North Fork Shoshone River

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River

Fly Fishing North Fork Shoshone River

They aren't considered trout royalty. In some streams, they aren't even welcome. But these mixed-breed trout should come with a warning on the North Fork of the Shoshone: Fish here and prepare to get punched in the face.

North Fork Shoshone River near the City of Rocks outside of Cody Wyoming.

With a red slash under their jaw and a chrome body, the larger cutt-bows of the North Fork bring the wood to every brawl in these waters. Labeling them hybrids just gets them mad. They dislike the label since it brings unwelcomed scrutiny by state fisheries managers. They would rather just quietly go about their business of survival.

North Fork Shoshone River provides fishermen a chance to hook larger cuttbow and Yellowstone cutthroat trout.

Why are these cutt-bows such brawlers? Who really knows. Time of year, water temperatures, availability of food are contributing factors to their size and behavior. But for my money, the size of their fight lies somewhere in their spiral of DNA. The special blend of rainbow and cutthroat genes is where the magic probably happens.

An angler walks downstream to land a big cutt on the North Fork Shoshone River.

All I really know, and all I can talk to, is the energy they let off at the end of a fly-line. My research started and ended in the span of a 2 to 3 minute hook-up. If I happened to be wading off the rocks and the cutt-bow decided to take me downstream, then the interval would be closer to 5 to 10 minutes. Eventually, I got tired of chasing these fish downstream - jumping around logs and stumbling over rocks. It was a tug-of-war. The larger ones seemed to know the game.

Using a 3X leader seemed like overkill -- at least at first. I later learned, it was essential in getting any cutt-bow above 17 inches to the net. Much later in the day, after getting pulled downstream over the North Fork's rocky terrain for the fifth time, the 3X turned into a crutch.

The Highway 14,16 and 20 leading to the East entrance of Yellowstone runs along the North Fork of the Shoshone River and provides easy access and amazing scenery.

The pattern seemed to be: Hook large fish, hooked fish moves into fast water, angler scrambles down river to land large fish. Weakened and humbled, I sized up the situation differently. I wondered, What if I force this large fish out of the fast current? Yeah, I got 3X.

An angler catches a 20 inch cutt-bow trout on the North Fork Shoshone one of the best freestone rivers in the  West.

That kind of thinking leads to trouble. The theory about the weakest-link-in-the-chain comes into sharp focus around the angler's leader system. Any or all of the links in your leader can fail. In the span of a few hours on the North Fork, this flawed thinking resulted in bent hooks and lost fish. And bent hooks are the least of your worries.

A twisted ankle or broken rod after chasing one of these fish down river is.