By Dino N. Frangos
The last few evenings on the Teton River in Idaho have provided some impressive dry fly action during an evening spinner fall. Aggressive hits with an excellent fight. Good presentation casts with non-drag drifts were rewarded. Are we talking about Cutthroat, Rainbows, or Brookies? No, we are talking about the often maligned Whitefish. Mountain Whitefish are widely distributed throughout the West. A member of the Salmonid family, they are normally thought of as bottom feeders, but from personal experience they will actively pursue a surface meal. They are a native fish and not a significant threat to the Cutthroat population. Their eggs are an important source of food for trout. The two groups tend to populate different levels in the water column.
Mountain Whitefish typically range in size from 10-12 inches. An older fish may reach 15 inches. These fish often congregate in groups, so if you get on one, you will probably catch others. They put up a very spirited fight and landing them is a lot of fun. Their small mouths can add a little more challenge to the hook set. Having caught a lot of Mountain Whitefish with dry flies on the Teton this summer, this spirited fish has gained my respect. In my opinion, those recreational fly fishers and guides, who bad-mouth Mountain Whitefish, are only demonstrating their inexperience and ignorance.