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I have this idea that I would like to catch a fish in all 50 states. If it’s a native fish to that state, even better, but that isn’t necessarily a requirement. I want to fish in every state. That is the impetus for a lot of the trips I plan. If it’s a new state, or a new fish species to me, I’m more likely to plan that trip ahead of going back to places I’ve been. I have a constant desire to explore the country and see new water.

I’ll admit Oklahoma wasn’t my first choice for a trip this year. It wasn’t my second either. But these are unprecedented times and you got to play the hand your dealt. A trip to Arizona in May got cancelled. Then, a trip to New Mexico around Labor Day also was cancelled. The back-up, back-up trip I considered was the Lower Mountain Fork in Oklahoma. At the time it looked like a cold front was going to sweep down and it would actually be a pretty nice weekend to camp and fish Oklahoma in early September. That cold front never materialized, just par for the course in 2020.

We packed up the truck on a Thursday night and made the 6.5 hour trek up to Hochatown from Baton Rouge on a Friday morning. First stop was the Beaver’s Bend Fly Shop in the state park to find out where we needed to fish and what worked there. We are not tailwater fishermen, but we were assured this wasn’t your normal tailwater. Coach Eddie Brister runs the shop and was a great guy to talk to. He was eager to help us and it was really one of the nicer fly shop experiences we’ve had on a trip. Armed with newfound knowledge we set out to catch some trout on the Lower Mountain Fork River.

It didn’t take Blake long to hook a couple of rainbows right below the campground. What did I catch you say?

Native fish of course. That’s how much of a native fish magnet I am. Fishing the same water and the same flies as Blake. Even when I’m making every effort to catch their coldwater, stocked cockroach-esque neighbors, I end up catching bass and chubs.

It didn’t take long to wear out the water behind the campground so we hit another spot that had better potential to hold wild trout as the river does have natural reproduction of both rainbow and brown trout, so we were told.

We got into the little wild rainbows, I think we both caught several of them, so we had proof that there were streamborn trout here. I later had a good opportunity at a really nice rainbow that I hooked and fought in some fast water. I felt like I had him beat, but netting him was proving to be an issue as there was no slow water around me. I’d get to the point of bringing him into my net, then he’d take off and head back into the current. Maybe I didn’t quite have him beat. On about the third or fourth time of doing this he was finally able to throw the hook. It was a little heartbreaking, but the trip was still young, so I wasn’t too beat up about it.

I got a little redemption in the form of a nice little brown trout that was hanging out in a riffle while I was making my way back to the car (Spoiler alert, that little brown would be the best fish I’d bring to hand all weekend). After that fish we headed back to the campground to dine on jamabalaya and white beans to finish out a successful day. I could check a new state off the list.

On Saturday morning we got back out to what they call Spillway Creek, the part of the river that holds more wild fish, and we nymphed the runs hard.

Blake caught a few rainbows, I didn’t catch squat. So we hit the road and went to a local brewpub at lunch.

Mountain Fork Brewery had decent beer, a nice variety of old world styles, but they didn’t have much to offer us hopheads. No fruited sours, no pastry stouts, one hazy IPA – I don’t know if national craft beer trends seem to have skipped Oklahoma or if this brewer just turns his nose up at us hipsters and our fads. The burgers we had were outstanding though and it was nice to talk shit to a Sooners fan at a bar while in town.

Fishing in the afternoon was pretty uneventful. It was Saturday and it was pretty hot out so Beaver’s Bend State Park was full of people. The evening hole, which we’d heard so much about was always occupied. Zone 2 was unfishable as they were constantly generating power. Flow from the generation pushes backwater up all the way up until our campground (Grapevine) so any spots I scouted on Google Earth that looked good downstream from us were covered with water. Really the only place to get away from folks was on Spillway Creek. It was our first time up there and it showed. We had so much learn in so little time. Steaks and whiskey next to the campfire made it all better though.

Sunday we ventured out again, this time we hit the river from a different parking area. It was a good call as Blake was able to stick a nice fish pretty early that came up and sipped a Chubby.

It was a really colored up old male rainbow that made the trip worth it. It’s funny how one fish can do that.

We fished on up, working the seams, Blake was having better luck than I was. I wasn’t having problems catching the chubs or the little wild rainbows, but anything bigger was eluding me.

I got one more shot at a good fish that I hooked in a good looking run, but the fight didn’t last long and after a few headshakes it was over. Oh well, on to the next brewpub.

The beer at Beaver’s Bend Brewery was good (they had more than one IPA at least), but kind of reminded me of a lot of the beer you get from homebrew kits. The “gourmet” hot dog though was really damn good and was appreciated coming off the water.

We hit the evening hole Sunday evening and really had nothing to show for it. We got to chatting with a guy who had been euro-nymphing and caught a few fish. I was genuinely intrigued with his set up, but he ended up being pretty knowledgeable about the fishery and a good dude to talk to. As we’d come to find out we were that at quite possibly the worst time of year. It was late summer, the water was hot, the trout were deep. They were not as spread out as they are in the winter. Not only that, but the water was stained, the lake was possibly turning over, and the level was higher than it gets in the winter when they bring it down to it’s lowest point.

I don’t know if this newfound knowledge made me feel better or worse about the tough fishing we experienced. It does make me want to go back in the winter though because we really had a great time camping, the state park was very nice, and I’d much rather fish (and judge) a river at it’s peak than at it’s low point in a year. It’s going to be tough to make the trek back though because he made some really good arguments for some of spring creeks in Missouri…..

Along with the blueline fishing I did in Georgia back in June there was creek fishing done of another sort back at the cabin.

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On two different days I managed to fit in a few hours on the creek.  The first day I fished with a trusty hopper dropper combo that had a big chubby chernobyl and some buggy looking nymph off the back.  I had some success, thought it was a pretty good day, caught some nice fish.  One of my fish, a big brown, came on the chernobyl, which was a cool bonus because I kind of tie it on as a hopeful indicator.

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The second day I fished I threw a big streamer.  That’s when I realized that whatever action I had on the first day was measly in comparison.  I was moving fish left and right with this big streamer.  Talk about some fun fishing!  Watching fish chase a minnow imitation down is an adrenaline rush and I highly recommend it.

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I only have so much creek to cover at the cabin so I think working it once with the hopper dropper, letting it rest, then hitting it with the streamer was unintentionally a good move.  It’s going to be hard to have that patience whenever I make it back though, some of those streamer eats were like watching redfish chase down flies in the marsh, just vicious.  So much fun.

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 our 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 legendary Madison River in Montana is called the 50 mile riffle and I had read that the Logan was like a mini-Madison, from what I was seeing this was holding 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 fish-catching 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 that productive stretch of water, more of a return to normal really.  It was starting to get dark out 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.