BIG TROUT LURK under cutbanks. There they sit like radar-equipped state troopers, perfectly positioned to nail any hapless wanderer that drifts past. These fish are not insect munchers; they’re cannibals that prey on smaller fish, and the best way to entice a strike is to offer them steak–an outsize fly that forces them to strike out of a territorial impulse. The wrinkle? Heavy tippets will spook these fish. You’ll need to downsize to 4X tippet, quite a trick with a big fly.
Flies: The traditional advice is to use black in turbid water and light colors in clear water, but I’ve always had better results with darker flies–black, green, and brown. Woolly Buggers and Zonkers are effective, as are steelhead patterns. Use the largest fly you can handle on a light tippet.
Tackle:** A 9-foot, 5- to 6-weight rod like the G. Loomis GL3 works well. Load it with a weight-forward floating line such as Scientific Anglers Mastery Series GPX. Because you have the chance to hook up with a big trout, don’t go with a cheap reel with an indifferent drag. Try L.L. Bean’s Mid-Arbor reel, which features a smooth center disc drag that helps protect light tippets. Tippet choice is crucial here; Rio Powerflex is excellent.
Presentation: There’s nothing graceful about this type of fishing. You’ll be casting outsize flies on light tippets, and at first you’ll feel as if you’re casting a bowling ball. The key is to mend the line immediately in order to reduce drag and then make sure there’s no excess slack as you drift the fly through the lie. When you get it right, hold on–the strike will be like a jolt from Jove. You won’t be able to manhandle this fish, either, so get it on the reel and let the drag do the work. Since many cutbank fish head for an obstacle, expect a lot of breakoffs. It’s just part of the game.