Sequoia National Forest
Located in south-central California, Sequioa National forest encompasses slightly less than two-thousand square miles. It is named, as is obvious, after the Giant Sequoia tree that calls California home. Interestingly enough, this forest ranges in elevation from 1,000 ft to 12,000 ft. Sequoia NF contains 6 wilderness area and 850 miles of trail. Because of its closeness to many cities and towns Sequoia NF receives many big-tree seekers. Most notably perhaps, the forest contains the Giant Sequoia National Monument. This monument encompasses 33 groves of the massive trees. Similar to other National Forests, Sequoia NF holds many public camp sites for easy access. Hiking and camping are the most popular activities in the forest, but off-roading, fishing, and hunting opportunities also abound. Even if camping isn’t an option, scenic byways litter the forest, giving many beautiful views of different areas in the forest. So, if you don’t want to deal with the crowds associated with a national park, go get the same views and experiences at Sequoia National forest.
- Jacob Lacy
Paiute cutthroat trout
Paiute cutthroat trout inhabit a very limited area of water. Their historical habitat is only 9 miles long on the Silver King Creek. Silver King Creek is a tributary off of the Carson River on the east end of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. They happen to have one of the smallest historic ranges in all North America.
Lahontan cutthroat trout are a distant relative of Paiute cutthroat that have gone their separate ways due to isolation. Sheepherders relocated the trout above the waterfalls they were residing beneath. With time, nonnative species were introduced that could have destroyed the Paiute cutthroat populations. The species was very lucky to have been moved at such an opportune time and survive.
Present day, Paiute’s are only fishable in one creek (that shall not be named). Due to the creek’s inability to locate and lack of pressure on the fish, the Paiute cutthroat trout are very easy fish to catch. They have no natural predators and therefore are a very naive species.
Paiute cutthroat trout can be distinguished from other cutthroat species by the lack of spots on their body. They have a very slender body and beautiful body coloring. They glow as their bodies fade from brown, to red, to gold.
Golden trout are renowned for their beautiful coloration. They may not be the biggest species of trout, but they definitely make up for that with their eccentric colors.
Initially, the Kern River basin drained California’s southern extent of the Sierra Nevada. Historically, this water system was occupied by rainbow trout. With time, sections of this river were barricaded from each other. The river dried up creating natural barriers, separating the inhabitants into three subspecies. Little Kern golden trout are located in the Little Kern River, the South Fork Kern River and Golden Trout Creek basins hold California golden trout, and the Kern River rainbow trout can be found throughout the Kern River.
A major threat to these populations is hybridizing with invasive species. Rainbow and Brown trout were introduced throughout the 1800s and early 1900s. Piscicide treatments and artificial barriers were created in order to eradicate these issues.
Present day, these species can be found in US Forest Service wilderness areas or Sequoia National Park and Monument. In regards to climate change, the main issues include drought, firs, warmer temperatures and later summer stream flow.
Lahontan cutthroat trout
Lahontan cutthroat trout are one of the oldest lineages of cutthroat trout. Their long history has given theLahontan’s ample time to adapt to changing landscape and survive. They have inhabited the Lahontan basin at least several 100,000 years ago. There are two subspecies of Lahontan cutthroats. The western species lived in Lake Lahontan until it subsided and they dispersed to other lakes and rivers.
They continued to grow and reached very large sizes as preditorial species. Their characteristics lead them to the nickname of Salmon trout. Pyramid Lake is historically well known as a Lahontan fishing destination. In fact, the world record was caught in Pyramid Lake weighing in at 41 pounds. Unfortunately, they now inhabit less than 9 percent of their historical territory.
Some of the initial threats to this species included overfishing, dams, and logging. They ended up becoming one of the first species to be listed under the 1973 Endangered Species Act. Luckily, those that are left have not been threatened with hybridizing. This leaves the species strand pure and able to replicate. Projects are currently taking place in order to restore this species. Hopefully with time and the proper resources, they will be as plentiful as they once were.
- Heather Harkavy
Nothing can really prepare you when you pull into northern California for the sheer expanse that the state covers. We spent almost 9 hours driving from the top of the state through to the our last destination, where we arrived to meet with California Fish and Wildlife biologist Dawne Emery.
Now Dawne wasn’t the average staffer that we have met along this journey, you name it she has done it. With her main focus being Lahontan cutthroat restoration, she spends her time half in the field working doing hands on work, and the other half in the office organizing projects.
We met up with Dawne at the base of Slinkard creek where we talked with her about all of the current and past projects she has been a part of with her time at the state. Afterwards she described her efforts to try and eradicate brook trout located in the same habitats as the Lahontan cutthroat through electroshocking and removing them out of the system. We then wader up, get the shocking gear ready, and proceed up the creek to shock the first couple pools, where a handful of brook trout succumb to the electric current. Dawne emphasized that these 5 and 6 inch brook trout can outcompete the native Lahantan that are up into the 8 and 9 inch range. Throughout the time we shocked we removed approximately ten or so brook trout.
Shocking up fish is such tight quarters is one thing, but trying to catch Lahontans in a creek that is only a foot wide can be challenging. With grass in some places completely covering the stream, the options for where you could even potentially fish are narrowed down even further. I placed a few small dries through some of these small openings and to my surprise a decent size Lahontan sipped it immediately. Between the challenges associated with the stream and the limited spots to fish only two Lahontans were caught, except for the few specimens that were shocked up.
