Some trout get all the hype. That’s not the case for the aloof one in the lineup. Bull trout are no one’s celebrated state fish. No boutique digs cater solely to the species. They don’t mix well with nonnative riffraff. And they cast doubt on those who call climate change a hoax.
But there’s no doubt the streamer-smashing bull is a badass trout. Or, more precisely, char. The fish is a fragile, telltale indicator of intact ecosystems. A veritable poster child for cold, clean, connected rivers. The same pristine habitat that’s become harder to find throughout their native range.
Listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, today’s bull trout populations are clinging to the fringes in parts of Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Idaho, and Montana. Canadian bulls are comparatively faring better in both Alberta and British Columbia. In California, they’re worse off than steelhead. Because they’re extinct.
Pursuing these creatures is all about sleepless nights at the vise, worn out boots, and countless hours peering through rushing currents; all culminating in a wild, thrashing exultation of salmonid evolution. For many, bully fishing excursions lose the air of “trip” and become more an expedition. These photos detail one such expedition undertaken by Devin Olsen (@tactical_flyfisher), Connor Murphy (@troutjockey) and Gilbert Rowley (@gilbertrowley).
Tom Bie is the founder, editor, and publisher of The Drake. He started the magazine in 1998 as an annual newsprint publication based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He then moved it to Steamboat, Colorado (1999), Boulder, Colorado (2001), and San Clemente, California (2004), as he took jobs as managing editor at Paddler, Senior Editor at Skiing, and Editor-in-Chief at Powder, respectively. Tom and The Drake are now both based in Denver, Colorado, where The Drake is finally all grows up(Swingers, 1996) to a quarterly magazine.