Largemouth bass and brown trout had a baby and named her dorado. Untamed Angling – Good lord.
Largemouth bass and brown trout had a baby and named her dorado. Untamed Angling – Good lord.
After a peaceful, quiet, and especially good night of sleep we packed up our hammocks for the last time, loaded up the car, and headed down the road and through town toward Bonneville cutthroat trout territory. For the first time all trip we stopped for a legitimate breakfast at the Woodland Biscuit Company. It was very good and I’d recommend it to anyone driving through Woodland on Hwy 35.
The stream we fished was a tributary to the Provo River and like I mentioned before is home to Bonneville cutthroat trout, the last species we needed for the slam.
The Bonneville cutthroat is Utah’s state fish, they can be found all around the state in coldwater streams that drain into the Great Basin.
We put the AWD Kia Sorrento to the test driving to our destination, but the bumpy dirt road was no trouble for such a capable vehicle. I’m not being sarcastic either, okay maybe a little, but honestly we had one for both the Wyoming and Utah trips and it made it through everything we threw at it so I’ve got a lot of respect for them.
The stream was fairly small, but had a lot of character, it had lots of different types of holding water and made for great fish habitat. We hiked down a ways before fishing it and in retrospect we should have hiked down even further because the lower section was far more open than the upper section. I was first up since I didn’t have the slam yet and it only took one run to catch the fish I needed.
Slam complete. Blake was up next and didn’t waste any time catching the fish of the trip.
I had no idea we’d run into a cutthroat of that size here. The pool he lived in was tiny by comparison – see below:
It was a good thing I was downstream of Blake with a net because once hooked the fish went to flopping and with his size and the strength of the current he was prepared to put up a pretty mean fight. The current worked in our favor though and took him right to me waiting with a net in a pool below and we were happy to lay eyes on a supersized Bonneville cutthroat.
We spent the rest of the day leap frogging each other and catching more Bonneville cutthroat trout.
Blake got a pretty good shot-for-shot sequence of one that I put a bow-and-arrow cast to.
The stream fished pretty well, it wasn’t on fire, but the action was fairly consistent. Aside from the big fish Blake caught, the size of the cutthroat was about what I figured it would be for this trib, not too big, not too small, they were big enough fish to keep us entertained. As we moved upstream we moved out of the more open casting water and into heavier streamside vegetation. It was getting pretty dense in places and we had been seeing several yellow jackets hovering just above the water. We finally found a nest, then another, and considering how many bushes I had been walking through during the day I was happy we had not been stung yet. I figured it was best to quit while we were ahead since things were getting skinny and our cutt slam goals were accomplished, so we called it a day, found the trail and headed out of there.
We made it back to the vehicle, drove down the bumpy dirt road, then hit the pavement and headed back towards civilization. We stopped in Park City to do the tourist thing and grab some lunch at Red Rock – the Elephino DIPA was pretty tasty for anyone keeping score.
After lunch we headed to Sugar House to stay with my buddy Eric that night. He graciously accepted us into his home where we were able to do the one thing we had not done all week – shower. One big difference in campgrounds in the south and campgrounds out west is the lack of shower facilities. We are blessed with an abundance of water though. There really is nothing quite like that first shower after a week of fishing and camping, it’s truly sublime. After cleaning up we hit the town, another brewpub for dinner, and a stop at the Black Sheep at Epic Brewing for a tasting of some of the best beer Utah has to offer. I only mention this because I was seriously impressed with the number of beers Epic has to offer and they will let you sample anything for $1 or $2 – whether it’s on draft or in bombers, they will open a bomber and pour you a 4 oz taster without even batting an eye.
We had a great time that night and I want to thank Eric for his hospitality and letting us crash at his house before our flight out the following morning. I’ve known Eric since kindergarten and though I hadn’t seen him in a few years it sure didn’t feel that way while we were hanging out.
The trip went incredibly well, Blake and I really enjoyed our time in Utah. A lot of planning went into the trip in order to ensure we’d have success and with that planning came a lot of outside help from a number of different sources. Books, maps, websites, forums, social media, people – all were used to put together an awesome trip.
I’ve got to thank a couple of biologists with Utah DWR who were a big help when I was trying to narrow down where we should chase each cutthroat species down, Matt Mckell and Michael Slater. We probably could have completed the slam without their help, but with it we were confident in the places we fished.
Another guy we need to thank is Matt over at What Are You Wading For? who was a good follow on Instagram (@whatareyouwadingfor) leading up to the trip because his big browns and cutthroat were getting us giddy down here in Louisiana as the trip approached. He was a big help when we were up in the Logan Canyon.
I really enjoy these slam trips, I enjoy planning for them, and then getting out there having success and accomplishing the goal of catching the slam. Talking with other folks who are just as stoked on catching native fish as I am is a big plus too. If you want to do something similar, like go for a slam or catch some native trout somewhere, and you think I might be able to help you, feel free to get in touch with me, I’d be more than happy to try and help.
