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!