Each September, wildlife manager Rod Ruybalid packs hundreds of native Rio Grande cutthroat trout fingerlings into high-mountain lakes and streams. Although cutthroat trout spawn naturally in the wild, their populations are augmented with native cutthroat trout that are spawned by hand and raised in hatcheries.
The last leg of the fingerlings’ long journey is a horseback ride into their ancestral waters. Their new home is a tumbling creek in the headwaters of the Conejos River. And in a few years, anglers that venture into this wind-swept valley will discover the thrill of catching a native cutthroat in its natural habitat.