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Fishing tour of Utah (this will be a long post)

Creamer

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#1
I took one hell of a tour of the state of Utah over a long weekend. Last year, I was asked to come out to Orem (south of Salt Lake City near Provo) to film some fly tying tutorials for Fly Fish Food, as well as spend a day fishing with the primary two guys who run the shop. That trip was basically the appetizer for the main course, which took place this past Thursday-Sunday. Utah runs a program called the cutthroat slam which I was really interested in trying to complete. To do it, you have to catch one of each of the four cuttie subspecies in their natural range, photograph them to document it, and record the catch details in their DNR's online interface. I'd never caught a cutthroat before, and it was definitely a bucket list species for me. I did a lot of research and coordinated with a local fly fisherman out there I knew through social media, and he was a huge help in planning my routes. What made my timeline tricky was that I was supposed to meet the shop guys around 3PM on Friday to head three hours south, camp, and fish with them in an alpine lake all day Saturday. So basically, I had Thursday afternoon, Friday morning, and Sunday morning to complete the slam before I flew back to Ohio.



My flight left Columbus at 8AM on Thursday, with an arrival time in Salt Lake City of about 10AM. The flight was on time and smooth, I grabbed my luggage, got the rental car (with a free upgrade to a small SUV, this would prove important), and headed for Stop #1 to meet up with Pete and try to catch the Bonneville Cutthroat, the state fish of Utah. The stream I selected was really close to where Pete worked, so he took an extended lunch break and we fished for about 90 minutes. We both picked up 3 cutties each after a rough start, so species #1 was checked off the list.



This is where the grueling aspect of my plan started: driving. Lots of it. From where I met Pete to the location for the Yellowstone Cutthroat, by far the most isolated of the fish (only in extreme NW Utah), was a 165 mile drive.



I was warned by Pete that this would probably be the smallest trout stream I had ever fished, and it was. It was extreme tight quarters casting, mostly bow and arrow fly rod casts to really tight locations where fish will hold. I almost immediately spooked a fish when I first got to the stream, shortly after lost a really nice one for that size stream (8-9"), then connected on a small Yellowstone cuttie. Here's the stream size.





Here's where I got a little nuts. I looked at the time and knew it would be tight, but if I turned and burned, I might be able to knock off a third of the species that night. After all that driving to get there, I hopped back in the car and sped off. I managed to see my first pronghorn and run over my first rattlesnake on the way out. The next stop was the Logan River to try and catch a Bear River cuttie before dark.



I made good time, 80MPH speed limits help that, but once I got to the canyon road I got stuck behind a semi. I couldn't pass it with the windy little canyon road, and I kept seeing good pulloffs to access the river, so I scrapped my planned area to fish and took a chance to get off the road and fish sooner with daylight fading. I stuck a good Bear River cuttie on a big dry fly and a smaller one on a dropper nymph to cross off Species #3 in one day.



No rest for the weary, though. My hotel I booked for the night was a solid 3 hour drive from the next stream for Friday morning to catch the 4th and final cuttie species. I sort of had to book it there because I wasn't sure if I'd be able to knock off that 3rd species on Thursday, and if I didn't I'd need to be close to fish it early Friday morning. Friday morning was a 4AM wakeup and that 3 hour drive over to fish for the Colorado River cutties.



It was all paved roads until the last 6 miles...on a nasty little forest service road. Had I not been upgraded to the SUV, I'm not sure I would have tried it. There were rutted out sections, areas with prairie dog dens IN THE ROAD, and lots of rocks in the road to navigate around. When I finally made it, I was in the middle of absolute nowhere.





There was moose sign everywhere. Tracks all over the stream bed. Bigguns.



It didn't take long to find fish, and I lost a nice cuttie in the first run I came to. Shortly after, I connected on a really nice thick Colorado River cutthroat to complete the slam.



Since I had several hours to fish, I worked a stretch of the stream pretty methodically for a change. I picked up a ton of fish, but none bigger than that first one of the morning. The fishing was great and the scenery spectacular, but I had that uneasy "I don't want to walk up on a cow moose" feeling the whole time. Everywhere I looked there were moose tracks and trails leading from the brushy junk up towards the mountain. Right at the end of the stretch I fished, I rolled/stung a stud of a cuttie right under this log that hung over the stream. I saw the fish eat the dropper, set the hook, and moved the fish a few inches before the hook popped out.

