This year for our epic fly fishing trip, we chose the Utah Cutthroat Slam. This years trip included Andy, Barb and of course me.
Utah consists of 4 native trout. The 4 native trout of Utah are the: Yellowstone Cutthroat, Bonneville Cutthroat, Bear River Cutthroat and the Colorado River Cutthroat trout.
Of the four trout, the Yellowstone would be the most difficult. The Yellowstone Cutthroat trout live in the upper northwest corner of Utah. They live in streams that are so small and remote it could take several hours of driving and lots of bushwhacking to catch one. Being the most difficult to catch I felt we should hit the Yellowstone first.
I was right about the difficulty in catching the Yellowstone. We spent several hours driving from creek to creek trying to catch this elusive fish.
Just when we were about to give up, Andy caught a small but beautiful Yellowstone cutthroat in a roadside creek no wider than a loaf of bread. Barb and I fished hard for the next few hours without even seeing a fish. We were very discouraged and questioned whether or not we would be able to complete the challenge.
We packed it up and headed back to the hotel, hoping to do better the next day for Bear River Cutthroat Trout.
Andy with the only Yellowstone Cutthroat caught on the first day.
The next morning we were up early for the Bear River Cutthroat Trout. According to all of the information I accumulated over the course of the year, It looked liked Woodruff Reservoir was going to be our best bet for catching the next trout in our challenge. We arrived at the lake first thing in the morning and we were into fish right away.
My first fish for the Utah Cutthroat Slam.
I was the first to score. It felt so good to be in the float tube catching fish. After the frustrating day of bushwhacking and not catching anything it made me realize how much I enjoy float tubing and that I don't enjoy small creek fishing all that much.
Andy's first Bear River Cutthroat Trout and his second qualifying fish for the slam.
It wouldn't be long before Andy would also be into some nice fish . He found a long point that the cutthroat were stacked up on. Barb and I paddled over from the dam to share in his recent discovery.
Barb with one of the many cutthroat trout she would catch that day.
Day three found us at Currant Creek Reservoir. I had read there was a strong population of native Colorado Cutthroat trout living in the lake. I also read that they had large tiger trout. Tiger trout are Barbs favorite trout, they are not native to Utah and would not count towards the challenge, but I was excited to see if she could catch one.
Currant Creek Reservoir: Home of the Colorado Cutthroat Trout.
When we arrived at the lake fish were rising and so was our excitement. Andy was in the water and hooked up with a fish before Barb and I even put our waders on. We took a break from getting into the water to watch Andy catch his first fish of the day. The fight seemed to take longer than normal and the suspense of what he was hooked up with was killing Barb and I. Finally Andy netted the fish and it was a Rainbow Trout. Not the fish we came for. Barb and I put our float tubes in and we also started catching rainbows. After a few hours of just catching rainbow trout we were debating on going to the back up water I had. Just when I thought it was time to go, Barb hooked into a fish that fought different from all of the rainbow trout we had been catching all morning. Could it be a Colorado Cutthroat Trout?
Yup!! Barb with a Colorado Cutthroat Trout.
Now that Barb had caught a cutthroat. I was feeling much more confident that I was going to catch one . I floated over the same point she had just caught hers and to my relief another cutthroat trout was there waiting for me. As soon as I hooked the fish I knew it was a cutthroat. It went straight down, as opposed to the rainbows that would shoot straight to the surface and start jumping. Now that Barb and I had our cutthroat we were just waiting for Andy.
Colorado Cutthroat Trout for Frank.
Andy was now really feeling the pressure. Barb and I both had our bounty for the day and Andy was catching nothing but rainbow after rainbow trout. As we were discussing moving to a different lake Andy hooked up with a decent fish that pulled instead of shooting towards the surface and jumping. To Andy's dismay it turned out to be a nice Tiger Trout. Not the fish we were looking for but a rewarding catch none the less. After a few more minutes we decided to head out to the back up lake.
A nice Tiger Trout for Andy.
Lake Canyon Lake: Home to the Colorado Cutthroat Trout.
