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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.

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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.

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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.

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Slam complete.  Blake was up next and didn’t waste any time catching the fish of the trip.  IMG_3107

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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:

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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 cutthroat trout.

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Blake got a pretty good shot-for-shot sequence of one that I put a bow-and-arrow cast to.

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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.  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.

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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.

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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 not bat an eye.

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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 on the Logan.

I really enjoy these slam trips, I enjoy planning for them, and then getting out there 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 and think I might be able to help you, get in touch with me, I’d be more than happy to.

We were three days into our trip and we had already caught three of the four cutthroat species we needed to complete the slam.  With three days left on our trip, things were looking pretty favorable for us to achieve our goal.  A longer trip had given us some wiggle room in case something were to go awry, but so far things were going pretty good, so instead of moving on to the Bonneville cutthroat on day 4 we planned on taking our time and fish another Green River trib, and then fish a few High Uintas lakes before we’d complete the slam on a Provo River trib.  That was the plan, anyway.

On both the Wyoming and the Utah cutt slam trips Blake and I used the ENO OneLink system.  Making the decision to go the hammock camping route was an easy one when you’re planning for a trip like this.  The system packs very small, it’s easy to set up and break down, and it’s quite comfortable; especially after a day or two when your body adjusts to sleeping in a hammock after normally sleeping on a mattress.  After a long day of fishing it’s usually not a problem to fall asleep anyway.

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While planning out this trip I read through a lot of old fishing reports online from various fisheries around northern Utah that were potential places for us to come fish on our trip.  One report from the stream we were about to head to really stood out among the others and I knew that when we made it out to Utah we had to come fish it.

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Similar to what I mentioned yesterday, there is something about a high alpine meadow stream that really resonates with me.  We parked the car and took one step out of the vehicle to take in the view and then proceeded to get rigged up as quickly as possible to get down to the stream.  This was going to be a larger stream than the one yesterday, so I was hoping that also meant a few larger cutthroat would be thrown in as well.

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Blake started the day off with a small cutthroat on a chubby chernobyl, but the cutthroat proved to be few and far between.  The consistent action early on was from the brook trout.  The first time we had seen them so far this trip, but they were all over this stream.

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As we made our way further upstream the brook trout action started turning into whitefish action, I had no idea they were in this stream, but I landed a few good ones and one in particular gave me a nice fight.  It was enough for me to get a picture with him.  One man’s trash is another man’s treasure and I wasn’t sore on catching whitefish.

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Eventually each of us did end up catching a decent sized cutthroat so it wasn’t all brookies and whitefish.  I think had we gone a little further up the road and fished the stream farther upstream, closer to the mountains in the background, we would have probably done better on the cutthroat, but I still had a blast catching whitefish and brookies.  The action here wasn’t as consistent as the small stream we fished the day before, but it was still steady and no matter the species that is all you can ask for when you go out fishing.

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When it got to be lunch time we decided to make our way back to the vehicle.  The walk back was a bit further than we had expected – we covered a lot of ground on this stream.  Around every bend was another hole, run, or riffle that looked too good to pass up.  It was an awesome fishery, a beautiful stream, and I couldn’t help but crack open a beer and snap a few more pics.

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It was a good spot for a sandwich as well and after we had lunch we made our way westward on the North Slope Rd.  We passed over the Elizabeth Ridge and into the Bear River watershed.  The dirt road finally ended at Mirror Lake Hwy and then we headed south and up.  Our goal was to try and camp as close as we could to the trailhead we wanted to park at and hike from the next morning and I honestly thought it would be pretty impossible to get a campsite on a weekend night during summer, but I guess since we were there around lunch time we were able to beat folks coming up from Salt Lake City.

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After we got set up I had a few lakes picked out where I thought we could catch another new species to us, the tiger trout.  The tiger trout is a hybrid between a brown and a brook trout and they are known for their big appetites.  They can be found in the wild, but here they are more commonly caught after being stocked by the Utah DWR.  We set out from the campground and, with the help of my Garmin GPS, navigated our way through the woods a couple miles to a lake that I had been told was a good one for tigers.

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It was a beautiful lake, no doubt about that, but there really wasn’t much fish activity going on around the lake.  I don’t remember if I even saw a trout rise there.  Blake had a swipe at his dry once that I recall, but that was the only action we saw.  We moved on to another lake.

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The next lake looked worse.  It was still very pretty, but the beaver activity here was massive, mounds and dams in lots of places.  It looked like they had even managed to raise the lake level, submerging stands of pine trees in the process.  Those submerged pines put tannins in the water and really threw off the water clarity.  It looked like a cypress swamp you’d see on the Florida panhandle.  That lake was a complete bust, thankfully it was not out of the way from where we were headed, which was back by the campground.

We stopped at the lake by the campground and tried our luck just to see what was in there.  There were fish rising, so we knew it wasn’t dead, but there were also lots of other folks fishing, the lake was well worn around it’s edges.