It took a while to go to sleep the night before, thanks to the noisy neighbors, but once I fell asleep I was out. It was the only night we would be sleeping above 10,000 ft and I feared it would be the coldest night of the trip, but it wasn’t, it was actually quite mild and I was very comfortable. I needed a good night’s sleep too as we prepared to hike in about three miles to the lake we wanted to fish. This time we would be targeting arctic grayling, another new species to us.
We planned to fish Marjorie Lake, a lake that according to Utah DWR was last stocked in 1952 with grayling, so the population has been naturally sustaining itself ever since. I don’t think grayling were ever native so Utah, so I’d say that was as close as we were going to come to a natural population – at least on this trip. Here’s more from Utah DWR about fishing for grayling in the Uintas:
The hike in from the Crystal Lake trailhead was relatively flat, there is one mountain you have to skirt around, but the grade is not killer. The hike takes you past several ponds, open meadows full of wildflowers, a few creeks, and it has great views of some of the nearby mountain peaks, like Mt. Watson for one.
About two miles in we ran into some local wildlife, a herd of cattle. It’s kind of amazing to see them at such a high elevation. They had a bull with them who was keeping watch, thankfully he wasn’t aggressive and we were able to navigate around them.
I had some time to think during the hike and I was a little nervous that when we’d arrive at the lake we’d find that it was just like the lakes we fished yesterday and action was going to very minimal – I didn’t know what to expect having never been there. The good thing was that there are several other nearby lakes so we had options should one not work out.
The lake was so beautiful at first sight that any kind of mild apprehension I had of how the day would go vanished, because even if the fishing sucked, at least the scenery didn’t.
When we got alongside the lake we noticed several rising fish just at the edge of our casting distance. There wasn’t any discernible bug coming off the water so I tied on a Griffith’s gnat and hoped for the best.
After a few misses I was finally able to get one on the line. They have very quick takes and you really have to be ready to lift the rod when they eat. I also suspect we were around a lot of small fish and they were just a bit harder to hook. Catching them was just a matter of casting to a rise ring and waiting for the eat. If you could get it in the ring shortly after you saw one then chances were good it was still in the area and would find your fly. Thankfully the fishing here would not suck!
We started making our way around the lake, looking for bigger fish. Fish were rising all around the lake so it wasn’t like we were leaving fish to find fish.
I didn’t have to go too far to find the big fish on the day. I made it to a point that was surrounded by deeper water and cast to a rise out in the deeper water and was rewarded with a good eat from a solid fish. With the water being a bit deeper any fish with size put a bend in the glass rod and this one was giving me some solid runs.
I don’t know what his size was, I just know he was the biggest on the day, and he was bigger than I anticipated we’d run into. I caught a few more fish off that point before I caught back up to Blake.
When I did catch up to Blake he was catching some nice fish from some old tree trunks sticking up out of the water. Someone came up here and sawed them off years ago and now they made for great casting platforms.
After catching several grayling we decided to make a move to another nearby lake that I read had a population of cutthroat in it.
I had read some good reports from Long Pond so we decided to check it out. The name is pretty self explanatory, it’s a long pond that is part of the outflow to Long Lake. There were not nearly as many fish rising here, but we managed to catch a few.
They just weren’t cutthroat, they were brookies. It was still a pretty place to fish though.
As we were fishing Long Pond the clouds began to grow, thunder started to roll, and our once bluebird day turned into one that looked pretty ominous. Rain started to fall and that even turned into hail at one point so we decided that we should probably hike out. We caught our grayling, we were currently only catching brookies, and we still had a slam to complete so it was time to move on.
Thankfully, we got back to the trailhead without getting soaked. The rain was fairly light and patchy, but the clouds were still dark and foreboding, so we drove on down the mountain to go find the last campsite we’d need on our trip. We were on the home stretch, just needed to catch a Bonneville cutthroat to finish out the slam.
With it being Sunday afternoon finding a campsite was a breeze and after setting up our hammocks we headed to a Weber River trib right off the highway to try and complete the slam. It looked fantastic from the road and I think we both thought finishing the slam today wouldn’t be much of a problem.
I should have known that if the only fish to attack my fly in a good pool was some kind of shiner that we’d be in for a tough afternoon.
We covered a lot of ground, fished a lot of good looking water, there just wasn’t many fish. I have no idea why they weren’t there, the water was a bit on the warm side, that might of had something to do with it. Blake was finally able to catch one small cutthroat and with that he had completed his slam! The pressure was off now for him so it was now up to me to catch one.
I never caught one though. It was a bummer, but we still had tomorrow. It would be our last day to fish, so I had to complete the slam then. We headed back to the campsite, got a fire going (with wood someone had graciously left behind), ate dinner, then called it an early night. This time there weren’t any neighbors around to keep us up.