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Montana Road Trip 2009: Fly Fishing a Small Cutthroat Trout Stream

Posted by Tom Chandler 7/11/2009

With two days of the Bitterroot River behind us, [name redacted] and I switched gears, heading for a pair of small, cutthroat-trout laced waters.

The Undergrounders know of my consuming love for the little trickles, and revisiting a couple favorites from last year's Montana road trip didn't involve a lot of arm twisting.



That storm clouds were gathering when we arrived didn't matter - after two days of bigger water, I hit this little stream like a racehorse breaking from the gate.

Then again, I seem to have a thing with storms, and this trip was no exception; seconds after I caught a 15.5" cutthroat (a great big fish for a stream this size), a lightning bolt struck a ridge a couple miles away, and [name redacted] and I found ourselves moving rapidly back to the truck.



Not only was the cutthroat the biggest I'd caught, but it was also the most colorful - a stunning mix of reds, oranges, yellows and colors I can't quite identify.

You know that colors fade quickly underwater, but emotionally, you can't quite grasp the idea that these trout actually are that wildly colorful.

The neon-painted cutthroats nicely echoed the wildflowers, which - due to a cool, wet spring - were now carpeting vast swatches of meadow.



In fact, the blooms mimicking the shape of an elephant's head were almost as intriguing as the cutthroat trout (maybe if they would eat a parachute):



Then again, sometimes you simply get too wrapped up in the fly fishing to notice:



The Fly Fishing Itself
This is a remote stretch of stream that doesn't get fished much, but you won't catch a lot of trout by looming over the water and waving your 8' long arm around - even if that long arm is a gorgeously impregnated 8' 5wt Phillipson Peerless bamboo fly rod.

Trout, it turns out, don't respect a brand name fly rod.

[Name redacted] fished the 8.5' 4wt Diamondglass he bought only days after fishing mine on last year's Montana Road Trip, suggesting he's a fast learner.

Even better, [name redacted] knows this stream (and cutthroats) well, and after the storm passed, we managed hook a sizable number of Westslope cutthroats - mostly on caddis dries.



In a foolish attempt to find the real truth about the waterproof nature (or lack thereof) of Underground's Official Point and Shoot digital camera, we went for an underwater photo:



The bad news? The camera really isn't waterproof any more.

Still, it only fogged up for a little while, but camera problems are starting to appear with distressing frequency. Tomorrow's "fishing a tiny meadow stream" report suffers from a distressing lack of photographs due to battery issues - but you'll still want to tune in.

For now, we're back at home, I've got one more day to report (this on a tiny meadow stream some of you will recognize from last year's report), and we may be headed to Georgetown Lake in pursuit of bigger trout (and fewer aching knees).

I think the Montana Road Trip 2009 is finding its stride, and while I'm sore from all the walking, climbing, wading, driving and sleeping on the ground, I'm willing to do more - willing to make the big sacrifices for my readership.

Wipe the tears of pity from your eyes, Undergrounders. We're going back in.

See you somewhere in Montana, Tom Chandler.

AuthorPicture

Tom Chandler

As the author of the decade leading fly fishing blog Trout Underground, Tom believes that fishing is not about measuring the experience but instead of about having fun. As a staunch environmentalist, he brings to the Yobi Community thought leadership on environmental and access issues facing us today.

All photos are good, but #1 & #5 are special.
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Great post and great photography Tom. I would love to tag along simply in order to soak up the wonderful scenery. Any spare seats on future trips for a Kiwi guy living in Tokyo desperately in need of some R&R?
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To be clear, as Tom points out, that's not Purple Fringless Orchid; it's Elephant's Head.
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Jealish. Davem
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Dougfish: Purple Fringeless Orchid, Tom. Good catch. Pedicularis groenlandica. Now that I've spoken Latin, my head hurts.
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Purple Fringeless Orchid, Tom. Good catch.
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A great piece of travel journalism. The last pic was my favorite; it was cool to see an action shot of a fish. I think fishing is a great excuse to take a road trip!
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Outstanding photos Tom...the first and third pictures were my favorite.
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