservoir to Elevenmile Canyon. Famous for it trophy rainbows, cutthroats and browns, the Dream Stream is also known for its Kokanee salmon that arrive during their fall spawning season. Trout weighing 2-3 pounds are commonplace, while larger fish, including monster 20+ inchers, are also possible. Fish here tend to be skilled at avoiding detection and prepared to put up a good fight, humbling even the most experienced anglers. This 3-mile section is strictly catch and release, artificial lures only.
Between the Elevenmile Reservoir and Lake George, the South Platte flows through a gorgeous canyon with riffles, runs and pocket water. Steep canyon walls protect from wind and offer shade during summer months. Largely a rainbow fishery, browns and cutthroats are also here. Most fish measure over a foot long but much bigger fish can be found. The top two, Gold Medal miles of the canyon have the highest concentration of trout; catch and release only here. Public access to the canyon is excellent, and this year-round fishery can be crowded. Miraculously, the fish seem oblivious, easier to catch here than on other parts of the river.
With a name like this you know there has to be a story. In fact there are several, but our favorite is the most obvious – that long ago there were so many fish (native cutthroat) they ... morejumped right out of the river and into your frying pan. It begins near Mt. Elbert as a stream fed, heavily pocketed, freestone river. From there the river turns northwest and flows into the Ruedi Reservoir, where since 1968, its waters have been dammed. This 14 mile, Gold Medal, section - from the reservoir to the Roaring Fork at Basalt - is considered one of the state’s best tailwaters.
By definition, Gold Medal in Colorado means the fish are plentiful – a minimum of 60 pounds of trout per acre with at least 12 fish over 14 inches in length. Together with the designated 28 miles of Roaring Fork water, this is the longest, continuous Gold Medal run in Colorado. The introduction of the dam brought an unintended side effect when Mysis shrimp were introduced into the Reservoir to support a Kokanee salmon fishery that was never completed. The result – big boys, pigs, hogs, giants, or whatever you call them - the shrimp diet produces monster fish.
Add abundant, year round hatches and it’s no wonder anglers flock here to fish. The Frying Pan is known for its fabled Green Drake hatch that typically starts in late July and extends through October, drawing even the savviest fish to the surface. In addition to Spring Blue Winged Olive (BWO) hatches, this tailwater is one of only three that hosts the Serratella ignitia, a flightless BWO that attracts fish like ice cream attracts kids.
The river above the reservoir is less crowded and less regulated. The Gold Medal run is catch and release, artificial lures only.