Native trout hitch a ride home on the backs of volunteers

Pictured: UpslopeBrewing Co., Western Native Trout Initiative, and Colorado Trout Unlimited. 

Pictured: UpslopeBrewing Co., Western Native Trout Initiative, and Colorado Trout Unlimited. 

CLEAR CREEK, CO – This week, the endangered Greenback Cutthroat Trout got a major boost from Trout Unlimited volunteers and agency partners in Colorado. 

Once thought to be extinct, this rare fish is making a big comeback thanks to the efforts of the Greenback Cutthroat Recovery Team – a partnership that includes the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Wildlife, the National Park Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Western Native Trout Initiative, and Trout Unlimited.

Over the course of two days in mid-July, 1,700 Year 1 Cutthroats (~4-6 inches) made their way into two headwater drainages in the Clear Creek Watershed, an hour west of Denver, CO.  The Dry Gulch and Herman Gulch creeks represent the first major river populations for this threatened species since it was rediscovered in 2012. 

To help agency partners stock these important little fish, over 80 Trout Unlimited volunteers carried the cutthroats in large packs up steep switchbacks and bush-wacked through dense brush to get to the remote rivers.  Some people hiked over six miles into the top of the drainage (over 11,500 feet)! These volunteers came from ten different TU chapters and represented all walks of life – anglers and conservationists coming together to recover this native trout.


“We couldn’t do it without the volunteers,” says Paul Winkle, Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologist for the Clear Creek Drainage.  It was a major undertaking that took a lot of support from agency staff, non-profit partners, and local businesses.

At Colorado TU, we are very proud of the hard work and dedication that our chapters and volunteers provide to these projects. It shows what can happen when people focus on collaboration and overcoming differences.  It didn’t matter whether someone was young or old, Democrat or Republican, a dry fly purist or never fished before – we were all side by side, climbing those steep trails together. All to save the Greenback.

That's right! Over 80 volunteers and 20+ agency staff from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, US Forest Service, and US Fish and Wildlife service packed up 1700 native Greenback cutthroat trout to be released along Dry Gulch and Herman Gulch on July 16 & 18. These little trout were raised in a hatchery as part of  a statewide effort to restore population's of Colorado's state fish. I'm not sure if you can tell if a fish is happy, but those little guys sure looked excited to be released into their new home. Check out the video spotlight that CBS Local Channel 4 did about the effort, below:

Feeling inspired? Learn more about Native Trout across Colorado - the efforts to protect and restore populations and ways to get involved.

A big shout out to all the volunteers who came out to hike and haul the native trout to their new homes, and to the various groups and agencies that came out to restore Colorado's native fisheries. Read the full story that CBS Channel 4 News did here.

Pictured: Western Native Trout Initiative Sticker and Dublin Dog Co. trout collar. 

Pictured: Western Native Trout Initiative Sticker and Dublin Dog Co. trout collar. 

Thank you to the following:


Volunteers make way for Greenback trout recovery efforts along Rock Creek

Volunteers working to dislodge a disruptive beaver dam along Rock Creek drainage in Colorado. Image courtesy of:  Basin+Bend . 

Volunteers working to dislodge a disruptive beaver dam along Rock Creek drainage in Colorado. Image courtesy of: Basin+Bend

On June 21, 2018, volunteers and Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff met between Fairplay and Grant, CO to work on helping take down beaver dams along the Rock Creek drainage. The Rock Creek drainage is a critical piece of the Greenback recovery puzzle and will provide nearly eight miles of connected stream habitat once the project is completed.  With the help of Trout Unlimited volunteers and chapters, agency partners, and private landowners, there are 4.5 miles of stream that are currently being prepared for greenback reintroduction in the next 2-3 years.  The project below will help make progress on the remaining 3.4 miles of critical habitat.

Last Thursday, volunteers focused on removing beaver dams from sections of the Rock Creek drainage in order to help CPW treat the area for Whirling Disease and non-native brook trout. Volunteers hiked up about a mile and used various tools to help dislodge the dams that were blocking creek flows. A huge thank you to all the volunteers for all their hard work, which resulted in the second scheduled day of work not being needed! Nice job, everyone! If you are interested in future projects, we have upcoming ones listed here

To learn more about Native trout and restoration projects across Colorado check out our page here. Check out the great pictures taken by Erik Myhre of Basin+Bend in Evergreen, CO. 

Pictures courtesy of Basin+Bend

Behind the Fin: Duncan Rose

Join us "behind the fin" with TU volunteer Duncan Rose from the Dolores watershed. How long have you been a TU member?

9-10 years - about three years in Charlotte, and seven here in Colorado.

Why did you become a member and what chapter are you involved with?

Dolores River Anglers, Chapter 145, here in the Four Corners of southwestern Colorado. As newbies to the area, I sought insight and orientation to the area from local enthusiasts.

What made you want to become involved with TU?

When we moved here I was approaching retirement and had targeted environmental organizations and fly fishing as a focal point of interest as I moved into retirement. TU, of course, combined both into an effective package.

What is your favorite activity or project you have done with TU?

Our recent study of climate change and its likely impacts on our home waters (we set out to identify and map long term trout strongholds in our mountains). While fishing in late summer of 2012 and 2013 (severe drought years here), several of us had noted cutties struggling through water only half their height to move from tiny pocket to tiny pocket. Being on the Western Slope, our waters are at the interface of high desert with big mountains. That makes us “canaries in the mine” with respect to climate change. Our findings reveal huge challenges for the persistence of trout habitat in the western San Juans by the turn of the century. We worked hard to make the study highly credible. Over 3000 hours of  volunteer"citizen-science" was involved (along with $25,000 in various grants -- including chapter money and TU Gomo and Embrace a Stream grants-- for scientific expertise).

I know you won’t tell me your favorite spot, but what is your second favorite place to fish or favorite fishing story?

We have some 300 miles of trout habitat spread across 46 streams (1430 square miles of watershed) here in the upper Dolores. I’m particularly attracted to high, small, back-country tributaries, dry flies and, for the last four seasons, tenkara. The settings are as compelling as the fishing. I go out every week from runoff moderation to ice-out in November.

What does being a part of TU mean to you?

Besides the camaraderie of colleagues, as past chapter president and current conservation co-chair, I get to pay back some of the great enjoyment I derive from the fly fishing through our conservation projects. Which means that I am investing in a trout future for our two daughters.

What else do you do in your spare time or work?

I am on the board of our local Conservation Land Trust. We have just been “gifted” an 80 hay/cattle tract into which we are incorporating a significant agriculture education program for the greater region. TU and land conservation, great combination--both get under your skin and into your soul.

Editor' Note: The 'climate change study' referenced above is called: "Climate Change and the Upper Dolores Watershed: A Coldwater-fisheries Adaptive Management Framework"