Whitehorse Basin Cutthroat Trout

7 September 2005 By Dan Bachman • The-Trout-Chronicles • Comments (0)

On Labor Day I made the trek to South East Oregon in search of Whitehorse Basin Cutthroat Trout a sub-species of Lahontan Cutthroat in my quest to fish for and catch all the species of trout. After getting up bright and early at 4:30 AM and throwing my gear in my car which included my sleeping bag and an extra can of gas just in case I got stuck in the middle of nowhere, I made the 3 hour trip and arrived at a Whitehorse Ranch NW of the Oregon Canyon Mountains. The Whitehorse Basin Cutthroat are only found here in a small collection of creeks.

Whitehorse Ranch Waterfall on Willow Creek Whitehorse Ranch manager, Britt Lay

After determining that the creek I wanted to fish, Whitehorse Creek, was on private property I decided to first try my luck on Willow Creek to the southwest. I explored Willow creek for nearly an hour constantly moving upstream but with no luck. The water was warm and filled with silt although I did stumble on a beautiful little waterfall. After seeing the creek I was concerned that the sucess of this trip might be in jeopardy. On the way back to the ranch I blew out a tire and was forced to change it out on a precarious slope of road.

Back at the Whitehorse Ranch I drove back to a horse barn and found the ranch manager, Britt Lay, who could not have been more laid back accompanied by a pit bull dog that was thankfully of identical disposition. Britt generously gave me directions and permission to fish the property. He said the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife had been up just the week before counting fish and that they had found some “big ones” in the beaver ponds above the place where he had given me directions.

Leaving a dust trail behind me I followed a dirt road for nearly 8 miles until I came to a horse pen. Turning left I drove until the road gave way to sage and willows. I short trek to Whitehorse Creek gave survey to better conditions than were on Willow Creek. The water ran more clear and deeper, my thermometer read 62 degrees after pulling it from the water and several fish darted for cover as I moved upstream to get a better look at a hole. I moved quietly to where the water ran up against large rock. Perfect spot for a fish I surmised and a few seconds later it was confirmed by a trout taking a fly off the water and going completely airborne. As I tied on a size 16 renegade the fish jumped twice more near the rock. I threw my fly against the rock and it fell to the water right where the jumping had been. The fish rose and took my fly as it had taken the naturals. I was surprised in how much fight a fish this size had in it. Nothing is quite like taking a wild trout. After 3 or 4 runs up and down the length of the pool I finally landed it. Medium brown near the dorsal fin followed by rose colored sides on a 11 incher.

Whitehorse Basin Cutthroat Whitehorse Basin Cutthroat A typical Whitehorse Creek hole

I caught around 15 in a half mile stretch. It really didn’t matter what I had tied on as I tried several different flies that were all successful. Fish in this secluded and out of the way would probably take a bit of lint on a hook because the fishing pressure is so low, but how many people can say they have caught a Whitehorse Basin Cutthroat Trout?

 

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