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I took off my streamer and changed to a dry-dropper that had a small dry with an CDC emerger pattern hung off the back.  Not too long after changing I was able to spot a rise and put a cast in the middle of the ring, a few seconds later I was rewarded with a fish.  It had swiped at the dry and I ended up hooking him with the emerger.  Foul hooked fish always put up a great fight.  It was a tiger trout, but I felt a little dirty catching him like that.

I went back to fishing and was able to repeat the process shortly after, only this time the fish was actually properly hooked.  He took the emerger and after bringing him in I felt a little bit better about my tiger catch this time around.

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Tigers are pretty cool looking fish, even if this one was propagated in a lab at some fish hatchery, they still have pretty fantastic patterns.  I was happy to be able to add another species to the life list.  I’m not keeping a tally anywhere, I just like to catch anything that swims.

We’ve had pretty good luck throughout both Wyoming and Utah finding quiet campgrounds with respectable neighbors, so much so that I guess I overlooked picking one right off the main highway.  Our luck had finally run out here at Lily Lake.  We had some real winners on both sides of us.  It probably didn’t help the way our site was situated, we were on a hill, with all the other campsites in a loop below us – we could hear everyone’s conversations, it was terrible.  While setting up camp at lunch we had some real dude-bro talk in the site next to ours.  No big deal, I’ve overhead idiots talk before, but the mouth on this one cat was a bit much considering he had a kid with him.  This may have been his dad, but I couldn’t figure that part out.  I’m hoping he was just an idiot brother.

Potty mouth dude-bro wasn’t the worst though.  As it is getting dark (which out there happens after 9pm) and things were starting to calm down around the campground, people were turning in and calling it a night and we were looking to do the same.  It wasn’t happening though thanks to the neighbors on the other side of use.  I like to think I’m a pretty open minded guy, but the conservation they were holding was beyond distasteful.  I should have never been subjected to hear what Grady, Cara, and Jeremy were discussing around the campfire.  They had all hit the sauce pretty hard and did a great job projecting so everyone around could hear them go into a number of backstories.  I’ll rattle off a few.  See Grady has certain sexual preferences and his girlfriend Cara, whom they share 5 kids together, likely not all from the same parents, is not exactly as adventurous as she was and he was upset that she wasn’t into the same sick shit he was into.  Meanwhile Jeremy’s wife had cheated on him and they had split up and Grady and Cara were trying to convince Jeremy that he was still hurting emotionally, while Jeremy was adamant that he was really alright and he had the laundry list of one night stands to prove it.  That’s just a small snippet of the crap we were subjected to for at least 4 hours.  I guess we’re just too polite, I’m sure someone with less couth would have just gone down there and set them straight.  However I wasn’t interjecting myself into some drunken love triangle while I’m in the middle of nowhere.

Upon arrival I thought the campground hosts were pretty awesome, but I guess they were a little too much like the “cool parents” in high school and just let the whole quiet hours after 10pm thing slide.  Never again am I camping at a campground off the Mirror Lake Highway, or Utah’s Redneck Riviera as my buddy Eric put it.  Hopefully we’d have better luck tomorrow after our hike in to more High Uintas lakes.

 

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.

The F3T is back at Orvis Baton Rouge again this year.  It will be shown this Friday, March 10th, doors open at 6:30 pm and the show time is at 7:00 pm.  There may be a few tickets left so stop by Orvis to pick one up for $15 – be sure to bring cash.  Proceeds from the show will again go to benefit the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, who will be providing the beer – be sure to thank them.

You can view the trailers for each film here – Watch Trailers

Look forward to seeing everyone at Orvis on Friday!

beergear

Tomorrow is the annual Beer & Gear event over at Pack & Paddle.  This is always a great event to see the latest in outdoor recreation gear.  The craft beer from across the US is a plus too.  It brings two of my favorite things together so I’m hoping I can slip away and head across the Atchafalaya Spillway.  It’s from 5-8pm so if you’re anywhere near Lafayette tomorrow evening, be sure to head over because you don’t want to miss it.  I hear the big raffle this year is Steve Lessard’s kayak from the 2016 Hobie Fishing Worlds event!

With Beer & Gear tomorrow, that also means it is the start of demo season.  On Saturday Pack & Paddle will be doing a kayak demo from 10am – 2pm over at Vermilionville.  Acadiana residents – head over there if you’re interested in trying out the latest kayaks.  Also on Saturday, if you’re around New Orleans, Massey’s will be holding their first demo day of the year at Bayou St. John, which will be from 10am – 3pm.  The location is across from Cabrini High School, 1405 Moss St.

It’s that time of year, there’s no excuse if you’re in the market for a new kayak or have been wanting to try out the new models not to head out to a demo.  They are free and are the best way to try out as many different makes and models as possible to see what will fit you best.  Whenever someone asks for some good advice in picking a new kayak, the best thing anyone can tell them is “demo, demo, demo”.  I’ve found it really important to try as many different boats as you can before making a purchase because sometimes which one is your favorite will surprise you.