If you could only wet a line for one species of fish in your home province or territory, what would it be? That’s the question we asked ourselves at Outdoor Canada when selecting our 2019 Canadian fishing hot spots. For more bucket-list species and hot spots, see our complete list.
ALBERTA: WESTSLOPE CUTTHROAT TROUT
Westslope cutthroat trout in Alberta
Why this is one of Canada’s must-have fishing experiences
Despite their geographically confusing name, Alberta’s westslope cutthroat trout are actually found on the eastern slopes of the Rockies. And while all trout are pretty, cutties may be the prettiest of all, with their arc of dark spots on flanks ranging from silver to yellow-green. Capping it all is that distinctive red-orange slash below the jaw, giving the fish their slightly gruesome moniker.
Native to Alberta’s Bow and Oldman River drainages—and stocked elsewhere—cutties are found in rivers ranging from mid-size down to tiny tributaries, plus a scattering of alpine lakes. And since they require especially clear, cold, clean water, these fish truly live up to that old adage about trout living in beautiful places. Food is relatively scarce in those waters, however, so cutties are typically hungry, and willing to take a whack at almost anything edible looking that drifts by or swims within range.
Alberta’s record cutthroat is a thunderous nine pounds, but most anglers would consider a two-pounder a trophy. Not that cutties are coveted for their size. Instead, fishing for westslope cutthroats offers the complete, classic trout experience: hiking into secluded, stunning surroundings and using simple fly-fishing or spinning gear to bring a magnificent little fish to hand.
WHEN TO GO: Mid-June to October
HOT TACTIC: Drifting dry flies in both lakes and rivers