Overall California was such an immense and beautiful state and I highly recommend that everyone visit and attempt some of their native species.
Location: Deschutes National Forest
The Deschutes National Forest stretches out across 1.6 million acres of Central Oregon. It provides a wide range of beauty, adventure, and recreational activities for those who visit. Activities change with the seasons, and the winter is filled with dense snow, ready to enjoy! Throughout the course of the summer months, the warmer weather opens up doors for tons of exploration – from hiking to fishing and everything in between. The Deschutes River runs through Deschutes National Forest and is filled with the native species, Redband rainbow trout. The Deschutes River is very accessible for water sports such as float trips, kayaking, paddle boards, and so on. Overall, the Deschutes National Forest truly does have it all, and showcases its beautiful state in a great spotlight.
For more information, please check out their site at
- Heather Harkavy
Columbia River Redband trout
Recognized as a distinct lineage, the Columbia River redband trout occupies only 45 percent of their historic range in the Pacific Northwest. Largely due to degradation and fragmentation of watersheds via land conversion, road construction, and natural resource development. Most of these activities occur at lower elevations, forcing some populations of redband trout to occupy the less-impacted higher elevations within the watershed. The most abundant population of redband trout occurs in the McKenzie River. Here, redband trout are also known as the McKenzie redband, redside, or rainbows. The most imminent threat to redband trout is the stocking of hatchery rainbows within the McKenzie River. This can result in hybridization between the two species, reducing their ability to thrive within the aquatic system. Other threats for the species include dams, irrigation diversions, and road culverts that create fish passage barriers. In lower elevations of their range, smallmouth bass and brown trout are displacing redbands by outcompeting them for resources as well as directly preying on them.
Similar in appearance to redband trout, steelhead are the anadromous form, as in they migrate to the ocean to forage and grow and then return to their natal streams to spawn. Steelhead are most threatened by warming water temperatures in many watersheds within their historic range. These warming waters can create thermal barriers during migration runs that put extra stress on the migrating steelhead. In addition to thermal barriers, physical barriers are another major threat. Due to the extensive migratory routes of many steelhead populations, they require connected watersheds. Hatchery stocking of steelhead poses another issue. Hatchery stocks can threaten the genetic integrity of wild steelhead populations and pose risks with hybridization between the two groups.
Coastal cutthroat are native to an extensive reach along the Pacific Coast, stretching all the way from California up into Washington and Canada. The life history of this species can vary. Coastal cutthroat can remain as non-migratory resident freshwater forms, fluvial freshwater forms that migrate within a freshwater system, adfluvial forms that migrate between lakes and tributary streams, and anadromous forms that migrate out to the ocean and back. Instead of lengthy oceanic migrations, coastal cutthroat often utilize estuaries and other near shore environments before making their way back into their natal streams. Coastal cutthroat have been found to be more sensitive to warming water temperatures and are especially susceptible to the thermal barriers that are being found in some of their historic watersheds in the Pacific Northwest. Other issues for coastal cutthroat include poor forestry practices and poorly-designed and maintained roads that contribute to an increase in sediment loads in streams.
Over the course of the trip, very few places and experiences were 100% new to me. However, the state of Oregon, along with its opportunities proved to be exciting and different.
After arriving at our campsite along the Siletz River near the Oregon coast, we had the opportunity to meet up with Troy Rintz, a volunteer for TU. Right away, it was obvious that Troy knew the Siletz-- and Oregon steelhead. He knew the character of the water, where the fish would be when, and what flies to use where. Troy drove us up the Siletz where we saw quite a few steelhead and chinook holding in pools. It was interesting seeing a wild, ocean-going fish hanging out in only 3 feet of clear, cold water. Although our efforts at hooking a steelhead went without reward, the opportunity we had to snorkel with them was absolutely great.
It had been a while since I had last snorkeled, and it had been in Florida—a lot different than a cold and shallow river. Putting on a wetsuit is something I had never done, and I came to learn how hot and stuffy they can be on the hike down to the river. However, upon entering the river, the wetsuit was great to have. After putting on boots and tightening everything up, we were on our way downstream. Head first and belly down we went, being careful not to let all the boulders punch us in the stomach. Between sections of riffles and runs we would drop into pools—and this is where the best views were found. Upon dropping down into these pools, our eyes were treated to the green-pink flashes of steelhead, along with bronze flashes of monster steelhead. Seeing huge schools of migratory fish is a bit surreal. It is interesting to imagine where these fish have been on their long journey, let alone what they’ve seen across an entire ocean. Even seeing the Coastal Cutthroat dodging in and out of rocks to feed was special in a trouty way.
Sometimes when you’re in a new environment, it is hard to ask for a lot of results. I was completely outgunned when targeting steelhead, and I was never really able to target “the fish of a thousand casts” confidently. But even though a wild steelhead was never taken on the fly, being able to experience these unique fish for even a portion of their journey was nothing short of spectacular.
