Photo Essay: Aggressive “Cutty Munching” Bull Trout

Have you ever had one of those days? A day where turning back meant you missed out on such an incredible experience you’d be kicking yourself if you’d known. This day was a day just like that.

I’d been planning on exploring a new area of the map, one which my bud, Jake, somewhat knew. He and I loaded up the truck, the dogs, and the beer’s nice and early to beat the morning traffic. Jake had brought some weird trendy beer for us to drink, luckily, I packed something less sophisticated my stomach could manage. With the dogs and gear packed, we headed out in the dark towards the Foothills.

This time of year is quieter to fish. Many of the fly-by-night fly fishermen have switched to hunting, leaving the streams alone for the die-hards. On a summer day, you’d have to fight for parking as the rows of RV’s and ATV’s line the access points. However, the dirt road leading to the stream is absent from the bustle of summer. Just a worn down old Dodge stuffed with hunters greeted us as we winded down the narrow path.

We arrived only after several guesses to the exact location Jake remembered. Years ago, he had fished this spot, but busy areas such as this change from year to year. As the roads become more worn and the trees get pushed back further, the memories we once saw as true can become a puzzle in our minds. The wind was cold that day and stronger than we’d have liked. The dogs didn’t seem to mind though, as they chased one another around and around while Jake and I geared up. With our rods assembled, new leaders applied, and tippet tied strong we headed down the steep canyon. Lucky enough for us, the path had been beaten down over the years making our journey towards the water’s edge manageable, other locations we venture to feel like they require mountain climbing equipment.

The pools were emerald green and swirled slowly in the early morning light. At this point in the season, the water levels were quite low, allowing us to see right to the bottom of each pool. My first cast drifted slowly and my eyes were fixated on the orange indicator as it floated along the eddies. Yet, cast after cast yielded nothing. Ever reluctant to switch, Jake focused on nymphing as my impatience got the better of me and on I went to a streamer. Stripping in slowly finally I saw white fins move from its hiding spot of a narrow overhang. A small, but beautiful bull trout, lazily moved towards the fly. It’s beautiful yellow belly moved slowly in the water, almost as if to warn the streamer of its presence. Cast after cast the bull attempted to grab my streamer, but never gave enough effort to provide a strike. It was time to move on.

Pool after pool seemed to be empty of fish, and it looked like the only trout we’d see here would be the small, lazy bull. We turned back discussing our options, as we figured most of the fish had moved back into the main channel of the river. I decided to toss a bit more meat at the lazy bull as Jake chased after the dogs. Just as I was about to pack up, I hear Jake come from around the corner upstream. “You better check this out,” he said. As I rounded the corner I saw the river open into a much larger pool than we’d encountered and it was stacked with beautiful cutthroat trout. Each cast seemed to yield a 19 or 20-inch cutthroat, and our disappointment turned into pure excitement.

We must have pulled out close to 20 fish before I decided the action was worth running back up the hill to grab my camera gear. I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to watch these fish eating out flies in crystal clear waters. On the way back down I saw Jake with a shocked look on his face. He turned to me and said, “This thing is huge!” I climbed over the overhanging cliff and peered into the water, it was huge! An old bull had heard the commotion caused by the cutties being caught and decided it was worth coming out from his hiding spot to check things out. We continued nymphing in hopes of hooking into the old bull, but the cutties kept smashing our flies. After snapping a couple pictures, I decided to put my drone up in the air to take in some of the action. I told Jake to have at it, and boom, first cast he hooked into a fat cutthroat trout. He began reeling it in and scrapping the feisty fish and then it happened!

Suddenly, the big bull turned around from the middle of the pool and started slowly coming towards Jake’s hooked cutthroat. Once it got close enough, it chomped down on it. I thought Jake was going to land both fish at one point, but after a couple jerks of the rod the bull released. It’s not uncommon for this to happen here in Alberta by any means, but watching it all go down from up above from the drone put a different perspective on the event. I knew right away I captured a very unique shot. After taking it all in and watching the bull trout become active I decided to tie on a big streamer, and after switching up colours a couple times I landed the old bull to add to just another fun day outdoors on the river.

For more content from Kelly make sure to follow backcountry_poolz on Instagram!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.