Cutthroat Trout on Dry Flies

Cutthroat trout often hold near underwater logs and limbs, but will settle for the average rocky bottom.

Hills Creek is a very small creek that flows over rounded river stones of varying shades of green, brown, red, and gray. It drops fairly rapidly down the canyon, but it's not whitewater by any means.

Small, wild cutthroat trout sometimes hide in places that seem impossible in the shallow water. This is what makes stream fishing so much fun. Well, that and seeing the fish torpedo your dry fly.

Not long ago, I had a day off work. It was a furlough day, which is a special kind of day where you don't work and you don't get paid.

Because of the nature of furlough days I tend to look at them with a different perspective. This is a day where I usually like to be productive.

Well, this day, in the middle of a hot spell in the month of August, I was determined to get out, and up into the higher elevations to enjoy God's creations, at a lower temperature.

At long last, I decided to make the ninety mile trip down the freeway and up into the hills to Hills Creek. I had been wanting to do so for several years.

Once the decision was made, it made me happier and happier as I drove down the freeway. I felt pretty confident that I was going to catch some cutthroat trout on some dry flies, like I had done many times before. Probably some of the best fishing to be had this time of year.

When I arrived at the creek, I took my time to get ready. It was hot. I had a few hours of fishing ahead of me and didn't want to get in any hurry- wanted to enjoy the experience.

I changed from pants to shorts and from dress shoes to tennis shoes. I planned to wade the creek to gain better access to the best casting positions, and for a drag-free presentation of my dry fly. Plus, this would help me keep cool.

The water was surprisingly cold. Snowmelt. I was definitely going to keep cool. It took a while for the initial chill to subside, or for my lower legs to get numb, however that works.

I was into my first fish within a few casts. A four inch long cutthroat trout. Beauty. I promptly unhooked the little guy and released him to grow bigger and stronger for another day.

A small but voracious cutthroat trout from Hills Creek. Note the plump belly.

I continued to fish downstream, tossing my dry fly onto the slick water of the deeper pools. As I worked downstream, I occasionally tripped over rocks and climbed over logs, but never quite fell all the way down, which was good. I wasn't quite ready to get my entire self wet.

I caught several more fish, and interestingly, the fish kept getting bigger and bigger the further I went downstream.

It was as if the river gods were beckoning me to keep fishing, even though I had an appointment for dinner with my friend.

Let's see- fishing... or food?


The first sign of addiction.

I noticed that the larger fish were most often found downstream of fallen logs that sported underwater limbs, creating shelter for the trout.

As I fished next to one particular log, I couldn't even see my fly for the glare on the water. No matter. The fish were plentiful, and they were voracious.

There was no need for a drag free float. There wasn't even need for a float. The fly was going subsurface. I was giving the fly an occasional tug upstream, then letting it drift back down a foot or two. This method produced several of the bigger fish.

I hooked into a heavier fish and thought for a moment it was a hatchery-grown rainbow trout that Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife stocks in the stream during the summer months. But when I brought it to my hand, I was pleased to see that it was a beautiful nine inch cutthroat trout. I didn't end up catching a single hatchery stocked rainbow trout that day.

I used two different types of flies. A Royal Wolf and a Parachute Royal Coachman. I did better on the PRC. This has been the fish producer for me on this little creek in the Oregon Cascades. I haven't experimented with many other patterns, but haven't seen a need either.

Just a little note to anyone who has always wanted to get into fly fishing. It's really not that difficult. There is nothing terribly scientific about what I was doing here. No long casts. No complicated drifts. Get out and give it a try. Get a fly wet.

At one point, I found a deeper pool of water. It was getting even hotter and I decided to take off my shirt and jump in. This was when I really found out how cold the water was! Dove in head first.

I wanted to stay in long enough to overcome the initial shock and let the full-body numbness take over, but I didn't make it. The best I could do was go under headfirst one more time. Then I got out.

Once I had cooled off a bit, I turned my attention back to fishing, buy I didn't catch many fish after that. As soon as I got out of the water, this horesefly (or legions of them, I'm not sure) started flying around me, biting me and making life miserable.

I kept kicking myself for failing to bring my Camper's Comfort Body Mist, which is a 100% Deet-Free insect repellent made by Nature Balance Wellness (NBW). I know it sounds kind of girly, but I hate Deet.

I am really excited about trying this product. I was recently sent a sample to test and write a review about. I have failed miserably at following through with my obligations. I guess that just means I have to go fishing again soon. Bummer.

Anyways. I kind of lost focus after getting myself all wet and then having the horsefly harassing me. Besides, I wasn't finding any more good fishing holes further downstream.

Finally, I shook the horsefly and when I heard a car drive by on the road above me, I determined it was a good time to scale the bank and hike back to my car.

I picked up a few beer cans on my way and threw them in the trunk of my car for recycling later.

Really enjoyed the day!

Thanks for reading,

Brigham Brewer

Tight Lines and Happy Hunting!


  1. Seems the Cutts in Cal like green and orange more so that the red of a Royal Wulff, but they're not above taking one.


  2. I'll give that a try next time and see what happens. Just out of curiosity. You have to give em' what they want, right?

    Thanks, Mark. Take care.


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