Sawtooth National Forest
The Sawtooth National Forest encompasses 2,110,408 acres largely in Idaho, but also partially in Utah. It is comprised of multiple terrain types including sagebrush steppe, spruce-fir forests, and alpine tundra. Throughout these terrains there are 3,500 miles of rivers and streams. The area is currently managed by the U.S. Forest Service as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The forest offers visitors multiple recreation options. Over 1,000 miles of hiking trails are available, along with four ski areas, fishing opportunities, and whitewater boating. 81 campgrounds dot the area so it is not hard to find a place to pop up a tent.
- Matt Crockett
Westslope cutthroat trout
These trout were first discovered in 1805, when the Lewis and Clarke expedition took note of their existence. Westslope cutthroat trout (WCT) used to herald the most habitat of all species of cutthroat trout found in the American west, but today they occupy only half of their historical range. Traditional human land uses as well as invasive species have contributed to the decline of the species. However, genetically pure WCT inhabit a few major watersheds where they still persevere. These include the Flathead River in Montana, as well as portions of the Salmon and Priest Rivers in Idaho. These trout have forever been a symbol of the American west, and hopefully we are able to keep it that way.
Bull trout, which are actually a species of char, are distributed in the Northern Rockies of the United States. These fish require cold, clean, and clear water to thrive, and can be found in many headwater streams, lakes, and larger river systems such as the Boise River in Idaho. Bull trout are inherently a migratory species, and because of this, culverts, dams, and roads can inhibit their migratory and spawning abilities. Bull trout face many threats from introduced species such as Lake trout and Northern pike, as well as several climate change related impacts. The population of Bull trout in the United States has changed little since 1998, but 60 percent of their current habitat is at risk.
- Jacob Lacy
A look at Bull trout.
We have now arrived in Idaho in search of the species we have all been waiting for – the big bad Bull trout. Every person we have crossed paths with across our trip that has experienced this trophy species told us tales that we could only dream of. All accounts pointed out that they were big, their appetites were bigger, and they were always eager to eat a fly.
Our initial Bull trout encounter was unplanned and very exciting. We were fishing the Blackfoot river in Montana in search of Westslope cutthroat trout. We hiked (I scooted) down a huge slope to the Blackfoot river. We came across this crystal blue pool and managed to catch quite a few Westslope cutties. Beautiful 8-12 in. fish, but nothing close to what we saw next. There were 2 foot-plus Bull trout swimming through this pool and our jaws dropped. Their yellow bellies gleamed through the water. Due to high levels of Bull trout protection on the Blackfoot, we could only watch these monsters from the bank.
The majority of Bull trout water is protected. They are fragmented across the country in an assortment of areas but the ability to plop a fly in front of their nose is highly illegal in most areas. The Yankee Fork provided us with the opportunity to knock Bull trout off our bucket list. We fished a smaller stretch of water, overgrown with vegetation. The entire team managed to catch a few Bull trout on small dry flies.
Bull trout were different than any species of trout I have come across yet. They had a slender body, almost like a mullet and were very easy to distinguish from other trout. Mission accomplished. Smaller than predicted, but still exciting nevertheless.
- Heather Harkavy
Bridger-Teton National Forest
Driving south from Yellowstone National Park in Western Wyoming, visitors drive through the awe-inspiring Bridger-Teton National Forest. The mighty snow-capped Tetons provide a scenic backdrop to the pine stands, open fields and meadows that make up the landscape. Defined by pristine watersheds and an abundance of wildlife, the Bridger-Teton National Forest offers nearly 1.2 million acres of designated Wilderness within 3.4 million total acres of public land. Thousands of miles of trails and roads provide easy access to the land. The Bridger-Teton National Forest is part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the largest intact ecosystem in the conterminous United States. Visitors can enjoy an array of recreation opportunities including hiking, camping, rafting, wildlife viewing, and fly fishing. The Gros Ventre and the Snake River are two major waterways that attract visitors each season.
- Brett Winchel
Snake River fine spotted cutthroat trout.
The Snake River fine spotted cutthroat trout is a subspecies of Yellowstone cutthroats. Genetically the two cannot be separated and they co-occupied the same waters before the construction of man-made barriers. The two species are connected by Pacific Creek, which flows through the Two Ocean Pass in Yellowstone National Park. Snake River fine spots are characterized by what their name entails, with hundreds of small spots decorating the majority of their bodies. Once native to the large valley lakes of Grand Teton National Park, today these fish live on the west side of the continental divide and are found throughout much of the upper section of the Snake River. Fine spotted cutthroats are unique in their dietary choices, the only river cutthroat opting to feed largely on vertebrates such as other fish and even small mammals.
- Matt Crockett
Snake River Cutthroat in a Secret Lake.
Its funny being from Colorado. My home state offers almost every kind of trout angling possible. For me, these angling experiences basically come down to two things: technical tailwaters in the winter, and easy-as-pie alpine action in the summer. However, on this particular day in the Teton National Forest, I got the best and worst of both these worlds.
After a long night drive to our destination, we hastily set up camp at the banks of a lake that shall not be named due to a request from the local fly shop. That night we had not even the slightest visibility of the ominous black mass that daylight soon proved to be the lake. An antsy night’s sleep ended with the annoyance of an alarm, followed by sheer anticipation. I opened the rain-fly to see a clear glossy lake with not a blemish except for those caused by moving bugs and rising trout—just the image I was hoping for. Quickly, I put in my contacts, strung up a rod, and slung my pack over my shoulder. Brett was not far behind me, and we were the first ones to wet a line on the lake. We saw several cruising fish, which we identified as Snake River cutthroat trout. These fish were not only spooky, but they were not easily fooled. We quickly cycled through an array of nearly every dry fly known to man, yet not a single cutthroat had batted an eye to our offerings. At this point, we knew it would be a technical sort of day.
