Depending on who you talk to, the answer to this question is from one end of the spectrum to the other. Some fisherman refuse to fish for anything under 20 inches. While others don't care how big their catch is as long as they are catching fish.
I fall in the latter group. Don't get me wrong, I love catching big fish but some of the most memmorable fish I have caught have been 12 inches and under. One backpacking trip brought me to Deer Lake in the Gallatin Canyon. The Lake is a grouling hike up to about 9,000 ft. and was more designed for horse travel. After an hour of lying on my belly to fish the inlet, I was finally able to hook into one of the Lakes resident Cutthroat. The fish was a whopping 8 inches. With all the effort it took to catch this fish, I will never forget him. On another multi-day trip into the Beartooths I caught another fish I won't forget. We were at 10,000 ft. in the center of the wilderness in early August. At this elevation the Cutthroat spawn later than their lower elevation cousins. At the lake we had hiked into, the fish were in full blown spawn mode. Cutthroat were racing up and down the outlet like herds of Buffalo. After a day of hooking into more fish than I could count, I landed the most beautifly colored trout. This particular Cutthroat was only 10 inches but had the best spawning colors I had ever seen on a trout. It's belly was almost jet black.
All of us are in search of our fish of a lifetime but small guys can get you through the day while having tons of fun. Late summer is a perfect time to head up into the mountains to fish smaller waters. When the rivers in the valleys start to heat up and the bigger fish get lathargic, their mountain cousins are more than happy to feed for you. You will also enjoy the cooler daytime temperatures.
Enter your number below to receive new, up-to-date river reports from Montana Troutfitters.