One of the most beautiful trout species in Montana is the Yellowstone Cutthroat. Cutthroat trout throughout the state was in decline for years but thankfully due to the help of a lot of people, both the Westslope and Yellowstone came back from the brink. Today they can be caught in numerous rivers and lakes but are still highly sought after. Photographically they are a must for the files but like all aquatic species have to be handled with great care and very little time. During the height of summer, this is especially true.
We’ve been chasing them for years but the Cutthroat Trout doesn’t give up its secrets that easily. There are enough known spots these days to catch Yellowstone Cutthroats but finding big ones is still rare so I was pretty stoked to catch this 14″ female. Needles to say I had to get a photo with the D5, 24-70 AF-S and SB5000. Something I learned long ago was that it’s always best to find a shallow spot with a nice background. This grassy bank made for an interesting backdrop to go along with the net as a prop.
Cutthroat Trout were once found all across the west before other species were introduced to compete for habitat and food supply. Now, while the Cutthroat species and various subspecies still persist, their numbers and sizes are dramatically different then what was once prevalent. What you see above, in most places throughout Montana, is a standard size Cutthroat, in this case a Yellowstone Cutthroat. Why did I take this shot? I was asked this by the guy holding the fish because he thought it was a little boring until he saw the photo, but simply put it was a new species and a great looking subject. Now most of the time I use flash in my fish images but seeing the light, looking at the dark background and bright subject, a simple click with the D5 and 24-70 AF-S did the trick.
If there isn’t enough reasons to be out everyday you can in the Fall then here’s another one. For those that enjoy the art of fly fishing and the photo opps that come with it, Fall is the epitome of seasons due to the transformation to spawning colors. Browns, Rainbows, Brookies and Cutthroats, while the exact time varies, change color. It’s spectacular show of color that can be matched only by the leaves.
Naturally I go out with both rod and camera or a chance to catch one of these species and for my friend Alex he got that chance. This is a spawning Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout which is listed as S2 in Montana as a species of concern. Between water temps, genetic hybridization and loss of habitat to other species as well as irrigation, both native Cutthroat species continue to face many challenges. It is a constant battle in the Yellowstone River because of the large and vast ecosystem under the water to manage the numerous species. When it comes to an important species for the files to showcase Montana, the Cutthroat definitely fits the bill. The important thing is always time. Be fast and be efficient so no harm comes to the subject. I prefer using something simple, like the D750, 24-70 AF-S and SB-5000. I can go wide and tight and get both a portrait and a detail shot down in mere seconds. A safe release after all is the best part.