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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.

 

Slipping out of the hammock and taking in the view on the morning of day 4 was nothing short of spectacular.

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After packing up the campsite and making the short drive through town to our destination, it was time to grab the rods and finish out our slam with a Yellowstone cutthroat.

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It was pretty cool to have fished five different streams over the course of three days and what really stood out was that each had it’s own character.  No two places we fished felt the same, which is a lot different than I can say for those small wild trout streams back in Georgia.  The stream we were about to fish was no different – it had an entirely different look and feel.  We had made our way through the Wyoming Range and were now in foothills of the Winds – and boy did we feel it.  We parked in a pasture on top of a plateau and were greeted with a nice gust of chilly air.

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We like to work our way upstream while fishing so we walked a bit downstream and began working an area where the river braided.  I hooked up with my first fish on the back side of an island in some slower water along a cut bank.

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It was a Yellowstone cutthroat and with that my Cutt Slam was complete!  Now it was up to Blake to fool one.

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Of course he had all day to do it, so I’m not ashamed to say that didn’t stop me from fishing and catching another one.

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The river was gorgeous and at times had more of a desert feel than the previous streams we fished.

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Eventually Blake was able to connect with a fish that was sitting right behind a big rock.  As was the trend, it was a nicer cutty than the previous two I had caught.

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The weather was beginning to look pretty rough so we headed to the car for a beer and lunch.  As bad as it looked, it never really rained on us and we were back on the water shortly, though not before hearing the tale of “Big Lou” from another angler that was at the parking area.  “Big Lou” was a cutthroat that this guy had caught when he first ever fished there with a guide.  Apparently “Big Lou” had quite the reputation and lived under the big rock.  We didn’t catch the name of Blake’s fish, so who knows, maybe it was “Big Lou” or maybe his kin?  We kept fishing though and I caught another small one and missed a really nice fish – twice.  He hit the dropper, then the hopper, on separate drifts, and I blew it each time.

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Just to add insult to injury, while working the next run up, Blake hooked into a stud.  Once we had the fish in the net we could tell it was the biggest of the trip.  A beautiful, golden Yellowstone cutt.  A few quick pics and then he was sent on his way.

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I ended up catching one more little guy before we called it a day.

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It felt pretty awesome to accomplish our goal.  I think what I was more happy about though, and it really didn’t matter to me who caught the fish, was that we were able to catch what I considered to be above average versions of each species.  It really validated all the planning that went into this trip.  After a nice walk back to the car we headed back into town and ran into Marlow’s fly shop just to check it out and buy more flies we didn’t need.

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With the slam complete, the next day was wide open for us.  I had an idea of where I wanted to fish before I even started planning the trip, it was a place that I read about in a report on NGTO a few years back.  The guy called it “Shangri-La” and it looked spectacular.  I asked him about it back then and logged it in the back of my head in case I ever had the opportunity.  It just so happened we had the opportunity this trip.  It would mean a drive through the Absarokas and the Tetons, toward Jackson, which made sense for us as it put us closer to Salt Lake City and our flight home.  It also would put us in prime Snake River cutt territory where I could hopefully upgrade from the dink I had previously caught this trip.  It was a no brainer, so we hit the road – again.

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With the Tetons shrouded in rain clouds we didn’t stop much for pictures.  We kept on to our destination and made sure we could find the trailhead prior to setting up camp.  The campground was starting to fill up, but we were able to find a few suitable trees and set up shop.

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With camp set up Blake went to work on the nearby river and happily reported eight fish brought to hand, including a few whitefish, which we had yet to see this trip.  This was our last night we would camp and according to the host, it was sure to be the coldest.  With that in mind I set out to collect what meager kindling I could find.  The host wished me luck and mentioned that she had collected everything in the area.  She wasn’t lying either as this campground looked like a manicured garden – no deadwood in sight.  Still I found enough to get a fire started (Blake had done a great job of this every other night) and purchased a bundle of firewood from her so that we could sustain it.  The next day would be our last hurrah in Wyoming and I’ve got to be honest, I was looking forward to a shower and a bed that next night.

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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.

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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