With all of us really starting to feel tired, the pressure was on Andy. Fortunately when we pulled up to the lake, fish were rising like crazy. Andy was feeling very confident. We could see a thunder storm coming in and he would have to catch his fish quick if we were going to beat the storm. Barb and I both decided to opt out on fishing, seeing as we already had our Colorado Cutthroat trout. Andy quickly put in and caught a cutthroat right away. I took a picture and Andy was only one fish away from finishing the slam. We got out of there just in time. The storm was coming down in full force and we were glad to be in the car. We realized it was still early and if the storm was not near Salt Lake City we could fish the afternoon bite for the next trout in our challenge.
Number three for Andy's Cutthroat Slam.
Just thirteen miles outside of Salt Lake City is Little Dell Reservoir. The reservoir is located in the west Wasatch mountains. It has a self sustaining population of native Bonneville Cutthroat Trout.
Little Dell Reservoir.
Little Dell Reservoir would be the third lake we stopped at for the day. Andy only needed this last Cutthroat and he would be finished with the slam. Barb and I needed this fish and the dreadful Yellowstone. When we arrived at the reservoir it had an almost urban feel to it. It was deep and clear and by now it was 2:00 in the afternoon. I could tell Andy and Barb were not confident. I had read so much about this reservoir, I felt fine and very confident. Being that the water was so deep I chose to fish a type 6 sinking line. As soon as we got about 100 yards from the boat launch I had caught my first Bonneville Cutthroat Trout.
Bonneville Cutthroat Trout.
With that first fish caught, I knew it would be just a few minutes before Andy and Barb would also catch theirs. A short moment later I heard Andy yell that he had a fish on. As I turned to look I felt another tug. We had a double.
A nice double for Andy and I.
Andy was now done with the Utah Cutthroat Slam and in only three days. We just had one more for Barb to catch and all that was left would be for her and I to go back for the Yellowstone. At this point I was so tired from all the driving and fishing and lack of sleep I could hardly hold my head up. A short while later Barb caught a couple. Now that the Bonneville Cutthroat was done. It was time to go eat and rest for the next days journey.
Bonneville Cutthroat Trout for Barb.
Now that Andy was done with his cutthroat slam it was up to Barb and I to finish ours. We were really dreading to go back up to the sawtooth mountain range. It was some of the most difficult small creek fishing we had ever done and all we really wanted to do was fish more of Utah's great fishing lakes. The night before our journey back for the Yellowstone, Andy spent a late night studying the map. He found a small creek that was upstream of the creek that he caught his fish from. It appeared to be a bit larger and hopefully would have more fish. Andy had already caught his Yellowstone on the first day so he decided not to fish and just relax in the car while we fished.
A very overgrown Sawmill Creek.
As we worked our way upstream, I couldn't help but feel more confident about the days fishing. There were better looking pools to fish than anywhere else we had seen. As we walked upstream the two creeks came together creating a very nice pool. Barb had a hit but did not land the fish. That is right then when I knew we would catch fish. We worked our way upstream missing small fish here and there. I found a small pool the size of a paint bucket. It had a fish in it and i was determined to catch him.
Working for a small cutthroat trout.
After several dabs and no luck with this fish, I heard Barb yell that she had caught one. She was running towards me with phone in hand. I think this was the most excited she had ever been for a small trout. Barb showed me the picture on her phone. She was now done with her Utah Cutthroat Slam. I knew if I didn't catch one, I would never hear the end of it from these two.
Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout. Barbs last fish for the slam.
Now that Barb was done, she decided to stop fishing and just help me spot fish. A few minutes later we came across a small pool. I crouched down as to not spook any fish. I made a cast but nothing happened. As I was about to pull my fly out Barb noticed a trout looking at it that I could not see from my crouched position. I paused. The fish ate. I swung him to shore. Took picture and slam was done!!
Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout. Last fish for the slam.
Now that the slam was done. It was time to play. We decided to head south and fish Manning Meadows Reservoir, Barney Lake and Duck Fork Reservoir. These were listed as blue water fisheries on the Utah DFG website. That would mean they would be considered the best fisheries in the state. I know Andy would agree, he caught almost fifty cutthroat by himself.
A relaxing day at Manning Meadows.
One of almost fifty cutthroat for Andy that day.
Manning Meadow cutthroat.
Barb with a nice Tiger Trout from Barney Lake.
Frank with a nice Tiger Trout from Barney Lake.
Next year we might fish Montana or Arizona or Washington, or even stay in California. I have even learned of a cutthroat slam in Colorado that involves catching native cutthroat trout at 12000 feet elevation. Regardless, I’m sure we will have fun planning for it all year.