Brett took his first fish on a size 22 black midge strung to 7x, which I received as bleak news considering we weren’t anywhere near a tailwater. Eventually after no fish had taken my fly I branched off on my own and began exploring the lake perimeter. This is where my frustration soon reached its maximum, as I had spent at least half an hour sight-casting and being rejected by two different fish. At this lake if you made one bad cast, one wrong movement, or one wrong presentation the trout would immediately spook and jet out to the safer deep water. The hot sweat and denial this lake had supplied made my hopes nearly non-existent. Finally, I decided to switch to a larger sized scuddy-buggy looking fly. The first fish I casted to pursued the fly and ate it without hesitation, making the only hard part that of a stealthy approach. After the first fish, I got quite dialed in with my approach, presentation, and eventual hook-set. I ended up taking two more fish by scouring the shore, until I found THE spot. At the far end of the lake where the wind had reduced fish visibility, and where there existed a large crater in the lake bed, I saw about ten feeding cutthroat.
At this point I called over Brett and Matt, knowing we were in for a treat. Working our patterns in this area, we soon took six more beautiful and chunky Snake River cutthroat. What I got from this lake was the hard work of a tailwater, with the gratifyingly gorgeous reward of cutthroat trout. The work I put in to fishing this lake was completely worth it, and goes to show that just because the day starts out slow doesn’t mean it can’t end hot.
- Jacob Lacy
Yellowstone National Park.
Established March 1, 1872, Yellowstone National park covers an area of 3,471 square miles through Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. The park rests on top of a volcanic hotspot, and geothermal activity is one of the main attractions for visitors each year. Along with geysers and hot springs, guests also flock to Yellowstone to view bears, bison, wolves, elk and other wildlife. Visitors have many options for hiking, camping, fishing, and sight seeing throughout the parks many rivers, lakes, canyons, and mountain ranges. Fueling the geothermal features of the park is the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest supervolcano on the continent. The park is the flagship of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the largest nearly-intact ecosystem in the northern temperate zone. Yellowstone National Park boasts nearly 60 species of mammals and 1,700 species of trees and other vascular plants.
- Matt Crockett
Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout.
Grouped with westslope cutthroat trout until the 1960s, Yellowstone cutthroat trout are found on either side of the Continental Divide. This species originally was isolated to the headwaters of the Snake River above Shoshone Falls. After alpine glaciers moved out of the Yellowstone Plateau, the cutthroats were able to travel from the Snake River to the Yellowstone River, through Two Ocean Pass. After this connection, Yellowstone cutthroats continued to spread to the lower tributaries of the Yellowstone River, as well as Yellowstone Lake. The largest population of this species was historically found in Yellowstone Lake, where they became an integral part of the ecosystem. When the cutthroats push up into tributary streams to spawn they provide hunting opportunities for bears, otters, and other animals.
Lake trout were then introduced to Yellowstone Lake illegally and their population thrived, feeding on the native cutthroat trout. Lake trout are able to reproduce easily in the lake, with a rocky substrate suitable for their eggs to develop. Additionally, lake trout are able to feed on Yellowstone cutthroat up to half their body length. When considering that Lake trout can easily exceed 20 lbs. in some cases, it is clear that the cutthroats don’t stand a chance against these predators. In response to this invasive species introduction, the Yellowstone cutthroat population began to crash. For the last decade, the National Park Service, with the help from organizations like Trout Unlimited, has been gill netting and managing the lake trout population in Yellowstone Lake. These efforts have shown significant progress in maintaining a healthy population of native Yellowstone cutthroat trout. While it is unlikely that lake trout will ever been completely eradicated from Yellowstone Lake, continued efforts will allow the native trout to thrive in this area, maintaining the ecosystem.
Like most native trout species, Yellowstone cutthroat habitat has declined significantly due to human interaction. Populations at lower elevations have suffered greatly from agriculture and logging practices. On a more positive note, public lands protect 28% of waters currently occupied by Yellowstone cutthroats. With the implementation of fish barriers placed in habitats to separate Yellowstone cutthroat from non-native species, migratory populations become significantly impacted by warming climate trends. With efforts from the Forest Service, Trout Unlimited, and other groups, the threat of non-native species can be significantly decreased and the cutthroats’ resiliency to environmental change can hopefully be maintained.
- Matt Crockett
Two Nights on Slough Creek.
Yellowstone National Park, in my mind, is one of the last wild places we have left in the lower 48. That is, after you look past the hordes of tourists stopped on the side of the road, running from their cars to encircle a grizzly bear happily feeding on berries, just to snap a few photos. During our travels, we have witnessed some prime examples of natural selection, but I think this situation tops them all. Besides the crowds, this place is truly wild. The elk and buffalo roam free, wolves have returned to occupy some of their historic range, and the native Yellowstone cutthroat trout are plentiful.
As we traveled through the west entrance of Yellowstone, my mind raced as I considered the possibilities the next couple days could present. I couldn’t shake the rumors of large Yellowstone Cutthroat slowly rising to absurdly large terrestrial patterns. My expectations were as high as they have been throughout this entire journey. A scenic drive through the national park put us at our trailhead where we loaded up our packs with all the backcountry necessities for two nights in the wild.
