Fishing for Bulls and Cutts

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Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been chasing bull and cutthroat trout on several of our local streams. My first outing was with a friend, Terry Maurer, on a small stream known to hold big bull trout at this time of year. My second trip was on the upper Oldman River, where I spent the day fishing for cutthroat trout with another friend, Bob Costa. Both days were productive and interesting, in their own way.

Terry contacted me several weeks back to say he was coming to Alberta on his annual fishing trip from his home in Washington State. We had talked last year about the bull trout fishing around here, and two or three emails later had made arrangements to fish together on a stream near Crowsnest Pass. The stretch of water we chose was several miles in length, which would give us plenty of opportunities to look for bull trout. I like fishing for bulls in small streams and creeks with streamer patterns, especially if the water is clear, because you can often sight-cast to these fish and watch them chase and strike your fly, sometimes within feet of where you’re standing. If this doesn’t get your adrenaline rushing, or your heart to start beating faster, nothing will.

We left the Pass at 7:00 am and arrived at our destination about an hour later. Terry and I were anxious to get started and quickly geared up. It wasn’t long before we were casting and stripping streamers through some of the deeper pools and runs, along log jams and under ledges, all the places you expect to find bull trout.


The water was crystal-clear, making it easy to see the bottom of even the deepest pool. If there were big bull trout holding anywhere in this stream, we would surely spot them. A week or two earlier, I had chatted with several anglers who had seen and caught some good bulls a few miles downstream. This is the time of year where these fish begin to move upstream in preparation of their spawning in late September and October. If you’re in the right place at the right time, you can have some good success. Unfortunately, it was not the right place or time for us, at least not that day. A few hours into our bull trout adventure, we realized they had not yet reached this section of the stream, and except for a few rainbow and cutthroat trout, the pools and runs were largely void of fish.

By the end of the day we only managed to catch two or three average-size bull trout. That was okay, though, too. We had a long, tiring day, but it was fun and totally worth the effort. We’ll try again next year.


Oldman River Excursion

Bob and I have been trying to get out fishing with each other all summer. It had been way too long since we last fished together, and we were finally able to hook up. Bob thought it would be nice to check out one of his favorite stretches of the Oldman River. The Oldman is arguably the most scenic trout stream in southwest Alberta and provides great fishing for a variety of trout, including cutthroats. So that is where we headed one day last week.

The nice thing about fishing for cutthroat trout is that you don’t need to be on the water at the crack of dawn. Cutthroats tend to work banker’s hours, and if you are on the water between 10:00am and 3:00pm, you will usually catch your fair share of fish. Another nice thing about cutts is their willingness to rise for dry flies. They are dry-fly friendly fish and almost any fly that floats will do. This day, they were particularly interested in our ant imitations. Bob figured it out first and within minutes was releasing his first fish of the day, caught on an Atomic Ant. We spent most of the morning and afternoon fishing behind a couple of other anglers, but it didn’t seem to matter. They left us more than enough trout to keep us occupied and happy.

All in all, both trips were very enjoyable and it was great spending time with my friends. A successful day on the water is not measured by how many fish I catch, or how large they might be. While I never complain about catching lots of trout, big or small, I enjoy the companionship of another angler, and the conversations that occur during the day, as much as the catching of fish.


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