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Freshwater

The first night of hammock sleeping on a week long camping trip is always tough so as soon as I saw twilight the next morning I was up and at ’em.  A short, chilly walk to the bathroom began to reveal the beauty of the Raft River Mountains and the valley we were in.  We had arrived in the dark so I didn’t know what to expect, but this campground had some of the best views out of any that we stayed in.  The remoteness of it was pretty awesome.  If you’re interested in heading to NW Utah to camp, Clear Creek Campground is the only campground option in the Raft River Mountains and it is free to stay there.

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Shortly after my walk we packed up and hit the road.  After a brief drive through Idaho the next stop was the Logan Canyon where we would be targeting Bear River cutthroat.

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The Bear River cutthroat is not actually a formally described species.  Federally the cutthroat in the Bear River system (including Bear Lake and the Logan River) are considered Bonneville cutthroat trout.  Obviously the state of Utah thinks otherwise so I had to do some reading to learn what makes these cutthroat unique.  It has been pointed out by scholars, most notably Dr. Robert Behnke, that the cutthroat in the Bear River system actually are more closely related to Yellowstone cutthroat trout due to a Bonneville Basin high water diversion between the Bear and Snake River drainages some 34,000 years ago.  If you want to learn more about native trout and native cutthroat I can suggest two books for you.  Trout and Salmon of North America by Dr. Robert Behnke and Cutthroat: Native Trout of the West by Patrick Trotter are absolute must-owns for any fish nerd.  They make great coffee table books as well.

We started our fishing on a Logan River tributary where we parked at a trailhead and planned on fishing up from there.  I got ready a little quicker than Blake so I made my way over to the creek to check it out and as soon as I did I saw a cutthroat holding next to the bank.  One float of a dry fly in front of him and my second cutthroat species of the slam was checked off the list.

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Then I caught another one.

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And Blake caught one of his own.

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Now that the pressure was off we were ready to spend the rest of the day looking for bigger ones.  The stream was pretty tight in some places and had lots of overhanging vegetation – great fish habitat, but kind of tough to fish.  In other places it was more open and easier on the fly rods, especially where there were beaver ponds and slower water.  There was lots of variation throughout which made for a pretty interesting little creek.  I feel like the size of the cutthroat we caught was pretty good for the size of the water, it was a great stream for 3 and 4 weight glass rods.

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We had covered maybe 3/4 mile of stream and caught several nice fish before another group of three anglers passed by on the trail and dropped in at a trail intersection just upstream of us.  We had one more fish in us on this stream before we broke for lunch and Blake made his fish count.  It was the biggest on the day so far and a great way to end that session.

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We hiked out and set out to find a suitable campsite for the night.  Sleeping in hammocks requires sturdy trees to hold us so sometimes finding a good campsite can take a little extra time than with a tent.  There are numerous campgrounds in Logan Canyon though and despite them starting to fill up for the weekend we found one without too much hassle at Wood Camp.  We set up camp, had lunch and then hit the water again.

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We fished a section of the Logan that ran away from the road a bit just upstream from the campsite.  It was big water compared to what we were used to and the wading was pretty difficult mainly due to the depth and volume of water moving through.  We weren’t getting many strikes and then finally I get a good take on my dry.  I can feel the weight of a solid fish, I know it’s a good fish because I can feel each deliberate head shake.  Then just as quickly as I was hooked up here comes the fly back at me.  I pulled it from his mouth.  I’m guessing it was a big brown since the Logan is known for them, but I don’t really know.  I do know that it would have been a good fish, best of the trip for me.  After that we decided to move a bit further upstream, hopefully find some safer wading.

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I’ve heard the Madison River called a 50 mile riffle and I had read that the Logan was like a mini Madison and from what I was seeing this was fairly true.  The river was dominated by riffles and runs.

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I was throwing a dry-dropper with a stimulator up top and a green caddis pupa style nymph below and at some point I began holding my mouth right and hit a rhythm.  I had 6-7 cutthroat in a row fishing the different seams and holding water.

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I caught my biggest cutthroat on the day in that stretch.

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I even had a few browns come up and slam the dry.

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Blake didn’t fare as well, it was one of those rare times when I out-fished him, but he did come away with a solid cutty from the Logan.

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Things slowed down for me after the good stretch more of a return to normal.  It was starting to get dark and we were starting to get hungry so we hit the road back to the campsite.  It was nice already having the hammocks set up, so all we had to was make a fire and cook dinner.