Despite numerous murmurs of poor fishing from disappointed fishermen hiking out, I held my expectations. Five miles later, we arrived at our first backcountry campsite located right between the first and second meadow of the famed Slough Creek. Fatigue only struck me momentarily as I quickly realized where I was. This was no time to sit and rest. As others reached for granola bars to refuel, I reached for my rod tube and began rigging.
At first sight, the “creek” was bigger than I expected, not in a bad sense, just not as I imagined it. Matt and myself carefully waded across the fine gravel substrate to reach the far bank. It didn’t take long before we peered through the slightly dingy water and saw the silhouette of a nice Yellowstone Cutthroat. Matt took the first shot with a firm cast and a solid plop, he placed his gaudy chubby Chernobyl just upstream of the suspended cutty. The eager cutthroat immediately tipped up and began its ascent to the fly. Although, this wasn’t one swift act as we’ve seen with cutthroat prior, it was calm, cool and calculated. It was also a mistake. As the Chernobyl disappeared, Matt set the hook and came tight on his first Yellowstone Cutthroat.
We continued up the cut bank until we came to a straight stretch with steady current and numerous eddies created by the nooks and crannies of the irregular meadow bank. We began working this stretch with large attractor dry flies and quickly grabbed the attention of numerous cutthroat. As Matt whacked one after the other, I struggled to get one to fully commit to my fly. Finally, after zeroing in on a steady-rising cutty, I placed my hopper right on his dinner plate. With no hesitation, he crushed it and shortly after we safely landed him in the net. Meanwhile, Matt continued his hot streak and landed a nice buck. With two fine cutties in the net, we were ecstatic. We released the trout, sipped on some celebratory whiskey, and I allowed myself to let the moment sink in. We were in one of the fishiest places in the country and we were absolutely killing it.
The evening continued to produce as the caddis began to become more active in the water column. At times, I could look up and see multiple pods of fish rising to adult and emerging caddis. This is my favorite type of fly fishing. Singling out that one fish, watching its feeding pattern, and working them until I make the connection. I hooked and landed a few nice cutthroats on a caddis dry fly as they continued to rise as the light faded. My expectations had been blown away, and this was just the first night. I fell asleep that night replaying the day over and over in my head. “How could this possibly get any better?”, I thought.
The next morning, we packed up camp and made quick work of the next 3 miles of trail we had to cover to get to our second campsite. Backpacks and hiking boots were quickly exchanged for sling packs and waders. We hit the water in similar fashion as the first afternoon. We proceeded to fish the third meadow into the late afternoon, picking up many fine cutties throughout the day. But the best was yet to come.
The air cooled as the sun dipped over the far ridge and I returned to a pristine straightaway with a large gravel bar at the top of the uniform run. I had seen multiple large trout in this prime stretch earlier in the afternoon. I don’t often fish streamers when I know I can catch trout on dries or nymphs, but I figured I would give it a shot before we went back to camp. I plucked a sparkle minnow from my sling pack and secured the fly with a loop knot. The first swing yielded a short strike from a colored-up cutty. I bombed the fly a touch further than the first cast and began my retrieve. The fly swung through the run fluttering and flashing with every strip. The same cutthroat charged the fly and didn’t miss this time. A quick strip-set drove the hook home. As this was happening, the rest of the crew was walking my way to head back towards camp.
Smartly, Matt drifted a large terrestrial down the run as he made his way towards me. A large head broke the surface of the water and inhaled the fly. Once again, we were doubled up. The feeling was nothing short of surreal. This was as much fun as I’ve had fly fishing in quite some time and I can’t imagine a better ending to an epic two days of fishing. This place was as insane as the rumors I had heard before coming out here. Now I have some great stories of my own to pass on to the next group of fly fishermen lucky enough to make a trip to this special place.
- Brett Winchel
Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest
Spanning over 2 million total acres, the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest is one of Utah’s most alluring features. Located along the densely-populated Wasatch Front in north-central Utah, this eye-catching national forest receives heavy-use from locals and tourists alike. Visitors can enjoy exceptional fly fishing, skiing, camping, boating, and mountain biking, among others. With so much to do, recreationalists can enjoy this unique national forest throughout the year. Along with the 2 million acres of National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service also manages over half a million acres of Wilderness Area, which provide further recreational opportunities. The Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest also serves to protect critical watersheds that eventually work their way downstream and supply water to the greater Salt Lake City community. For more information, please check out their site at https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/uwcnf/about-forest
The Utah Cutthroat Slam:
During our time in Utah, we sought four species of native trout. Luckily for us, Utah has just the thing! The Utah Cutthroat Slam is a challenge that costs only $20 and is an adventure in itself. All money raised through this program helps fund native trout conservation projects across the state of Utah. During this challenge, participants catch 4 species of cutthroat in their native waters, document their capture with a camera, and release them back responsibly. The Utah Cutthroat Slam provides an interesting take on cutthroat trout fishing while tremendously helping TU and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. More information about the slam can be found at http://www.utahcutthroatslam.org/
The 4 Species:
Bonneville cutthroat trout:
This is the state fish of Utah. They are native to the Bonneville Basin. They are most often found in northern, central, and western Utah.
