Written by Brian Morishita
With the popularity of fly fishing exploding over the past 30 years I have explored different ways to avoid the crowds. Since a large portion of the crowds consists of what I call “road anglers,” I have discovered a simple way to distance myself from them in order to experience solitude and space.
It occurred to me one day that a limiting factor of most road anglers is that they typically do not like to venture more than a half a mile from their vehicles and certainly no more than a full mile. A full mile trek and beyond seems to weed out these types of fishers.
With that in mind I have spent many days venturing well beyond that mile threshold and have fished backcountry streams that are almost totally unfettered with other fishers. This approach has served me well on many a fishing excursion for I have been rewarded with what I call a perfect day of fishing. This is one during which the only person I see is my fishing partner (unless I am fishing by myself) and catch some wild trout. Although I have no objection to the stocking of family streams, I remain spoiled by the wild trout designated streams.
One of the greatest days of fishing I have ever experienced happened when I fished a mountain stream located in the Bridger Teton National Forest in Wyoming. This was a day that I was alone and probably had hiked three miles downstream from where a road I had driven dead ended. My plan was to fish my way back to my truck.
The weather for that day was ideal and with several years of above average snow pack for that drainage the streamflow was perfect. Hosting native Snake River Fine Spotted Cutthroats as well as an abundant population of Brook Trout most of the fish were flourishing in terms of length and girth size.
My fly of choice for that day was a #14 Parachute Adams. Almost every bend and run held 12-14 inch Cutts along with the smaller Brook Trout. In fact I noticed that in the larger runs the 10-12 inch Brook Trout populated the lower and upper sections of the runs while the much larger Cutts resided in between and in the better trout lies. I also noticed that when this arrangement occurred the Brookies would act like “sentry fish” scaring the larger fish due to any careless wading or release of fish as I fished my way upstream. This required a more patient and deliberate tactic moving through the runs.
At one spot I noticed about 20 feet upstream from me was a bend and a straight run above it. Although I could not see any Brookies holding in the stream bend, I did notice four large Cutts holding in the main run. They were casually feeding and stacked one in front of the other with the largest, which was about 20 inches at the front with the others in descending size positioned behind it
My first cast was at the lower end of the bend and I immediately hooked and landed a nice Brookie that I released downstream from me. I carefully placed my next cast near the same spot and caught another Brookie and also released it downstream. As I worked my way upstream through that bend I must have caught at least 6-8 more Brookies. As planned I had successfully caught and released all of the sentry fish downstream without spooking the Cutts. I now started stalking the larger Cutts that were holding just upstream from me now.
A cast just to the side of the fish closest to me resulted in the typical slow take of a Cutthroat as I watched him inhale my fly. I set my hook and was able to land and release that fish below me just as I had with the Brookies. Rather than wading forward I stripped a little more fly line off my reel so that I did not cause any wading disturbance to the water. At the same time I minimized my false casts and directed them away from the fish before I made my next targeted cast.
I hooked and netted the next two fish without scaring the alpha fish who was still oblivious to my presence. Although the three previous fish had all been in the 15-17 inch range the remaining fish was much larger. My final cast in this run landed roughly in the same spot in relation to the other fish. As with his brethren this Cutt slowly engulfed my fly and I set the hook and landed and released him too. All of these Cutts as well as many of the others had the shimmering buttery colored sides that portrayed the exquisite beauty of these fish along of course with the orange slash on the bottom side of their mouths.
That day will forever remain etched in my fly fishing memory. Unfortunately, I was never again able to replicate this experience on that stream. Despite the existence of catch/release and fly fishing/lure only fishing regulations the painful near decimation of this stream’s fish population was to occur over the next few years by thoughtless anglers. Adding to the problem was the illegal access of that area by fishers on ATVs who were unwilling to walk in. The area’s remoteness makes it nearly impossible for the US Forest Service and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to actively enforce off road vehicle usage and fishing regulations.
Regardless of the unfortunate decline of this fishery I will never regret putting in the time and effort to explore and fish this mountain creek. This experience was one of those blessings that fishers can experience at least to some degree should they be inclined to exert themselves beyond the typical road angler.
Written by Brian Morishita
I am a native of Idaho and learned to fly fish in 1969. Since then I have also become a fly tier who ties almost all of the flies I fish with. My ideal fishing is dry fly fishing but I spend most of my time Czech nymphing along with sometimes pitching streamers unless there is a hatch on.
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