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We generally eat pretty cheap on these trips, just boiling water and eating dehydrated meals, but tonight was different.  We actually bought a couple of ribeyes and some potato salad and ate pretty good that night.

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For Day 3 we’d fish another Logan trib and then hit the road to hit the North Slope of the Uintas.  The next cutthroat on our list was the Colorado River cutthroat.

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Blake and I just recently got back from a week in Utah, chasing the four native cutthroat of that state.  Flights for the trip were booked seven months ago so it’s safe to say that the trip has been on my mind in some capacity throughout all of 2017.  Admittedly though, having an infant certainly cut down on the amount of space that the trip, or any fishing trip for that matter, has occupied in my brain.  Want to think about fishing less – keep having kids – it totally works!

Fishing in Colorado in 2012 was enough to convince me that I needed to take more trout trips out west.  Having an interest in native fish and more specifically native trout meant that the Wyoming cutt slam was on a very short bucket list after Colorado.  After the success we had fishing in Wyoming in 2015 I knew I wanted to do something similar for the next trip.  I’m always thinking about the next trip, logging things I read in books or on the web for future use.  I gravitate toward the slam style programs.  They provide great outlines for planning a western trout trip.  If you want to catch four different species in their native ranges you typically have to travel to four different watersheds.  It’s a great way to fish a lot of different water and see a lot of sights that you can’t see back home.  Driving to the destinations at times is as much fun as fishing.

I looked at California’s Heritage Trout Challenge, but that seemed impossible to achieve in a week and I wasn’t looking for a two or even three part trip just yet.  Nevada has a Native Fish Slam that seemed a little more plausible, but I was a little hesitant about some of the remoteness of the destinations we would need to go to find those native fish.  At some point I want to make it to New Mexico to chase Rio Grande cutthroat and Gila trout and Arizona for Apache trout, but those are likely separate trips, otherwise that would be a lot of driving for one week.  Then in April of last year, my planning suddenly shifted to Utah as they debuted their own cutt slam program with a really fantastic website – www.utahcutthroatslam.org.  After looking into it further it just made sense for the Utah cutt slam to be our next trip.  Salt Lake City is an easy destination to fly to with relatively inexpensive flights and as a bonus you can catch all four cutthroat species within a three hour drive from the city.

To achieve the Utah cutt slam you’ll need to catch the four native cutthroat trout of the state – the Bonneville, the Bear River, the Colorado River, and the Yellowstone.  Here’s where they live:

 

Since the Yellowstone cutthroat required the longest drive, was in the most out-of-the-way destination, and lived in some of the least impressive looking water I decided we should try and knock that one out first.

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We got the earliest flight we could into Salt Lake City from New Orleans and after a few stops for supplies we set off for the Raft River Mountains, in the NW part of the state.

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Miles of interstate were followed by miles of dirt roads, but we finally arrived that evening at our first creek.  It was a small one and it was heavily used by cattle.  The cattle and the creek shared the same narrow valley and there was only so much space for the both of them.  The Yellowstone cutthroat were supposed to be there too, but it was obvious they wasn’t a very large population in the creek, so we went to work and started covering ground.

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Thankfully the cattle weren’t around at the time, but the cow shit was still there and avoiding it was impossible.  I noticed how covered my boots were when walking back to the car.  After fishing a few prime runs with nary a bite I was a little nervous.  It didn’t make me feel any better when the skies opened up, so I took off my dry and started fishing a nymph.  All we had to do was catch one right?

The heavy rain didn’t last long and as we moved up the stream things started to look better.  Blake caught a trout to get things rolling.

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I followed up with one of my own and all was right in the world again.

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More fish were caught and once you got past all the cow shit the stream wasn’t really that bad of a place to fish.  The treeless mountains at the head of the valley made for a pretty cool backdrop too.

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The size of the fish picked up as we went upstream, we never found any studs, but we found our target species and to catch the first of the four cutthroat species we needed on our first day in Utah was a pretty good feeling.

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We only spent a couple hours on that stream before we figured it was late enough and we still needed to find a place to sleep and set up camp.