 

Creamer

Active Member
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Athens
#2
Part II:

From there, it was only about a 90 minute drive back over to Orem to meet the shop guys. On the way, I decided a car wash was in order for the rental since, you know, it was so dusty I couldn't even see out the backup camera.



It was about 3 hour ride to southern Utah from Orem/Provo to the Boulder Mountain area. We grabbed a burger at a local place for dinner and checked into our cabins by the Flute Shop. Yep, it was called the Flute Shop. Interesting store, they sold custom hand made wooden flutes, Native American carvings, and lots of knives.



The morning started with a short car ride over to the trail head, followed by an hour long side-by-side ride up a rough rocky trail to reach the lake. The pic does it no justice because this was the smooth part where I could hold the camera steady. We never topped about 7MPH on the ride up.



Once we reached the destination, we were greeted by this view. Un. Freakin. Real.



We fished from float tubes, which was a first for me. Those little suckers are harder to control than I ever imagined. The wind blew you at warp speed, but your fins to push you back went at a fraction of that pace. Covering water was a bitch and I had my legs cramp two different times. The fishing was incredible, though. The lake had big numbers of brook trout and splake, a brookie/lake trout hybrid. My first fish of the day was the biggest brook trout of my life. They don't grow them like this in WV.



The majority of the fish I caught were splake, some of which were hard to distinguish from brookies. Splake had a longer head, sometimes a little less color, and always a forked tail. Brook trout have a more squared off tail. One small storm blew through about two hours before the end of our fishing day, and that storm almost completely shut down the fish. I think I only caught two fish in the last two hours after the storm, and the other guys had similar luck after the rain.









That night, we drove back to Orem/Provo, three hours back north. I had a few options close to Provo and the airport to fish and decided to head back to the creek I fished on my first stop of the trip. It was only about 14 miles from the airport and had lots of access points. I was not far from where I wanted to fish and I saw a non-welcoming site. There was a bad car accident up around the trailhead I wanted to fish, so I was forced to stop short of that spot.



It turned out to be a blessing, though, because I absolutely slammed the cutties there. It was non-stop dry fly action for a solid 3 hours. Everywhere there should have been a fish, there were two. Or more. Usually I'd catch one and the rest would spook, but I caught multiple fish from a few spots. It was the perfect topper to the fishing I had out there.











I ended up back at the airport a little early, which seemed ok because I needed to get food and wanted to take the time to go through my pics from the trip. Little did I know the flight would end up delayed for nearly an hour and 45 minutes, so it was a really long day in the airport. We didn't arrive back in Columbus until after midnight, and I wasn't in bed at home until nearly 2:30AM. It was a whirlwind of a trip, and I am definitely feeling it still today. I didn't get much sleep for weeks getting flies and gear ready for the trip, and definitely didn't sleep much out there. I'm dragging, but it was 100% worth the effort.
 

Creamer

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#8
I almost forgot. This was from an Indian curry pizza place on our way back Saturday evening. First off, it was delicious. But, it lit my intestines up like they have never been lit up before. There were like 3 different types of hot peppers on it, plus it was a spicy curry sauce. :poop::eek:

 

"J"

Bass fishing aficionado....
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#12
Did you happen to venture by the shooting star saloon while out there? Billed as the oldest bar in Utah. Has a stuffed St Bernard hanging behind the bar 😂😂😂
 
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"J"

Bass fishing aficionado....
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Davie County, NC
#17
Freaking awesome man. Thanks for sharing.
Some beautiful country out that way.

BTW. A rental car would have made it on those nasty forest roads. We had a Ford 500 above 10,000 feet out there once. 😅
We had a Chrysler town and country as well 😂😂😂

Although now that I think about it, it may have been all wheel drive 😂😂😂
 

Creamer

Active Member
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#18
Freaking awesome man. Thanks for sharing.
Some beautiful country out that way.

BTW. A rental car would have made it on those nasty forest roads. We had a Ford 500 above 10,000 feet out there once. 😅
As it turned out, it was just that first 200-300 yards of the FR road that were really bad. They were ruts deep enough to sink that measly little SUV. There was a little pucker factor wondering if the entire road was going to be that way, but fortunately the rest wasn't quite as bad.
 
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Jackalope

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#20
As it turned out, it was just that first 200-300 yards of the FR road that were really bad. They were ruts deep enough to sink that measly little SUV. There was a little pucker factor wondering if the entire road was going to be that way, but fortunately the rest wasn't quite as bad.
Lots of them are that way. People try to go down them when conditions are bad and they get stuck or back out after a couple hundred yards. All they do is end up tearing the road up at the beginning.
 
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