To Restore or Not To Restore 

Guest Blogger: Phil Rispin, fly fisher, photographer & more, find Phil’s photography here

I was on Dutch Creek in southwest Alberta watching an Elk Hair Caddis float downstream hoping that a nice fat colorful Cutthroat Trout would be fooled and I wasn’t disappointed. From the depths of the hole came a flash and a splashy take on the surface and just like that I had one on the line. The trout gave me a good tug of war and after a minute or two allowed me to release it back into its watery world. This repeated itself over and over again during what was a very pleasant day’s fishing on the east slopes of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta.

Being on the stream and fishing Cutthroats made me wonder about the nature of these small jewels. Not so long ago we used to argue over the existence of Cutbows. Now, with the ability to map genetics in individual organisms, we know that a substantial percentage of the Cutthroat population in both the USA and Canada has MacLeod River Rainbow genes present in them. (Anders Halverson, “The Entirely Synthetic Fish”) Right into the 60’s and 70’s of the last century fish management involved stocking every body of water that was cold enough with Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout and Brook Trout. Fish were even dropped into high mountain lakes from the air establishing new populations of trout. In some cases, the indigenous populations of fish were killed off using Rotenone, a piscicide, and replaced by what was regarded at the time as more desirable sport fish.  I remember my Dad when unintentionally hooking a Bull trout, a native in the ranges we fished, throwing the hapless trout into the bush behind him claiming that they killed the Rainbows he preferred to catch which of course had been introduced.

Continue reading → To Restore or Not To Restore