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Much like Wyoming we’d be hammock camping each night in National Forest campgrounds (I like a real toilet).  Unfortunately the nearest campground was still over an hour away, so we’d be navigating to and setting up camp in the dark.  Thankfully I had printed out directions to get from place to place because there is not much cell coverage in rural Utah.  We did well finding the roads we needed to turn on and dodging jackrabbits in the dark, but we were pretty confused when we pulled into someone’s driveway at 10:00 at night and three dogs surrounded the car barking up a storm, then we realized we made a wrong turn somewhere.  We backtracked to the main road and righted the ship pretty quick, but that could have made for an interesting conversation should anyone have stepped out from that trailer.

The next day we’d wake up and head east, over to the Logan Canyon where we hoped to catch our second cutthroat species, the Bear River.

My parents are in the process of selling their home in Alpharetta and when they do finally hand over the keys to the new owners there will definitely be a mix of emotions for the family.  Alpharetta was home to me for nearly half my life and home for them for nearly 30 years, so for them not to have a residence there will be a pretty strange thing.  The bright side of their departure from suburban Atlanta is that they have a new home on Lake Rosemound, here in Louisiana, just an hour north of Baton Rouge, so we’ll have the chance to see and be with them a lot more often as they split time between St. Francisville and the cabin in Suches and we are excited about that.

They’ve had the house at Lake Rosemound for almost a year now and we’ve made a few trips up that way, but never for more than a day or two.  It’s rare to find an entire weekend free it seems, but we were able to do just that this past weekend.  We loaded the car up Friday morning and headed north on Hwy 61 after work only to be greeted by a nice thunderstorm upon arrival.

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Amanda took advantage of us being stuck inside to whip up a fantastic shrimp creole for dinner, which I can attest paired really nicely with a Ghost.

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The next morning I was able to take out the new Kilroy DT we bought for Rosemound and see how she performs as a solo boat.  With dreams of big bass in my head I tied on a black buzzbait and began working it around the docks and other structure.  It seemed like a good morning for topwater as it was a little cloudy and not even the faintest ripple on the water from the wind.  I found out early on that the bluegill were going to be fairly aggressive today.

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After a while I wasn’t feeling the love on the black buzzbait so I switched colors and downsized and went with an oldie but a goodie, still a buzzbait, the Wolka double buzzer.  Terry Wolka, who use to frequent the Riverbassin forum, made custom lures and sent them out for guys to try.  I’ve managed to hold on to mine after all these years and have caught a number of fish on it.  It’s still in pretty good shape and is a testament to the quality craftsmanship that went into this lure.

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I’m not going to say that it was like a light switched on, but things certainly were better after the lure change.  I think it also helped that I moved into a shallower, grassier part of the lake, especially given my lure choice.

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The clouds gave way to a bluebird sky and I probably shouldn’t have still been throwing topwater, but I’m pretty stubborn when it comes to lures and I just wanted to catch them on top so I stuck with it and am happy I did.  I really didn’t leave myself much of an option though as my gear was pretty minimalist on the day.  If I wasn’t going to catch them on top, I wasn’t catching them at all.

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For about an hour the fishing was great, which was what I needed, because this was just short pre-lunch fishing trip anyway.

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That last one was the biggest on the day.  I’ve got no clue on the size as I didn’t pack a scale or a board.  It was great to finally dedicate some time to bass fishing the lake and I was pretty happy to have some relative success.  I know there are much bigger bass in the lake and I look forward to the challenge of trying to fool one.

We spent the rest of the day with a lakeside lunch at Satterfield’s in New Roads and then a Lake Rosemound beach trip with the kiddos.  The eggplant nelson appetizer at Satterfield’s is pretty damn good and this is coming from someone who’s not that big into eggplant.  I would recommend stopping there to eat if you’re ever in the area.

The next morning I took Marin for a paddle in the DT.  It was super easy to shift the seat trays from a solo position to a configuration where I could have her facing me, which was perfect for a toddler, but probably not something I’d do with someone who could actually help paddle.

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The DT paddled very well, even with a kid leaning out of the boat putting her hand in the water the whole time.  As with the 12′ Kilroy the DT holds the distinction of being one of the few kayaks out there that is both fast and stable.  I’m thrilled to have this boat at Rosemound and can see it getting a lot of use as my kids grow up.

At Marin’s request we hit the beach again before we headed on back down to Baton Rouge.  We really enjoyed our weekend up at Rosemound.  I look forward to spending more time up that way, learning the lake, and of course spending time with the family.