What’s different about Yellowstone cutthroat?

A bright, golden Yellowstone Cutthroat from the Bitterroot Valley, Montana

This colorful 11" Yellowstone cutthroat displays the typical gold-color with medium uniform spots on its back and above its red-painted gill plates. Westslope cutthroat are generally less colorful and their spots in this area are irregular in size. Note the thickness of the bright-orange markings running nearly full length below both sides of its mouth.

One Cast to Gold

With too little time and awesome scenery, I found a road-side wash in the Skalkaho Creek drainage where a thoughtful presentation yielded this nice Yellowstone Cutthroat trout.

I’ve caught far more Westslope cutthroat in Montana than Yellowstone cutts and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. I did a search to better understand and here’s what I found:  The black spots on the top and sides of a Yellowstone variety near the front of the fish are generally uniform in shape and size; whereas those on a Westslope are not uniform in size. Yellowstones also tend to be more gold-colored than their close cousins, the Westslope.

When it gets down to the catching, it makes little difference to most of us which one we catch. They’re both sought-after prizes in anyone’s hand and that’s the reason why a number of waters such as the Skalkaho now carry regulations requiring the release of this species.

I caught this one on an attractor pattern size 12. It was more a matter of reading the water and placing the cast properly than the choice of fly. She took just downstream of a rock on the seam side where the current brought any hapless prey her way with time to get at it.

That one cast completed my quick drive up a new stream and instilled the notion to go back again.

~Dwayne Parsons      Twitter/#!/ifishwrite