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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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After catching several grayling we decided to make a move to another nearby lake that I read had a population of cutthroat in it.

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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.

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They just weren’t cutthroat, they were brookies.  It was still a pretty place to fish though.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The salmonids are in family Salmonidae, which has 10-11 genera that is divided into 3 subfamilies; Coregoninae(whitefish), Thymallinae(grayling), and Salmoninae(char/trout/salmon). Living in the Southeast you have access to a very limited amount of salmonids and I’ve caught the 3 that occur in Georgia.  The brook trout is the only native trout species in Georgia and it is actually a char.  Update, June 2018: I made my first trip out West in September of 2012 to Colorado and caught several greenback cutthroat trout in Rocky Mountain National Park – or what were considered greenback trout at the time.  Made another trip out West in August of 2013 to Teton and Yellowstone National Parks where I picked up a couple more cutthroat species.  In August of 2015 I was able to complete the Wyoming Cutt Slam, picking up Wyoming’s four native cutthroat species (they do have a fifth, the Westslope, that is not required for the slam – I’ve yet to catch a Westslope).  Finally in July of 2017 I completed the Utah cutthroat slam, which didn’t necessarily add any new species to the list, but I was able to add Bonneville cutthroat outside of the Bear River drainage. Update, June 2021: Made it out to Arizona and New Mexico to catch Apache and Gila trout in their native range. 

Dr. Robert Behnke is the man when it comes to salmonid knowledge. Pick up his book if you want to learn more about this particular family, “Trout and Salmon of North America”. Another great resource is Gary Marston’s Native Trout Fly Fishing blog, he has a Trout and Salmon species page with pictures and information of all those that he has caught (which may be all that are found in the U.S.). Gary’s trip reports are a good read as well, he has had some epic road trips to catch trout in their native range.

Salvelinus fontinalis – Brook trout

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Brook trout are the first native trout species I ever encountered as they do live in Georgia.

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Salmo trutta – Brown trout

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Brown trout are not native to North America.

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Oncorhynchus mykiss – Rainbow trout

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The first trout species I ever caught, I’ve still yet to catch them in their native range.

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Oncorhynchus apache –  Apache trout

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Oncorhynchus gilae –  Gila trout

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Cutthroat Trout

Western native trout range map source: Coyote Gulch blog

Oncorhynchus clarki stomias – Greenback cutthroat trout

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At the time this fish was considered a greenback, but it’s more likely that it isn’t after genetic research determined that the true greenback was limited to only one stream, outside of it’s native range, in Colorado.  Work has been done to re-establish populations throughout it’s native range and hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to fish for a true greenback cutt.  Their historic range is pretty much in the state of Colorado on the Front Range, with some watersheds slipping into Wyoming. They are found in the headwaters streams of the South Platte and Arkansas River drainages.

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Oncorhynchus clarki pleuriticus – Colorado River cutthroat trout

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Their historic range is headwaters streams in the Green and Colorado Rivers, as far south as the San Juan River, west of the Continental Divide.  They are currently limited to a few small headwater streams of the Green and upper Colorado rivers in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, including the Escalante River drainage in southern Utah.

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Oncorhynchus clarkii utah – Bonneville cutthroat trout

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Their historic range is pretty much in the state of Utah, with some watersheds slipping into Wyoming, Idaho, and Nevada.

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Oncorhynchus clarkii utah – Bonneville cutthroat trout – Bear River strain

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They are found in the headwaters streams of the Bear River.  No range map was given from NatureServe or the USGS for the Bear River cutthroat trout, but they are native to the Bear River and it’s tributaries, including Bear Lake.

Oncorhynchus clarkii bouvieri – Yellowstone cutthroat trout

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Their historic range is the Yellowstone River drainage in Montana and Wyoming and the Snake River drainage in Wyoming and Idaho.  Their current range overlaps with that of the Finespot in the Snake River drainage above Shoshone Falls.

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Oncorhynchus clarkii behnkei – Finespotted Snake River cutthroat trout

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Their historic range overlaps the Yellowstone cutt in the states of Wyoming and Idaho. They are found in the headwaters streams of the Snake River, particularly the South Fork.

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Other Native Salmonids

Prosopium williamsoni – Mountain whitefish

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Thymallus arcticus – Arctic grayling

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