Sunday, August 29, 2010

Updated Personal Life List

With my 2010 western trip behind me, and at least another 6 weeks before I might be able to hit the water again, I thought I would update my personal species/sub-species life list.

Because my search has turned up quite a few species in introduced waters, I have distinguished the locations I have caught salmonids between native and introduced waters.


Brook Trout

Salvelinus fontinalis

Native (WV, NY, PA, MD, VA, TN, NC)

Introduced (CO, WY, MT, UT, CA)

Bull Trout

Salvelinus confluentus

Native (ID)


Greenback Cutthroat

Oncorhynchus clarki stomias

Native (CO)

Colorado River Cutthroat

Oncorhynchus clarki pleuriticus

Native (WY, CO, UT)

Rio Grande Cutthroat

Oncorhynchus clarki virginalis

Native (CO)

Yellowstone Cutthroat

Oncorhynchus clarki bouvieri

Native (WY)

Snake River Cutthroat

Oncorhynchus clarki behnkei

Native (WY)

Introduced (CO)

Bonneville Cutthroat

Oncorhynchus clarki utah

Native (WY)

Westslope Cutthroat

Oncorhynchus clarki lewisi

Native (ID)

Lahontan Cutthroat

Oncorhynchus clarki henshawi

Native (CA)

Introduced (UT, OR)

Apache & Gila Trout
Apache Trout
Oncorhynchus gilae apache
Native (AZ)

Gila Trout

Oncorhynchus gilae gilae

Native (NM)

Rainbow and Redband Trout

Columbia Basin Redband

Oncorhynchus mykiss gairdneri

Native (ID)

McCloud River Redband

Oncorhynchus mykiss stonei

Native (CA)

Goose Lake Redband

Oncorhynchus mykiss newberrii

Native (CA)

Warner Lakes Redband

Oncorhynchus mykiss newberrii

Native (CA)

Catlow Valley Redband

Oncorhynchus mykiss newberrii

Native (OR)

Harney-Mahleur Basin Redband

Oncorhynchus mykiss newberrii

Native (OR)

California Golden Trout

Oncorhynchus mykiss aguabonita


Little Kern Golden Trout

Oncorhynchus mykiss whitei

Native (CA)

Kern River Rainbow

Oncorhynchus mykiss gilberti

Native (CA)


Brown Trout

Salmo trutta

Introduced (WV, NY, PA, MD, VA, TN, NC, MT, WY, CO, UT, CA)

(Landlocked) Sockeye Salmon

Oncorhynchus nerka

Introduced (CO)

Arctic Grayling

Thymallus arcticus pallus

Introduced (CO, WY)

Mountain Whitefish

Prosopium williamsoni

Native (MT, WY)

I try to acknowledge the guys (mentors) who have helped me locate many of these species/sub-species. You can check out their lists here:

Native Trout Fly Fishing


Native Trout Angler



Friday, August 13, 2010

The Epic 2010 Native Road Trip Part 5 - Heading Back East

I had no idea the last three sub-species in California would be so easy to capture. Just in case, though, I had a contingency plan for southeast Oregon. Again, Gary Marsten was able to set me up with four more sub-species in southeast Oregon.

Since we were nearly in Oregon when we caught the Warner Lakes redband, why not hop across the border and pick up a couple more?

We stopped in Lakeview, Oregon to buy license and a gazetteer. The license was no problem at all, but when I asked for a gazetteer at the True Value they didn’t know what I was talking about. Luckily, another customer pointed me to a gas station on our way out of town.

We stopped to get gas, which by the way, you can’t pump your own gas in Oregon. How strange! Regardless, when I asked the gas station attendant if they had a gazetteer his response was exactly: “A gaza what?”. I probably should look elsewhere, and I did with no luck. We decided to press on without the aid of a gazetteer. I had my GPS and I had made very good notes on how to get to the streams.

Turns out we didn’t need the gazetteer. We drove right to the first stream – across 20 miles of washboard gravel road. I strung up the rod first and had my first Catlow Valley redband from the first open pocket.

