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Saturday, January 18, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

Landers: When you find it, Cutthroat Creek worth the journey

Despite alarmingly low flows and high water temperatures reported in many Western trout streams last week, the Royal Wulff and Renegade Benevolent Society found plenty of room for optimism at Cutthroat Creek, as usual.

Bylaws prohibit pinpointing GPS coordinates or even vague references to the location of Cutthroat Creek, but most fly fishers could find it – even in low water – if they would only try.

From its headwaters in Montana, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and western Canada, Cutthroat Creek flows through a state of mind.

Head for the clear water and isolated stretches accessible only by muscle. Continue just far enough to escape the job, the phone and obligations that seem to grow exponentially just before departure on a fishing trip.

Look for elk tracks, bear scat or a water ouzel.

Then start casting.

The society’s Climate Change Committee has regrouped after the required marathon of hiking, bushwhacking along with a staggering number of fish caught over three days of field research. We offer this humble report.

David Moershel, a member in mostly good standing, once again had to be convinced upon the first glimpse of a perfect olive-hued run that a hatch was underway and a trout feeding frenzy was imminent.

“Nothing’s flying; no bugs on the water,” he said blinded by the hot sun and not realizing he’d arrived at Cutthroat Creek.

I tied on a Size 12 Royal Wulff that perfectly matched what he did not see and hooked trout on each of the first four casts.

Since the anti-bragging clauses in Society bylaws prohibit the precise counting of fish hooked and released, we will use the term “beaucoup” as the bottom line figure for the overall catch of trout.

Hoppers are abundant on Cutthroat Creek, and have been since May in this dry year.

While dainty aquatic insects shrivel when the heat is on, grasshoppers prosper. This prompted some experimentation with non-traditional patterns that scream of fat and high calories since trout appear to have super-sized their diets this season.

They’ve developed an attitude. Moershel says he was drifting a Size 16 caddis pattern along the dark water under an overhanging bank when a big cutthroat rose slowly from the shadows, rejected the diminutive offering and gave him the finger.

This shocking coarse behavior was documented on several other instances of uncutthroatlike behavior. Perhaps the heat is making them irritable.

The Committee has rated Cutthroat Creek PG-13 until water temperatures go down and a detailed investigation is made on how a fingerless trout can flip you the rod.

It should be noted that Society co-founder Virgil Emery was conspicuously absent from this committee mission. He set out on his own to a portion of Cutthroat Creek that requires a passport in search of cooler water.

The recommended temperature for serving white wine is 50-58° F, and the bottle of chardonnay wasn’t cooling properly for his evening benediction at the usual Cutthroat Camp.

Emery missed the Sunday deadline to file his field report and as of Wednesday had not responded to text messages concerning his whereabouts and personal safety while camping and fishing in grizzly country.

“Fishing must be damned good up there,” Moershel said.

Climate Change Committee members seized the occasion of warmer-than-normal water temperatures at Cutthroat Creek to conduct research that would be life-threatening in normal conditions.

Theory: Heavier rods should be used in catch-and-release fishing during warm-water conditions to decrease the fighting time and reduce the stress on trout.

The experiment: Allow the Committee’s Trout Dog to seek relief from a long hike in the heat by plunging into Cutthroat Creek. The procedure was carefully designed to avoid the nearby calm pool so Trout Dog can dive into swift water and be immediately swept downstream between boulders and through excellent trout-holding pocket water.

Trout Dog avoids a scheduled toenail clipping ordeal by scratching his way out of the rushing current and onto a granite boulder – on the opposite side of the creek.

With the traumatized dog shivering on the rock in the most inaccessible portion of Cutthroat Creek, Society co-founder Landers hikes downstream to an armpit-deep pool and wet-wades to the rescue.

Note: Water temperature at 3 p.m. was 68° F. That’s too high for chilling white wine, but ideal for a full range of harmony in the Society’s Wet Wading Glee Club. Background: A 2011 RW&RBS field report documented that Cutthroat Creek was flowing high and cold in late June. Emery rated 2011 as one of his best white-wine drinking years. But the Glee Club was reduced that year, or should we say, retracted, to a chorus of wet-wading sopranos.

Back to the experiment in progress: Trout Dog finds courage as he sees Landers go neck deep in the creek and plunges into the rapids to help him. They unite as the creek funnels between two boulders.

With one hand holding Trout Dog’s collar, Landers reaches for a helping hand from Moershel, who’s still trying to reel in a cutthroat he’s been playing through the entire event.

Moershel is not able to offer help. Trout Dog and Landers save themselves downstream, heroically exiting just before disturbing trout in the Leaning Cedar Hole.

Conclusion: A 3-weight rod is too light for safe warm-water fishing at Cutthroat Creek.

Finally, the committee is thrilled to report that hot-weather conditions abated during the three days of research. Fishing got even better, if that’s possible at Cutthroat Creek, where the trout are handsome, the anglers smell strong and the fishing is always above average.

And while the evening water temperatures never chilled white wine to proper temperatures, the stream cooled off overnight. The Climate Change Committee manned up to the conditions and developed a taste for chardonnay at breakfast.

Contact Rich Landers at (509) 459-5508 or email

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