June 10, 2012

Grey kebari, Snow, and the Big Cutthroat

We had a cold front come through overnight and our mid-day highs went from 85 F, the day before, to 45 F today. The clouds were dark and the wind was at about 15 knots, but still I thought I would drive up to a creek just minutes from my house and see what was going on. I had not been up there yet this year, but it is a nice season since the cutthroats are just getting ready to spawn.

The area is at about 7000 ft and is a large open rocky mountain meadow with beaver ponds. Willows line the creek, other than that it is pretty open.

The area were I fished
A typical section of beaver ponds
When I arrived it started to snow. The wind was pretty steady from the west (upstream) making the snow go almost horizontal.  Since I was there, I decided to still gear up and see if I could catch something. I know its June  in the rest of the country, but here in the northern Rockies it isn't truly summer yet. I geared up almost like I was winter fishing.

Ready for action!
June snow!

I worked my way down to the creek and was immediately struck by how different the water looked. The levels were low, very low, and the weed was abundant. In fact the creek looked more like it does in September than June!  This really was a poor winter for snow pack!

I strung up the Tenkara USA Ito with a #4.5 line and decided to go with a red-black kebari. The wind made casting quite difficult, especially since I like to fish upstream.  Because of the wind I had to force the cast and that would make the Ito noodle (that is, oscillate wildly) and thus make the cast uncontrolled and off target. After catching a few 6 inch natives I decided I needed more control for the low clear water, so I changed over to the Ebisu. I did not have a stiffer rod with me or I would have used it! Still I immediately could tell the difference when casting with the Ebisu. It noodled much less and my targeting was dramatically improved.

At this point I lost the red-black kebari to a willow on the far side of the creek. This gave me a chance to change flies so I went with a Soft Hackle Grey kebari. I fished with this fly the day before (on a lower section of this same stream) and believe it or not it out fished the venerable Utah Killer Bug! The day before, it had caught trout 3:1 over the UKB. I thought I'd see if this was just an aberration.

Red-black kebari
Soft Hackle Grey kebari
Within a few casts with the Soft Hackle Grey kebari I was into a fish. It was another native Yellowstone cutthroat and average in size for this stream, about 8 inches.

The average size cutthroat for this stream; Soft Hackle Grey kebari in its mouth

I worked my way upstream until I reached a certain beaver pond where I suddenly saw a rise. I stalked closer and made a cast near were the rise had occurred. The wind blew the cast off target, into the water weed. I cast again, this time with more wrist, and it landed fair in open water. About three seconds later the fish took it. Unfortunately it spit the hook after the first run.

As I stood there muttering I saw another rise in the same pond but slightly to my right, near the pond inlet. This trout porpoised with just its dorsal fin showing. It looked like it had substantial size, for this creek at least! I moved to the right and just a little closer. I could see him in the water -- his full length was visible --  as he hovered nose first into the current.

My first cast, directly into the wind, was over him. I could see him turn and then I felt the tug on the line. I set but too fast and pull the fly right out of his mouth! Argh! I let things settle for a few minutes and he came back into view. I cast again. I saw him turn but refuse the fly. Next cast took another trout, a nice fish in its own right -- about 11-12 inches, that I had not seen. This trout's fight did not seem to upset the big boy thankfully enough.

After releasing that other trout I could see that the big cutthroat was still in position. I stooped, cast, and once again saw him turn towards the Soft Hackle Grey. Once again there was a tug on the line and....SET! I had him! He rolled and dove towards the water weed. The Ebisu did a great job of keeping his head up and I was able to muscle him over the weed towards me. I had not brought a net so I had to hand land him. Once hold of him I calmed him down by turning him over, belly up, and then took his picture. He would not be counted as a monster by most Henry's Fork fisherman, but for this small stream he was a lunker! He was just a little over 14 inches. I let him slide back under the surface and swim gently away.

The big boy! 14" Yellowstone cutthroat

I sat there for a few minutes marveling at such a beautiful fish, then deciding that my hands were cold enough I went back to the car and drove home. Maybe I'll catch him another day....just maybe.


  1. Beautiful flies and fish! Nice job.

    1. Thanks Kiwi. The stream is only a short dirt road from my home and I go there to find solice and a few trout.


  2. Yea nice fish and I wouldn't mind a little snow too. It's been hot and dry in Wisconsin where I live.

  3. Very nice area and great looking fish Tom. Wish I was a bit closer to that side of Idaho. I don't have the streams on this side of the state that you get in your backyard. I have been wanting to get over there this summer to fish though.