When I say “open”, I mean in the sense that you can get a fly on the water through the extremely dense trees. Nathan struggled a bit but also managed to pick up his Catlow Valley redband. I was lucky enough to pick one out of the first open pocket and it’s a good thing. This was some of the toughest fishing conditions I have ever encountered. You couldn’t get into the stream, it was that tight and there were very few openings in the brush. It was amazing to even find water, as the only thing we saw going into the stream was sage – NOTHING ELSE!

One of the locals, at the hot springs, told us we could get into larger trout on upstream around the corral. We started to check it out but we wanted to get to the next stream, so we passed.

We managed, again, to drive right to the next stream too. This was a special stream and one we were both looking forward to. This stream happens to contain the only (genotypical) population of the Alvord cutthroat, which up until a couple of years ago was thought to be extinct. I believe Gary is the first individual to validate the existence of the Alvord in this stream.

Gary gave us the exact location of the stream to fish and we immediately started picking up fish, but they were introduced Lahontan cutthroat. I caught a couple of very nice Lahontans, but that was not what I was after.

Nathan did finally pick up one fish that displayed the external characteristics of the Alvord but all I caught was more Lahontans. Don’t get me wrong, it was nice to catch those fish but that’s not what I was after.

I had never caught a Lahontan cutthroat until this year and now I have caught them in three different states (NV, CA, OR).

I fished the stream hard but it just wasn’t meant to be and, besides, we still had 40 miles of rough, gravel road ahead of us to get out of there. At this point I had caught five different sub-species this day and I was then 10 of 12 on my trip list. Nathan had also caught five different sub-species for the day but he was now 11 for 12 on the trip list.

As we got about two miles from where we planned to camp on the Donner & Blitzen River my low tire indicator light came on. I pulled over and sure enough one of the rear tires was flat. Like a veteran NASCAR pit crew we changed the tire with enough time to get camp set up by dark.

The next morning it was up the Donner & Blitzen above the campground for the Harney-Mahleur Basin redband.

I had the worst night sleep of the trip, worrying about another 60 miles of gravel road, only this time without a spare. I was, as normal, up before the sun for a cup of coffee and a granola before attempting to bring another sub-species to hand.

This stream was the largest water w fished the entire trip, and it was probably only ten yards across. We would have to adapt our fishing style for the larger water; I did, and picked up my Harney-Mahleur in a small pocket next to the bank.

I picked up another in a nice little pool, which was covered on both sides by overhanging trees.

Nathan fished hard and finally picked up a couple of decent fish. The count for me was now 11 for 13 (10 new species) and Nathan was up to 12 for 13 (all new).

From the Donner & Blitzen it was off to Whitehorse cutthroat water, which was 30 miles from hardtop.

Without a spare, I was "puckered" the entire drive across Whitehorse Ranch Road. From Whitehorse Ranch Road it was another five miles of first gear crawling - without a spare!

We finally made it to water, not far enough upstream according to Gary's directions, but I wasn't going any further in without a spare.

Nathan picked up a Whitehorse cutthroat almost immediately, but I struggled. My head wasn't in it and it was extremely tough fishing. Just like the Catlow Valley stream, we drove past miles of nothing but sage until we found water. Where there was water there were trees tight to it. Where we could get to the pools we were fishing ten feet above the water. I missed a couple and spooked a couple due to being directly above the water.

My only concern was getting back to civilization and getting that tire repaired, so I left without the Whitehorse cutthroat. I even drove right through Whitehorse Ranch and didn't even slow down.
Typically, I like to add a few photos of the scenery but southeast Oregon had nothing to offer but sage brush. That area of Oregon had to be the most desolate location I have ever been.

We finally made our way to Elko, NV where we got a motel room for the night. After the stress of the previous day it was nice to have a hot shower (#3 of the trip) and a soft bed (#2 of the trip).

The next morning we went to Walmart to have the tire plugged. This is where it gets interesting!

The conversation with the technician went something like this:
Technician: "What tire did you say needed plugged?"
Me: "The spare is on the passenger side rear."
Technician (pointing at the driver's side rear): "Well that tire is the one with the nail in it."

I couldn't believe I had driven over 60 miles through the middle of nowhere the day before with no spare and a nail in another tire! Talk about lucky!

After they pulled the first tire off the rim they told me the hole was too big for them to patch, due to Walmart liability rules, so they sent me to another local tire shop.