Colorado River cutthroat trout:
These trout are native to the Colorado River and its drainages, so they are most often found in eastern and southeastern parts of the state.
Yellowstone cutthroat trout:
Native to only a few tiny streams, these trout inhabit the far northwest portion of Utah.
Bear River cutthroat trout:
Native to the Bear River and its tributaries as well as Bear Lake, this species of cutthroat is found in the northern section of the state.
Easier Said than Done
18 species in two months across 10 states is one of the more challenging feats I have attempted to accomplish in my lifetime; and Utah posed as quite the challenge. But its ok, because the challenge is what keeps us fisherman coming back for more.
We arrived in Utah in search of the Utah cutthroat slam – that includes Yellowstone, Bear River, Colorado River, and Bonneville cutthroat trout. A late spring led to late run-off and high waters. We had arrived a little too early to dominate the fisheries, but nothing’s impossible.
Paul Chase, a Trout Unlimited staffer, lead us to a barrier on Strawberry Creek in pursuit of Bonneville cutthroat trout. We fished just below the barrier and… mission accomplished! In the fast, deep, and well oxygenated water just below the barrier I caught a 14 inch Bonneville cutthroat trout on a rubber legged tweaker nymph. I watched him come out of a pillow and flash on my fly twice before I got the hook set. Third times the charm they say.
A quarter of our goal had been acquired, but there was still a lot of work to be done. On the final stretch, of the final hour, we made a plan to divide and conquer. Half the crew headed up to Wyoming to gather supplies and set up camp, while the rest of us stayed back on a pursuit for Bear River cutthroat trout. Bear River cutthroat trout, a species that had eluded us up to this point, came out to play in full throttle.
We fished the crystal clear water off the right hand fork of the Logan River. The pristine visibility and exceptional numbers of fish lead for successful revenge upon the challenging state of Utah. Upon arrival, we hiked up to a pool that was loaded with trout slurping an assortment of bugs off the surface and each managed to knock off a handful. They were a beautiful strand of cutthroat with red gills, tangy fins, and large black spots assorted across their body.
Across the course of the past few weeks I have worked diligently to attain a stronger understanding for trout fisheries as I transition from salt to fresh water. After the initial pool, I strayed off on my own and pursued Bear River cutthroat trout independently and it was very satisfying to accomplish. There was a big pocket under a fallen tree that I laid an elk hair caddis in. Every cast I pulled a Bear River cutty out of the pool, and then continued to take a few selfies with them before they swam off strong.
Although we didn’t have a chance to catch the entire slam throughout our time in Utah, the species did not go unseen and were caught throughout other portions of our adventure. At the end of the day – big smiles all around and off to the next exciting challenge we go!
The chemical element with the atomic number 42, not found as a free metal on Earth, molybdenum (moly) is found only in various oxidation states. This element, with its silver sheen and gray cast, is used in most high strength steel super alloys. Common uses for molybdenum are: motor oil and antifreeze, hospital and laboratory equipment, and flat panel televisions.
In our time spent at Henderson mine, we got to see the processes in which the mine extracts and manages the tons of ore gathered. First, Moly is located within a deposit and then harvested a mile down into the mountain. Harvest methods include a series of contained explosions within the host rock, which is then loaded into some of the largest dump trucks we have ever seen. Spanning 38 feet long and 26 feet tall, these dump trucks were literally cut in half down the middle and lowered down the mine’s elevator shaft, then reassembled in an underground shop by trained diesel mechanics. The mechanics informed us that the trucks last about 250,000 miles on the engine, completely underground, on the 150 miles of roadways inside the mine.
The Muckers (haul trucks) then dump the 80 tons of rock ore into a crusher that grinds and dumps it on to a conveyer belt in 3 seconds. From there the conveyer belts transport the finer rocks 15 miles across the mine where it is then removed from the mine and transported to grinding mills where it is processed. For every ton of host rock that is processed, approximately 2-4 pounds of molybdenum is produced, and in a fluctuating market can sell for 6-10 dollars a pound.
Hundreds of years ago, mining corporations didn’t realize the environmental impact that mines could have on their surrounding ecosystems, but at Henderson mine, millions of dollars are spent every year on reclamation projects. The mine staff takes every precaution available to make sure that they not only meet environmental expectations, but exceed them and make sure they give back and maintain the environment that fuels them.
- Austin Burroughs
Our public lands are under threat and it is up to us to do something about it. In April of 2017, President Trump ordered the review of the Antiquities Act - an act that was originally designed to protect Native American artifacts. This act is more commonly utilized by presidents to set land aside as national monuments. This review looks at 27 national monuments that have been created since 1996, one of which is Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in Northern New Mexico. Established on March 25, 2013, this 242,500-acre monument serves as an important corridor for wildlife and allows wildlife to move between the two mountain ranges.
The Native Odyssey crew spent two nights camping in the Wild Rivers Campgrounds located within Rio Grande del Norte National Monument and had the chance to experience the incredible surroundings that make this national monument special. We descended the steep and rugged canyon into the ferociously flowing Rio Grande in pursuit of wild trout. The powerful water running through the center of the massive canyon is a breathtaking sight. This is just one of the many opportunities Rio Grande del Norte National Monument provides for the American people to experience and enjoy.
