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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 more Bonneville 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 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.

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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 without even batting 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 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.

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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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On April 1st the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and Utah Trout Unlimited unveiled their state’s version of the Cutt Slam program made popular by the Wyoming Game & Fish Dept. for the state of Wyoming, with the launch of www.utahcutthroatslam.org.

Here’s a brief description of the program from the site and a video:

“The Utah Cutthroat Slam is a way to have an angling adventure and support our native trout legacy. For jut $20, you can register to embark on the challenge. Money raised will be used to help fund native cutthroat trout conservation projects across the state. Can you catch and release each of the four Utah cutthroat trout subspecies in their native waters?”

 

Cutthroat trout are beautiful, live in pristine environments and are the only trout native to Utah and much of the Rocky Mountain region. Help Trout Unlimited and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources protect this natural treasure.”

 

 

It is very similar to Wyoming’s cutt slam in that you just need to catch the four native cutthroat species of the state in their native waters, document it, and submit that documentation to them.  Utah goes a step further and requires you to register first and asks for $20, which is totally worth it, as $19 of that $20 go toward conservation projects.  It’s really a win-win for everyone.

To get your cutt slam started in the right direction, a map of the watershed areas where you can find each cutthroat species has been provided (embedded below) along with the attached note:

“This map shows general watershed areas where native cutthroat trout occur across Utah. Each shaded area represents the range one of the cutthroat subspecies, which you can determine by color. Use this map as a general guideline to find where cutthroat might be found. This is fishing; there are no guarantees. More research regarding access and specific fishery regulations should be done.”

 

I really enjoyed participating in the Wyoming cutt slam last year.  It was fun doing the research and even more fun putting that research to work and catching each cutthroat species in the span of five days.  I’ll definitely be throwing the Utah cutthroat slam on the short term bucket list, what great motivation to get back out West and toss dry flies to hungry trout.

 

After a cold night in the hammock, we got up early that morning, packed our stuff and headed on to our next stop.  I’m not sure what the actual temp was that night, but it felt like upper 30’s/low 40’s and I was under-dressed for it – it was the coldest night of the trip for me.  Lesson learned and the rest of the nights I was fairly comfortable in the hammock.  Using a fleece blanket as an insulating layer under the back was a life saver – the 35 degree mummy bag just wasn’t enough.

Our next stop was on a bit bigger water that we hoped would also hold bigger Bonneville cutthroat trout.

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It did not take long for me to upgrade my best Bonnie as one slurped a dry right next to the bank.

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Unfortunately that was the biggest on the day for me and one of few – not that I didn’t have opportunities, just that most of my fish either came unbuttoned or I pulled the fly right out of there mouth.  A much slower hookset was needed on these fish and I guess I was just too excited when I saw the slow eat.

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Blake fared much better and even had a local cheering section on top the hill.

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He took big fish honors on the day and it was great to both upgrade our Bonneville cutthroat.  Size doesn’t matter for the slam, but I had hoped we would each catch an above average version of each species.

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Satisfied, we called it quits after lunch and decided to make our way to our next stop where we hoped to catch our second cutthroat species, which is a mouthful to say, the Snake River Finespotted Cutthroat Trout.

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The first road we traveled to get to the Snake River Cutts was dicey at best and had us questioning our better judgement in at least one spot, but we made it through and onto a road that was better maintained and more frequented as it took us through the Tri-Basin Divide.

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Arriving safely at our destination definitely called for a cold beer and unfortunately when going to restock the ice chest I was a little overzealous, used a bit too much force with a few too many beers and we had our first tragedy of the trip.

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If we could make it through the night we would be able to get another ice chest the next afternoon.  You live and learn I guess.

We hit the river a bit high up in the watershed with the idea of knocking out the requirement, and the pressure of just catching one, with perhaps a smaller, more eager fish.  It worked for me, but not so much for Blake.

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A celebratory beer before they got too hot and we kept on further down the road.

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We stopped at a run that looked too good to pass up and Blake was able to quickly hook up on a decent fish.  Of course his first Snake River cutthroat would best mine, this theme continued throughout the trip – he had a knack for holding his mouth right.

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We continued to fish our way to where we planned to camp that night and in doing so picked up a few more small cutts.

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We called it a day before it got too dark on us and headed to the campground.  Once at the campsite we were greeted by one of the locals who graciously allowed us to set up in an adjacent site.  Day two was another success as we were on track to get the slam by catching two different species in two days.  We did hope to be able to upgrade our Snake River Cutthroat before the trip was over though.  In the morning we planned to head over the pass and fish a Green River trib. for Colorado River Cutts.  If we stayed on track we would have an opportunity to catch more Snake River Cutts on the last day of the trip, hopefully bigger ones too.

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I got a little taste of cutthroat trout fishing in Wyoming on my first trip to the state two years ago.  It was just fishing from the side of the road en route to Jackson, but it was enough to get me motivated to get back out there and try my hand at the state’s Cutt Slam program.

cuttslam_home_picWhat better way to experience the state of Wyoming than to try and catch it’s four native cutthroat species?  It didn’t take a whole lot of convincing to get Blake to come along – I think both of us have been looking for another trip out West since our trip to Rocky Mountain National Park back in 2012.

After a good six months worth of planning it was time to pack our stuff……

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and fly to Salt Lake City.  I had no idea Outdoor Retailer was this week, but several folks asked if that’s where we were headed.  No thanks, I’d rather go fishing.

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After a quick stop at Western Rivers Flyfisher it was on to Evanston.  Once there we made two more important stops – food/camp supplies and beer.

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Then we drove north.  On to the Wyoming Range, where we would hopefully have enough time to land our first cutthroat of the trip – the Bonneville cutthroat trout.

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In the interest of time we stopped off the side of the road, close to the same spot I fished back in 2012 and close to where we would be camping for the night.  We decided to fish some of the beaver complexes that looked pretty fishy from the road.

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We rigged our rods and got suited up lightning fast, the anticipation of catching the first fish of the trip was killing us.  The overcast skies started to drizzle rain, it didn’t take long to notice that fish rising in the ponds.  Blake was first on the board and fooled a decent Bonneville with a dry.

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It took me a little bit of time to knock the rust off, but I got on board as well.

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After that the fishing was on fire.  These Bonneville cutts were crushing a hopper pattern Blake had tied.

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The action was so consistent that it was tough to call it a day and walk back to the car, but we knew we still had to set up camp, which was not something we wanted to do in the dark – especially on night 1.

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It was a solid start to the trip though and felt really good to get the first cutthroat species under our belts. We’d actually be fishing for Bonnevilles again in the morning, but we were hoping the next stop would yield a few bigger fish.  For now it was time for cold beer and campfire and hopefully getting some sleep in a hammock system I’ve yet to sleep in.

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