After plugging two tires we were on the road again, headed for Humboldt cutthroat water. We got about 30 miles out of town when the low tire light came on again. I pulled over and sure enough (again) the tire was flat. We changed the tire even quicker this time (we had practice) and headed back to the tire shop.

They plugged the tire again and gave me a lame excuse that the tire had another hole in it. I don't think so, they pressure test the tire after they plug it.

By this time it was 1:30 PM but we were headed back to Humboldt water. We fished two streams in multiple location but both came up empty on the Humboldt cutthroat. The problem we found when we could locate fishable water were beavers. There were numerous beaver dams on both streams and they created major siltation problems. Some of the pools created by the beaver dams had 2-3' of sediment in them.

After dealing with the tires and the tire shops, we readily admitted defeat on the Humboldts and packed up. We set up the vehicle to drive through the night with the final destination of northern Colorado for greenbacks and grayling.

Eleven hours later we were sitting at the parking lot for the greenback and grayling stream at 5:30 AM. When we crossed the pass from Wyoming into North Park, Colorado the thermometer read 37 degrees and it was still chilly at over 10,000 feet. We decided to take a little nap and wait for it to warm up a bit - two hours later we woke up and strung up.

We fished the exact same section of water I was successful on two years earlier, but caught/saw nothing. We fished probably a half-mile of stream before making the decision to head back to the vehicle.

I decided to continue my nap while Nathan decided to head further downstream in search of the grayling. The reasoning was: when I fished it last time it was two weeks later in the month and they possibly had not yet moved upstream.

Two hours later I woke up, about the same time Nathan was returning to the vehicle. He had found the grayling and was having quite the time catching/photographing them. With the information he had found the fish, I grabbed my rod and headed downstream to pick up a couple.

The first grayling, out of the first pocket, was probably my largest grayling ever.

It is so much fun sight fishing to these guys, as they stick out like a sore thumb.

I picked up another very nice grayling, definitely my largest ever. My hand measure 8" from fingertip to watch band. This fish is about 2" past my fingertip and another 4" past my watch, so I'm guessing somewhere around 16"!

The Colorado state record for grayling is 17"!

After releasing the grayling, my very next drift produced this greenback - my largest greenback to date!
I didn't fish long, I just wanted Nathan to catch some grayling. I know he wanted to get some good photos of grayling and his bamboo rod...and he did.

Following a snack at the vehicle, it was a short hike up to a reservoir the Colorado uses for greenback brood stock. We had hoped to get into more large greenbacks, but it was not in the cards. We walked almost halfway around the lake and all we saw was a moose.

It had been two years since I had been in this area and it was depressing to see the bark beetle had made it north of RMNP.
It is normal in August for Colorado's high country to produce some very nice thunderstorms during the midday hours. The skies were getting pretty dark so we decided to call it a day and call an end to our fishing for this epic road trip.

We made one last stop in Westminster, CO to visit my brother and his family. For dinner, he served bison steaks as big as my head. It was nice to visit with my brother, I wish I had more time...we had a long haul ahead of us!

By the time we made it back to West Virginia we had put in 7,500 miles of driving (through 17 states), over 60 miles of hiking, we had caught 17 species/sub-species of salmonids (10 new sub-species for me), 12 in their native watershed, repaired 2 flats, and had three plugs put in tires.

I have nicknamed this trip the road trip of a lifetime!


The Epic 2010 Native Road Trip Part 4 - The Northern California Redbands

The drive across Rt 50 to Sacramento and north on I-5 was pleasant. I was amazed at the amount of agriculture north of Sacramento: the size of some of the fruit tree, nut, and grape orchards was incredible.

We made it to our destination with about an hour of daylight. Unfortunately the gazetteer and my GPS did not match the logging and USFS roads, so we made it to the campground with only minutes of fishable light remaining. Nathan caught a respectable McCloud River redband almost immediately. I caught a couple pretty quick too but mine were only 3-4”.

The decision was: do I take my 3” fish and push on toward our next destination or set up camp and hit the stream first thing in the morning? I chose both. I was not satisfied with my small redband as these were some of the more colorful redband sub-species on the CHTC, so I wanted something larger. I also didn’t want to set up camp so I slept in the vehicle.

