Voices from the river

Voices from the River: More than a medallion

Brooke Harris briefly holds a Yellowstone cutthroat for a picture after she caught is as part of her efforts to complete the Utah Cutthroat Slam. Brian Harris photo.

By Brian Harris

I recently opened my home mailbox and was pleased to find the beautiful medallion and certificate recognizing my fourth completion of the Utah Cutthroat Slam.

Each medallion represents unique memories and adventures, something I failed to understand when my wife, Brooke, and I set off to complete our first slam.

Brian Harris with a Colorado River cutthroat he caught on his way to completing one of four Utah Cutthrat Slams. Courtesy photo.

We were able to complete the initial slam in short order by running out to a few waters we knew and submitted our photos for review without much thought of why we took on the task.

Brooke Harris has completed the Utah Cutthroat Slam twice. Brian Harris photo.

Soon I saw articles popping up on the web about people completing this feat in a ridiculous 24 hour period. It was about that time the excitement of completing the challenge wore away and a bit of regret settled in as I realized looking at completing the challenge so quickly didn’t allow me to experience the true meaning of the program.

I learned the Slam was put together by Trout Unlimited and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to help educate anglers about the native range of the four native sub-species of cutthroat trout.

I had completely missed the point.

I quickly wanted to rectify my mistake and called the state to see if the challenge could be completed again, unlike the Wyoming Cutt-Slam where they ask you only complete it once. Randy Oplinger, Sport Fisheries Coordinator at the DWR, gave me the go ahead to start the slam again.

I felt a new buzz come over me when we started plotting out our next outing. We sat down and stared at the map and felt overwhelmed by the immense regions these fish inhabited. We had no clue where to start. We knew our target lived in the coolest cleanest water the area could provide so we poured over data about perennial streams at high elevation.

Brian Harris releases a Bonneville cutthroat trout he landed while working on one of his four Utah Cutthroat Slams. Courtesy photo.

Once again, all that was available overwhelmed us and we just needed to step back and look at the bigger picture. We came to the realization we were more interested in exploring the land than we were about actually completing the challenge. Acknowledging this made everything easy. We just picked the first water way that interested us that also met all the habitat requirements.

Off we went to see if a tight line and a bent rod could be found. This method of planning lead to some trials and tribulations, but forced us into areas of Utah that we never thought existed. We were hooked, from there on out we attempted to fish a new piece of water for each of the following slams.

Brooke Harris releases a Bonneville cutthroat trout she landed while attempting to complete one of her two Utah Cutthroat Slams. Brian Harris photo.

While we weren’t always successful in finding fish where we wanted them to be, we were always successful in having a great time together seeing our beautiful state. These great times are the inspiration that has us eager to complete my 5th slam and Brooke’s 3rd.

I also want to send out congratulations to Kenneth Tuttle. He also just completed the Utah Cutthroat Slam for the fourth time. Who will make it to five first?

Brian Harris is a member of Trout Unlimited based out of Salt Lake City. He is also a TU endorsed guide.