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Cuttthroat trout fanatics will be interested in a new recognition program implemented recently by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Correspondent John Holt has the details:
A benign form of angling competition has surfaced in the West, in the form of a state-supported Cutt-Slam Program that recognizes anglers who catch all four subspecies of Wyoming cutthroats in their native waters. The subspecies we’re talking about are the Yellowstone, Bonneville (Bear River), Colorado and Snake River varieties. Participating anglers must document where and when they catch each fish, using a form provided by the Game and Fish Department. Photographic evidence in the form of prints or digital images must also accompany the entry. Once a state fisheries biologist verifies each species from the photos, the angler receives a certificate in recognition of his accomplishment. These certificates feature color art of all four cutthroat subspecies. The program is designed to encourage anglers to learn more about Wyoming’s cutthroat subspecies and develop more appreciation and support of the state’s cutthroat management program.
I personally made an attempt this past September to catch a Cutt-Slam. The first subspecies, Yellowstone cutthroat, was relatively easy to find in the South Fork of the Shoshone River. The trout rose readily to Royal Wulffs and Elk Hair Caddis. A good base of operations here is Cody, a tourist town filled with motels, restaurants and bars.
The second leg of my journey took me way down to the southwestern corner of the state near the Utah border, where I sought Bonneville cutthroats in the Bear River drainage. This system consists of a couple of forks, a creek tributary, a remote lake and Bear Lake across the border in Utah. The fish are extremely rare, a fragile fishery that needs to be treated with kid gloves. The trout hold in pools and deep runs and on warm days love hopper and large caddis patterns. These fish look nearly identical to the Yellowstone variety. The town of Kemmerer is about an hour east of the water and offers rooms, meals, gas and other supplies.
I later spent several days wandering the rivers and streams around Big Piney South and North Piney Creeks and the upper Green River all the way into the Bridger-Teton Wilderness (Wind River Range country) – searching for what turned out to be the elusive Colorado cutthroat. No luck. Perhaps the time of year had something to do with this. I spotted a number of the fish upstream from a bridge crossing Highway 191, but a foreman at the ranch that the water flows through made it very clear that this was private property and fishing access did not exist. Unlike Montana, where a fly fisher can wade any stream as long as he stays below the high water marks, in Wyoming access to any private land requires permission from the owner. The towns of Big Piney and Pinedale are good bases of operations here.
The final subspecies, the Snake River cutthroat, was easy to find. The Hoback River along Hwy 191, about an hour south of Jackson, has good numbers of the fish that rise to just about any dry fly tossed in their direction. The same holds true for the river’s larger tributaries and the Snake River itself. Jackson has everything an angler needs for this leg of the quest.
If you plan to go for a Cutt-Slam yourself, you’ll need a Wyoming nonresident license, which costs $11 per day up to six consecutive days, or $76 for an annual license, plus a $10 conservation tag. Four-weight and smaller rods are ideal for these fish, with tippets in the 4x class. Wulffs, Elk Hairs, hoppers and nymphs such as the Hares Ear cover the action. To learn more about the Cutt-Slam and the various rivers where you can find each subspecies of cutthroat, or to download a Cutt-Slam entry form, visit the Wyoming Game and Fish web site at. A Delorme Wyoming Atlas & Gazetteer would be a wise acquisition to navigate about this state.
(Postscript: If you feel you need an outfitter/guide to help you find each of these subspecies, here are some suggestions: Tim Wade of North Fork Anglers in Cody; Mike Kaul of Two Rivers Emporium Outfitters in Pinedale; and Van Beacham of The Solitary Angler in Kemmerer. These three operators have partnered to help anglers who want a Cutt-Slam. North Fork Anglers charges $400 for a full-day float; $325 for a half day. Wading trips are $350 per day; $275 for a half day. Two Rivers Emporium charges $385 for a full day’s float, $285 for a half day. A day of wade fishing is $350. And Solitary Angler charges $325 for a full day’s float or wade trip. While Holt says he has heard nothing but good things about Wade’s guide services, he is unfamiliar with the other two operators. He does have first-hand experience with Tim Singewald of Bridger Wilderness Outfitters (888-803-7316. Web: www.bwo.com). Singewald can put anglers on Colorado cutthroats in the Bridger Wilderness. He provides one-day float trips at $325 per person, daily wade trips at $175 and five- and seven-day wilderness pack trips at $1,350 and $1,700 respectively. He also offers a five-day golden trout trip in the high country for $1,425.)