Time: 10:00AM – 3:30PM
Location: National forest
Tuesday was my opportunity to spend a full day on a remote backcountry creek. I fished the Elk River three times previously, and I was very excited for another chance on Tuesday, August 8. I attempted to tamp down my expectations, but reading my blog post from 2022 only served to elevate them. This was one of my destinations that offered wild cutthroat trout, and I was unable to erase the image of those prized species from my memory banks.
I set out on a brief jaunt to my chosen starting point, and I quickly rigged my line with a tan pool toy hopper trailing a beadhead hares ear nymph and salvation nymph. I chose my Loomis two piece five weight for duty on Tuesday, as I like the slower rod for casting dry flies. I began fishing at 10:-00AM, and that was earlier than usual, so I elected to apply the dry/dropper concept to get deep in the many plunge pools of the small river. Flows were definitely higher than that which I was accustomed to from prior trips.
I worked my way upstream for a hour, while casting the dry/dropper, and I managed one four inch brook trout that struck the salvation nymph. Talk about disappointment. I never saw another fish, nor did I view a look or refusal. I began to question whether one of my favorite streams contained any fish at all. I decided to forsake the dry/dropper, and I substituted a peacock hippie stomper. Finally an eight inch brown trout slashed the stomper at the lip of a pool. Casting in additional locations proved futile, so I added a parachute green drake behind the hippie stomper. By noon my fish count remained at one, and I was perplexed regarding what happened to the fish of any kind let alone the cutthroats.
I paused to munch my lunch, and I noticed some dark clouds to the southwest, so I pulled on my raincoat. The raincoat remained in place until I quit at 3:30PM, and I was never too warm. I removed it; however, for my 1.5 mile return hike.
After lunch my fly fishing action picked up considerably. The first sign of improvement was the sixteen inch brown trout that smacked the hippie stomper next to a jumble of branches and sticks. If I ended up with a two fish day, I could at least remember the outlier brown trout. Between 12:30PM and 3:30PM I logged steady progress, as I built the fish count from two to nineteen. This accomplishment required covering a significant amount of stream real estate with much difficult wading over slippery rocks and fallen logs. Only the most attractive pools with slower current, depth and nearby cover produced; although many locales that met these requirements also left me scratching my head.
Tuesday was not the exciting cutthroat searching that I anticipated. In fact, of the nineteen fish that rested in my net, none were cutts. Where have they gone? Did a poacher extract the more gullible wild cutthroats and chow down on fresh fish? The species that salvaged my day were the brown trout. Including the sixteen inch beast described earlier, I landed six browns in the thirteen to sixteen inch range. These trout were a very fine antidote to my cutthroat skunking. In total I landed ten browns and nine brook trout. Most of the brookies were barely six inches, but a pair extended to nine and eleven inches. Did the ultra territorial brown trout displace the cutthroats? This was another theory that rolled about in my questioning thought process.
By 3:30PM I reached the small tributary that marked my usual exit point, so I took advantage and completed the return hike. I must admit that I was disappointed by the lack of cutthroat trout action; however, a nineteen fish day was much appreciated, and landing large browns in a small stream environment has its rewards. If I return, I will progress even farther from the trailhead, before I begin my day.
Fish Landed: 19