It is the natural born right of every American to make the 800-foot descent into the Rio Grande Gorge and witness the sheer magnificence of Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument. It is vital we protect this national monument in order to ensure native fish populations, wildlife, and downstream communities have access to healthy, clean and clear water. To take action and stand up for our public lands, please visit standup.tu.org.
Zimmerman Lake, Roosevelt National Forest.
Zimmerman Lake is located within Roosevelt National Forest. This forest is located in the north-central portion of Colorado, and even reaches to the Wyoming state line. Conjoined with the forest is the Pawnee National Grassland. Together, these two entities of land encompass 1.5 million acres. Headquarters for the Roosevelt National Forest are located in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Often, Roosevelt National Forest is paired along with Arapaho National Forest, forming what is referred to as the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest. Within this area recreational activities are abundant. Guanella Pass Scenic Byway is a great place to drive and observe colorful aspens, alpine streams, and two 14,000 foot peaks. Along this byway, and many others located within the forest, there exist several hikes to pristine mountain views. Yet another great option is Poudre Canyon road, which offers scenic views of the Poudre River, along with later access to State Forest State Park. Along this road you can find Zimmerman Lake, which is a great place to catch Colorado’s state fish, the Greenback cutthroat trout. All in all, the Arapaho-Roosevelt area provides excellent access to hiking, biking, and fishing not too far from Denver.
- Jacob Lacy
Greenback Cutthroat Trout.
Greenback cutthroat trout are native to the beautiful waters of Colorado. They have reddish coloration in their lower jaw and throat, as do all cutthroats. They are also distinguished by their prominent spots and dark olive colored back. Greenback cutthroat trout currently inhabit a small portion of Colorado. The species is far more isolated than its’ historical locations. In the past, Greenbacks could be found cruising the waters of the South Platte and Arkansas River drainage. Unfortunately, their time spent on their original breeding grounds has come to an end.
There was an assortment of issues that contributed to the rapid loss of the Greenback cutthroat population around 1930. Irrigation and harvest by settlers, invasive species, and mining all presented huge threats to the population of these species. The number of Greenbacks dwindled down to such a dramatic low, that they were believed to have gone extinct. 30 years later, the species was located and classified as endangered. At this point, they can be found above barrier falls in small headwater streams. With time, Greenbacks were revived through a variety of projects, placing them in the Threatened Species category.
Rocky Mountain National Park was the holding ground for Greenback restoration projects. Hatchery fish from remaining populations were used to stock 62 miles of lake and 102 miles of stream. It was thought to be a roaring success until bad news struck. These so called “Greenback” cutthroats were actually Colorado River cutthroat trout.
This new information left Greenback cutthroat trout with only two inhabited bodies of water. Southwest of Colorado Springs is Bear Creek, home to the Greenback cutthroat. The water in which the Greenback’s reside in is a 4 mile stretch above a natural barrier. Many efforts have been made to rejuvenate the existence of this native species. As well, Zimmerman lake, a lake in the South Platte River drainage, has been stocked with an extensive amount of Greenback cutthroat.
Due to the fact that these fish are living in closer quarters than they once were, mating has created issues. Incest amongst the species has led to a large assortment of genetic mutations, including a prominent double chin and cataracts. Hopefully, with research and time, this species will one day return to its historical habitat and lifestyle in full force.
This native species helped inspire and form a community of anglers called The Greenbacks. The Greenbacks are a Colorado based organization that promotes native trout and conservation efforts strongly. The majority of their efforts are focused towards involvement an exposure of the next generation. Go ahead and check out The Greenbacks and their impressive community at http://thegreenbacks.org
If you are interested in learning more about Greenback cutthroat trout, feel free to follow this link http://www.tu.org/stateofthetrout
- Heather Harkavy
Population Health Survey.
With all the information that we have gathered and experienced through various Greenback cutthroat trout projects, it all came full circle during our time at Zimmerman Lake. We met up with Boyd Wright, the Native Aquatic Species Biologist for Colorado, who works with multiple native species in need of protection and management. Zimmerman Lake is home to the majority of Greenback cutthroat in the state and also serves as the main location that Colorado Parks and Wildlife uses to collect egg and sperm to use in breeding more of this species.
Fish sampling is conducted with traps that are set up the night before in two different locations to gather as many fish as possible. First thing in the morning, the research team collects the fish that enter the trap and sort them into temporary holding based on colored markers that are tattooed behind the eyes of the fish. These colored markings designate what year the fish was released and what their genetic make up is. After this initial sorting, the fish are then brought, via bucket, to a temporary station set up on the lakeside. My job at this station was to take the Greenbacks from that bucket and put them into a tank with a sedative in it, which harmlessly calms and sedates the fish. This way they can be weighed, measured, and checked for a PIT tag (which gives each fish a unique ID). During this process any deformities such as double chins, cataracts, or even hooking marks from anglers are announced to the technician recording the data.
The fish sampled were just getting ready to spawn, so the data collected helps to get an idea of the health of the fish in the lake. Boyd told us that they would be coming back early the next week to collect egg and sperm samples when the fish were ready.
Even though none of us caught a Greenback cutthroat while we were there, it was incredible to successfully handle, sample and release about 400 of this threatened species. From our visit at Bear Creek in Colorado Springs, to Zimmerman Lake, it is truly amazing to see all the different groups working together for the greater good of these resilient fish.
