The smallest of Alaska's native trout species, the cutthroat is only found in the Southern portion of the state. From beaver ponds and back sloughs to big river estuaries and mountain lakes, the cutthroat is the most common trout in Southeast Alaska. Available from March to November with peak season in July and August, these trout can be found in both fresh and saltwater and are ready biters in either environment. Ranging from 10-16 inches with the occasional individual crossing the 24 inch mark, the cutthroat is an aggressive eater and can provide hours of entertainment for the fly angler. Some of the largest cutts are found in the land-locked trophy lakes of Southeast Alaska.
Gear and Flies
Cutthroat trout are small, scrappy fighters that are best suited to the lighter end of the fly rod spectrum. 3, 4, and 5wt rods are all appropriate, depending on the line type and size of fly chosen. Reels best suited for cutthroat fishing are characterized by their light weight and smooth performance. Depending upon the method of presentation, fly line choices include full-float weight-forward lines, sinking tip lines, and full sinking lines (in the lakes) to deliver your offering to the proper depth. Cutthroat are fairly aggressive eaters and often go for large prey, so flies don't have to be dainty to catch fish. The well-prepared cutthroat angler will have a large selection of leeches and attractors to draw from, and these should include the Beadhead Thin Mint, Pink StripTease, Lite Brite Zonkers, and several colors of Beadhead Buggers.
The rod of choice for Alaska's Coastal Cutthroat is usually a 8'6" to 9' 4 or 5wt. If chasing these bad boys in some of Southeast Alaska's Trophy Lakes, a 9-10' 6 or 7wt rod that can handle large streamers and heavy sinking lines is preferrable.
Most cutthroat average 10-16" in Alaska, so most reels can do the job. If fishing in estuaries and salt, a good machined aluminum reel that is anodized is a better choice and will last much longer. When chasing the larger cutts residing in the Trophy Lakes, a reel with a good drag system is advisable.
About 80% of the fishing done for cutthroat is done with a weight forward floating line. A short fast sink tip can be very useful when fishing larger streams, ponds and small lakes. Larger lakes, especially the Trophy Lakes, will find the biggest trout feeding at depths sometimes of 50 feet or more. Heavy sink tips or full sinking lines can be the ticket for hooking one of these monsters of the deep.
Coastal Cutthroat are opportunistic predators that can also be as "trouty" as trout get. A good selection of flies from traditional dries and nymphs to eggs and flesh are good to have on hand. But most of all, having small to medium sized baitfish, sculpins and leeches will get you in the game.