I was again up before daylight, so I milled around and took a baby wipe bath. Does this count as shower #3 for the trip? So I was on the water with just enough daylight to see my fly and I did pick up a little more respectable McCloud River redband – about 6”.
I caught a few more but nothing larger so I returned to the vehicle to roust Nathan out of his tent and we were on the road again at 6:30 AM.

With Mt. Shasta in our rearview mirror for about 60 miles we were headed to the extreme northeast corner of California. We now had sub-species 5 of 6 for the CHTC!
This is where the intel from Gary Marsten came in very handy. He said: for the Goose Lake redband go beyond the meadow section to the higher gradient water. No problem! We both had our Goose Lake redband in a matter of minutes and both from the same pool.

We had also just completed the requirements for the California Heritage Trout Challenge.

The fishing in this section of stream was very good as we both picked up 5-10 Goose Lake redbands before we packed it in on this stream.

While planning we were told if you’re in this area you will kick yourself if you don’t go ahead and pick up the Warner Lakes redband too. So, it was down and out of one drainage then up the road ten miles and up into (and over) another drainage.

It took us a little longer to get into this stream and the road was a little rough & tight in places, but we made it in one piece. Again we found the location that was described to us and again within minutes we both had another species – the Warner Lakes redband.

The fishing in this stream was also very good as we picked up another 5-10 fish each before calling it quits.
I loved the wide open, small stream fishing. I now had three sub-species under my belt for the day and it was only 11:30 AM! We also were sitting pretty with 9 of 10 sub-species, with only the Paiute eluding us.

If I only knew what was ahead of us in Oregon and Nevada’s high desert…


The Epic 2010 Native Road Trip Part 3 - The Central Sierras

Following an amazing trip into the Golden Trout Wilderness, it was down and out of Cottonwood Meadows. On the way out, I drove the hairy series of cliff-side switchbacks they call a road. I don’t think I took my eyes of the inside berm the entire length of the road.

Once we were back on flat ground, we stopped to take a few shots of Mt. Whitney and discuss when we would return to add it to “the list”. Then, it was back to the USFS to return that dreaded 5-pound sled they call a bear canister. From Lone Pine it was north to Bishop for lunch. I’m not sure of the pizza joints name but it was one of the better pizzas I have ever had – their motto was: “we toss’em, they’re awesome”.

While in Bishop we stopped in a fly shop where the older gentleman told us the story of how some hotshot jet pilot went into Golden Trout Wilderness with a helicopter and grabbed some goldens for his hunting camp in Utah. Once Utah found out they had goldens, they started spreading them to other states in the west. The older gentleman (I’m guessing about 75-years old) said he used to spend entire summers in the GTW before it was designated wilderness. He said back then that was the only place in the world to catch goldens! I laughed and told him Nathan had just told me that exact story the day before. Turns out, that “hotshot jet pilot” was also from West Virginia and his name is Chuck Yeager….small world!

Our final destination for the evening was Yosemite National Park. This park has also been on my bucket list for quite some time and I figured I would check it off while I was in the neighborhood. It would be the only day (other than driving) that I did not have fishing on the itinerary.

The drive across Tioga Pass Road was amazing enough, but I wanted to see Yosemite Valley and all it has to offer. The plan was to find a motel room some place near Yosemite Valley where we could shower (#2 for the road trip) and find a bed (first time on the road trip). I think this may have been the only leg on our trip where I should have planned better and didn’t, as it took nearly 40 miles of following the Merced River to find a hotel room in our price range. For $80/night we found a room in Muir Lodge with two beds and two TV channels – and they were the same channel. Most importantly, though, they had hot showers and beds!

The next morning we were again up and daylight and on the road early to beat the crowds in Yosemite Valley. Our first stop was El Capitan as the sun was just high enough to catch it with early rays.
The next stop was Vernal Falls.

I wish I had a dollar for every time we were asked on the way down if we had already been up and back to Half-Dome. I’ve seen pictures of the conga line going up Half-Dome, and from the crowds it looked like another busy day. However, from the condition of some of the folks we passed I don’t think half of them were capable of making it.