- Austin Burroughs
Rocky Mountain National Park.
Established January 26, 1915, Rocky Mountain National Park was the 10th recognized National Park in the United States. It is the best place in the county for visitors to experience alpine landscapes and tundra. Driving in from Denver (just 2 hours away) allows for visitors to see numerous summits, 78 of which exceed 12,000 ft. elevation. The eastern and western slopes of the Continental Divide cut directly through the park’s 265,461 acres. The northwest region boasts the headwaters of the Colorado River, and this provides anglers the perfect location to pursue Colorado River cutthroat trout. For more information about Rocky Mountain National Park visit https://www.nps.gov/romo/index.htm.
- Matt Crockett
Colorado River Cutthroat Trout.
Colorado River cutthroat trout are one of Colorado’s three native trout species. They are known by the orange or red slash under their chin and their large gradient spots. On the mature fish, bright red flanks are found as well. Colorado River cutthroat trout are a beautiful species that are historically bound by the perimeter of the Escalante River to the west, San Juan to the south, the Continental Divide to the east, and the Green River to the north. Throughout this area, their historical distribution is discontinuous because of warm, large, and sediment rich waters that inhabit the Colorado River basin.
Populations of Colorado River cutthroat were originally spread out across the Colorado River. An assortment of factors led to the dispersion and lack of connection amongst this species. The issues breaking up Colorado River cutthroat include isolation management, the intrusion of invasive species, and the poor management of land and water. Currently, Colorado River cutthroat trout inhabit small headwater streams and high-elevation lakes.
Colorado River cutthroat were believed to have 361 conservation populations that inhabited a total of 2115 miles of stream. As a result of a restoration project gone wrong, Colorado River cutthroat inhabit much more water than studies initially showed. Due to strong similarities in appearance and genetics, Colorado River cutthroat were mistaken for Greenback cutthroat trout. This is good news for the Colorado River cutthroat, but a sad realization for their sister species.
- Heather Harkavy
For me, the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park serves as a depressing reminder of a place that was once plentiful and true. I can’t help but feel a slight melancholy jab every time I glance upon the headwater meadows of the mighty Colorado River, knowing it will never again complete its journey to the Sea of Cortez. Compounding my melancholy feeling is the fact that whenever I fish in these headwaters I yield nothing but invasive brook trout, as opposed to a once bountiful supply of native Colorado River cutthroat trout.
When I heard that the “Native Odyssey” trip would be trying to conjure a native cutthroat out of the west side of the park I immediately became apprehensive and wary of new challenges. Although I grew up in Colorado, I never ventured to fish the west side of the park more than I had to, for fear of annoyingly hard to dodge brook trout in once fruitful native trout waters. I knew it would be a challenge finding a Colorado River cutthroat trout haven in this hell of invasive species and mis-managed cutthroat populations. With much work to do in order to find these natives, I immediately gave a call to Rocky Mountain National Park. The park staff pointed me towards a few options, and I ultimately settled on Timber Lake and Timber Creek, which serve as a tributary to the headwaters of the Colorado River.
Fishing in high mountain lakes is a game of cat and mouse, where the mouse most often eludes the cat. A variety of factors contribute to whether an alpine lake will produce worth-while fishing opportunities. These factors can include ice-off timing, weather, elevation, insect life, and lake depth. Basically, multiple things have to come together perfectly in order to have a good day of high-elevation fishing.
Luckily for us, everything decided to come together. After our group’s 4.8 mile hike up to an elevation of 11,040 feet, I was a bit depressed to see dirty mounds of snow, swampy shores, and long ice sheets. Usually this signals that the lake is still in thaw mode, and that the fish aren’t as active. For a while this held true as we had only netted a couple of small Colorado River cutthroat, and hadn’t seen any trout cruising the shore in search of a meal. A bit out of sorts, we decided to have lunch, which consisted of turkey wraps and granola bars. Post lunch time took on a Thanksgiving afternoon vibe, as everyone but Andrew and I decided to take a nap on the warm rocks adjacent to the lake.
As everyone else took a snooze, Andrew and I started working flies along the large ice sheets which still hovered over the lake’s surface. Before I knew it, Andrew had hooked into a decent native, which we netted, photographed, and released. Suddenly, morale shot up, as we had figured out how to conjure these elusive natives out of the depths. With the rest of the group still happily napping, Andrew and I continued to work our small streamers along the thick ice until we had netted and released six gorgeous Colorado River cutthroat. The day had suddenly gone from abysmal to killer. To me, there is absolutely nothing cooler than sight fishing to ruby red native trout, having them chase down your fly, and then watching them swim back to their ancient home. Unfortunately, once everyone else woke up from their siesta, the fishing was not as great and shortly we were prompted off the mountain by an afternoon thunderstorm. The hike back is always a little bit easier when you’ve had the satisfaction of bringing a few native trout to hand.
What I once viewed as a depressing and melancholy expedition turned out to be an eye opening experience. Having the pleasure of catching, photographing, and releasing Colorado River cutthroat trout in their ancient ancestral home is truly an awesome experience that makes you feel connected to the land. The fact that these fish have an isolated stronghold high up in the mountains gives me solace, as I know the native trout will keep on chugging away at life with little interference... that is, except for the occasional hook I hope to plan