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Picky Cutties


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Ive gone out a number of times recently to a well known excellent cutthroat stream in SW Alberta.  The bad news is that the stream is clearly under a great deal more fishing pressure than "back in the day".  The good news is that it still holds lots of fish-- once the cuttie wake up time  comes (generally between 10am and noon) the average pool often has several nice fish rising at once. 

My problem is that lately I've been having MUCH more difficulty getting them to take my dry fly offerings.  I don't think I'm spooking them ,  they are coming up to naturals the whole time I'm thrashing away.  I've gone to finer tippet, am staying well back and am trying to be real careful about drag.  About 1/4 of the time lately they seem to be taking mayflies that i can see. The rest of the time they are enthusiastically coming for something i can't see.  I can go through my whole fly box, everything from size 10 to 22, all the usual suspect flies for cutthroat,  and maybe get a few refusals but mostly no interest at all.

Once in a while I resort to nymphs so i can catch one fish, but I don't really like to do that and even nymphs sometimes don't work.

I really don't care about catching a bunch of fish.  I'm generally happy if I see a few and there are plenty to see in this stream. So I'm happy.  But I'm getting more and more curious about what they are eating and what I'm doing wrong.  When I started fly fishing (around the time the Beatles were first on Ed Sullivan) cutties were known to be enthusiastic, maybe a bit dumb, and pretty willing to take almost anything floating that wasn't dragging ridiculously.  That is clearly over on this stream.  (NB: My ham-handed tactics are still working fine on a more famous cuttie river in SE BC.)

I would be very interested in advice or comments .  Thanks



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I remember a situation I came across once at about this time of year where I found a nice cuttie rising in a pool in a side channel of a good sized river.  Very similar sounding circumstances - I tried matching the naturals in dry form, switched to emergers, then to a greased nymph, and finally to terrestrials.  All the while it continued to rise, and a couple of times it even bumped my leader taking a natural and it never balked in the least.  In the end, I had to lay on my side about 40 feet from the water and make a cast where I more line on a gravel bar than in the water before it finally came up.  It rose on the first cast and I missed it, but it came back for the same emerger it had previously refused twice more with confidence before I finally hooked it (its not easy to set the hook lying on your side). 

That fish never seemed spooked in the normal sense, but when I could see it it could see me and it wasn't happy. 


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I had the same problem on a river down South, this summer. The Cutts refused literally every dry fly I threw at them. It sure isn't like the old days, when you could drag a size 14 elk caddis over their head and they would take. Things have really changed.

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