Cutthroat Trout River Fishing Techniques
Cutthroat Trout river fishing techniques and information.
Fly fishing is about the only form of fishing that makes sense when river fishing. Cutthroat Trout can be caught with bait casting gear but fly fishing is made for rivers and is best suited for it. I will focus on fly fishing tips and techniques from spring right through to the end of fall. Winter fishing is not a good time to catch Cutthroat Trout. If you would like to read, see our page on winter fishing techniques.
Cutthroat Trout River Fly Fishing
Coastal Cutthroat Trout are not overly fussy. They can be caught during the morning, high noon and through the afternoon into the evening. It is hard to go wrong with any flies. Any nymph fly will work as will any fly that is designed to look like insects like damsel flies, stone flies and nymphs.
Other Cutthroat species can be a lot more fussy when it comes to fly selection. Westslope and Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout feed predominantly on stoneflies, damsel flies and caddis flies. In fact, stoneflies make up 90 percent of the Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout’s diet.
Cutthroat Trout Fly Selection
Coastal Cutthroat Trout Cutthroat do not require expensive flies. See our page on food preferences for more on which sub-species of Cutthroat Trout likes what fly or bait.
Use a 4X tippet equipped with a yarn strike indicator located three to five feet from the nymph for late summer when the Cutthroat Trout are found deeper.
Most river habitats will have trout, salmon and charr species. While most Cutthroat Trout do not get very large and will work fine on light tackle, it is not recommended for any but the smallest streams. Salmon and other species are likely to go for the same baits and flies and are much bigger.
For this reason, we recommend medium action gear fishing reel. Go with a four to seven weight graphite fly rod between eight to nine feet long. If you are going to attempt spinning gear, use a 6 to 6.5 foot medium-action spinning rod.
Cutthroat Trout Coastal Tips
When fly fishing the brackish water of western rivers and stream of the United States and Canada, use fly patterns that resemble ocean going bait fish, river fish that are found in brackish water and shrimp. This includes salmon and charr fry, alevin and smolt.
Spring is when Cutthroat Trout spawn. In the fall, sea-going Cutthroat Trout spend most of their time in the bottom end of the river where the water is brackish and moving out into the ocean not too far away from the river mouth. Sometimes they may spend their time waiting in the lower end of the river waiting for the tide to wash in bait fish and other foods like zooplankton.
Tidal Fishing Tips
In earlier articles, we talked about the preference for Cutthroat Trout to focus on a particular form of bait for a few hours or so before change to another food preference. Knowing the best time to use their preferred baits will help you be more successful.
Shrimp are only fed on at night when they are found near the surface feeding on zooplankton. During the day, they are much deeper in the ocean, deeper than the Cutthroat Trout will go.
Herring are a very popular ocean going bait fish consumed by cutthroat trout along with salmon. They are often found in mid to late fall schooling in the bays and estuaries from California up through British Columbia, Canada. The key to using herring is to know where they are found in your area. In British Columbia, they can be found in November and December. Contact a local fish club or bait shop for specifics.