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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 in elevation.  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 conversation 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.  For your entertainment 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 he 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.

 

Day 3 we woke up, packed up, drove by a better looking stretch of river that we didn’t fish last afternoon(the perils of having never been somewhere) and turned to head over another pass en route to our next destination and hopefully some Colorado River cutts.

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It was another scenic drive and we even got to see the tail end of a moose as he hightailed it through the woods, no doubt spooked by the rally-inspired driver of a rental Kia Sorento.

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This time instead of hitting the creek high up in the watershed, we went a ways down the road until we found a fishy looking pullover lower down on national forest land.  It was hard to see much of the creek from the road as it was being shrouded by vegetation, but what we did see we liked.  Deep undercut banks and lots of bends – this stream looked to cater to our style of fishing quite nicely.

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I swear, that feeling you get when you pull up on a place you’ve never fished and it just looks flat out gorgeous will never get old.  We suited up and hit the water and in short time Blake’s line was tight.  He caught a little one early to take that pressure off then followed it up with a brookie.

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I followed suit and caught a cutthroat of my own.

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One Colorado River cutthroat down and the pressure was off for me as well.  Blake caught another small fish, only this one looked a little different, more like the Snake River variety – maybe a cut-bow?

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The streak of small fish ended when I tied into a good cutthroat.  It was the fish of the trip for me up to that point and was a real treat on the glass 3wt.

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I’m not sure if I had even released my fish before I hear Blake saying he’s got one on in the next run.  I look up and see his 4wt glass rod doubled over and he is locked into a good battle trying to keep that fish from tucking back up under the cut bank.

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No time to celebrate my catch as I was quickly called  into action to net Blake’s beast.

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It was a beautiful fish, dark green on top and bright orange on the bottom.  You could tell this fish ruled the roost.  After back to back solid cutthroat we thought it may be about to turn on, surprisingly those were the last two cutthroat we caught out of this river.  The fishing did get hot, but not for cutthroat.  These guys took over.

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I went up to the car to get a snack and it was like someone flipped a switch.  Brookies in every hole.

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After a while we decided we had enough.  It was fun, don’t get me wrong, but that wasn’t the target species and we were starting to get hungry for lunch anyway.  Had those have been cutthroat, we may have stayed and fished all day – that’s how much we enjoyed that stream.  Nevertheless we headed into town, passing numerous large ranches on the way and a few pronghorn as well.

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It was nice to get into town, get a new ice chest, hit the local fly shop, top off the fuel on our ride and get a proper meal in our bellies.  The local brewery was the only logical place for someone like me to eat.  I was surprised to hear 12 beers to a flight was an option.

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Where else can you get a 12 beer flight for only $12?  You can’t beat that deal anywhere – Wind River Brewery in Pinedale made a fan out of me.  None of the beers disappointed and the burger was solid.  Sufficiently full we pressed on.  The plan was to camp and fish the Green that afternoon, but the clientele and windy weather at the campground we wanted to stay at convinced us to move on.  We decided we had enough time for the scenic route to Dubois and hit the road.

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Near the top of the pass we crossed over a creek in a meadow that was unlike any other we’d seen.  It was slow, with sandbars and a dark tannin stain on the water.  You could see that a considerable amount of cattle used it’s waters.  We considered moving on, but after watching the water from the bridge and seeing a fairly large trout on the prowl, we decided to stop and give it a go.  We wouldn’t have much time if we wanted to set up camp before dark.

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At a big pool, Blake and I split up, I took the left bank and he took the right.  Working our way from the back of the pool to the head.  It didn’t take long to figure out that I chose poorly.  Blake had a solid fish come up and sip his dry.  Kudos to Blake for not getting over anxious and pulling the fly from his mouth.  He played it cool and was rewarded.

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It was a beautiful cutthroat, dark, like the water.  My efforts to match Blake’s fish were futile.  The stream quickly changed character, added some boulders, became pocket water and we were running short on time.  All I could muster was a pair of brookies.

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It was a great stop, wish we could have stayed longer, but we had to get going.  It didn’t take long to make it to the National Forest boundary and find our way back to asphalt.

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We headed up the highway to the nearest campground and was surprised to finally see some other campers.  I guess that’s what happens when you camp off a major highway – on the weekend.  Still we were able to find a suitable campsite and manage to get set up before dark.  As was the case yesterday, another local was there to greet us upon arrival.

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We had 3 out of 4 cutthroat species needed to land the slam.  Tomorrow we would wake up and make our way down the road to fish for the Yellowstone cutthroat and hopefully complete our quest for the cutt slam.