Following Vernal Falls, it was off to Yosemite Village and Upper & Lower Yosemite Falls.
In preparation, and in interest of his works, I have been reading a collection of John Muir works. His presence is everywhere in the valley and I couldn’t help but wonder what this valley must have looked like before it was developed.

The haze had moved into the valley early and the shots of Half-Dome did not turn out as well as I would have liked.

On the way out of the valley, it was one last stop at Bridal Veil Falls. I should have stopped on the way in! By the time we made it to the undersized parking lot it was a game of musical chairs for a parking spot. I finally found a spot along the road but by the time we made it to the base of the falls the sun was at the perfect declination that you couldn’t see the top of the falls for the glare. I made one more lap around the short loop and finally got a decent shot of Bridal Veil Falls and Cathedral Rocks.

From the valley it was back across Tioga Pass Road. Before we left, I got one last glimpse of the amazing Yosemite Valley (you can see Bridal Veil Falls in the bottom center).

Our first stop on Tioga Pass Road was the sequoia stand. I had never seen one and I could not believe how big they were.
Even the pine cones were big.
From the stand of sequoias there was only one more stop. Nathan had scoped out a small stream he wanted to fish before we left Yosemite National Park. I didn’t plan to fish; just soak my feet in the nice cold water. The first fish Nathan pulled out was a nice 10” brookie. Needless to say it didn’t take me long to string a rod up in an effort to add another state to my brook trout list.

It took me a while but I finally added state number twelve to my brook trout list. In the process I caught what I called the Yosemite Slam: a rainbow trout, a brown trout, and a brook trout.

Dana Fork in Yosemite National Park.
After completing my Yosemite Slam, it was back down to Rt 395 then north where the plan was to set up camp at the trailhead for our trip into Silver King Creek. Again, along 395 we stopped at a little road-side restaurant for a meal. This one happened to be south of Coleville and the fair was barbeque. Maybe it was the fact we had been living on college food for over a week but this was also some of the best bbq I had ever had.

With our stomachs extremely full, it was on to the trailhead where the following morning we would meet up with Dave Balducci for the hike into the native range of the Paiute cutthroat.

The next morning we met up with Dave and completed the hike into the open water section of Silver King Creek. We fished the open end of one of the tributaries that were reported to have Paiutes, and we also fished a couple miles of Silver King proper. You won’t see any photos of Paiute cutthroat in this entry as there were none caught. We did catch MANY rainbows in the 8-10” class and they were impressive rainbows at that. I don’t know that I have ever caught so many high-flying trout. I had several of these small rainbows jump three feet out of the water before they were landed.

After going five for five on our previous native quests, we were now five for six. Nathan nicknamed the Paiutes the unicorn cutthroat…do they actually exist?

We put in about ten miles in search of the Paiute in the native watershed and came up empty-handed. What made this so easy to handle was the fact that I finally met one of the “founding fathers” of native salmonid fishing. We sat around the campfire that evening to past midnight (the latest night of the entire trip) talking about streams and fish in far away places. What a pleasure that was!

I thought we would spend the following day fishing with Dave but the fact that he had just taken his foot from a cast two weeks earlier would keep him from putting in trail time on back-to-back days. We parted ways that morning, he was headed for bigger water and we were headed for Lahontan cutthroat water.

The hike into Lahontan territory was a short one – only three miles on the Pacific Crest Trail. I couldn’t believe how much snow was still at the pass into the high meadow.

The meadow itself seemed to be only in late spring with all of the wildflowers and it was actually the first day of August.

It didn’t take long to land my first Lahontan in California as I pulled this little guy from the first bend pool.

We both caught several Lahontans with the largest being about 10”. The size didn’t matter, though, this was species number four for our California Heritage Trout Challenge – we were over half-way there.

The hike out seemed short, maybe because the three miles was the shortest of our hikes, maybe it was because it was our last hike of the trip, or maybe because it was the beauty of the high meadow trail.

From this trailhead it was west to Sacramento then north to the shadows of Mt. Shasta. I’m just glad we weren’t staying in Lake Tahoe that weekend. We were going west but the traffic going east was bumper-to-bumper for over thirty miles!

Next would be our final leg in California, the northern redbands.