Chasing cutthroat (cutties) or winter steelheading? This has been a constant battle for years when I fish from mid December to mid May. I love to fish for both of them but always have a hard time deciding which one to go for. These are the usual deciding factors:
1. Sometimes nature decides for you when the heavy rainfall brings the water levels up and the local rivers that we fish for Steelhead blow out.
2. You want to take a break from a big spey rod and give you shoulders a break.
3. You get excited from a post you saw on a fishing report including pictures of big cutties.
4. The fry are out and the cutties are gorging on them.
This 4th one is usually the descision maker for me, it is one of my favourite fisheries...
Now let’s talk about fishing for these illusive beauties!
I love to fish for cutthroat when they are slamming the fry in spring time. However, in January and Febuary I have had a lot of success with stone fly nymphs. You should always have a selection of different colours and sizes from 8-12 in your box.
Even in spring time when I am fishing fry patterns some times the fishing slows down when there is a stone fly hatch going on. I will usually start fishing a black stone fly with a bead first to see if this works and if there is no takes then I will try to match the hatch more precisely.
Do not rule out May flies specially when the days are warm. I stood on a local river that I fish for cutthroat and had a great time catching them on a fry pattern. The next day I went back to the same spot with more fry patterns that I was eager to test. I learned a valuable lesson. They were sipping may fles off the surface of the water. I didn’t have one dry fly in my box so I just stood there and watched.
From time to time I would cast my fry pattern, hoping that they had had enough of the Mayflies. But no, the mayflies were easier prey than chasing fry.
Happy fishing and see you on the water,