Effort to catch four species helps raise money for conservation and educates anglers about the value of native trout
By Stacey Weaver
It was not hard to say yes when my husband suggested we attempt the Utah Cutthroat Slam as a family. The driving force was to get our children off of their devices, out of the house and making memories as a family. Little did we know the decision would ultimately secure our family some notoriety by completing the 700th slam to add to the memories.
Hyrum, my husband, was working at home, the children had been learning from home and I was busy building our e-commerce fly fishing business — High on the Fly — while trying to keep the kids on task with their school work.
With all of these changes, our children had been unable to socialize for some time and our circumstances required the kids to learn to be as quiet as a church mouse to accommodate a functional work and school environment. Their coping mechanisms became mainly digital — texting, chatting and playing games, sprinkled with drawing and crafting in their rooms. We found ourselves inhaling a sigh of relief when they ventured outside to jump on the trampoline or take a bike ride.
Enough was enough. By the time July came, we decided to take things into our own hands. This was going to be a summer to remember. Hyrum and I had been escaping the madness to hit the river and fish from time to time, and he’d occasionally drag a kid along with him (they had become quite accustomed to their new sedentary lifestyle). But now we made the decision that we were going to leave no kid behind. Our family was going to do something great together. We were all going to complete the Utah Cutthroat Slam.
A long-time supporter of Trout Unlimited, Hyrum had known about the slam for quite some time. He completed the slam a few years ago to bond with Treycen, our oldest, then 14, and they really enjoyed it. From that experience, he had great insight as to how we would accomplish it as a family — and how cool the medallions and certificates were going to be for each one of us.
We decided to go after the most difficult of the species (due to technical waters and its remote location) first. We loaded the car up with our kids’ favorite snacks and lured them in, promising a fun family adventure to try and catch Yellowstone Cutthroat. We explained our objective and the purpose of the Utah Cutthroat Slam. One teen asked how long it would take. Another said they just had to have their headset to listen to music on the way. “Okay!” said our youngest as she hopped in the car with a spring in her step.
When we got to the location, Hyrum explained these trout only existed in their native range in one place in Utah and it was on the tiniest trickles of water, surrounded by lots of shrubs and trees, so he would take us one by one.
“Who wants to go first?”
Our youngest raised her hand as our older kids pointed at her in agreement.
Many attempts later, Brooklynn, 10, finally had caught her tiny little fish. She’s been taught how to carefully handle fish with wet hands and a gentle cradle under their belly. So she was excited to get it out of the net herself and release it. After dipping her hands many times to be sure they were wet enough, she squealed as she let it go, with a smile on her face and the video camera recording the moment.
I then caught mine in a very small hole between the trees, that barely left room enough to precariously dip the fly into the pocket and hope to lift it once again quickly enough if the fish took. A few seconds of nervous waiting is all it took. Surrounded, shoulder to shoulder in the trees, I set the hook upward, doubting my chances until I felt the little tug and let out my cry of success and relief, before taking the obligatory picture needed for the proof.
Utah Cutthroat Slam By the Numbers
Trout Unlimited and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources launched the Utah Cutthroat Slam in April of 2016 with the goal of educating people about the value of fishing for native species and generating money for important conservation work at the same time.
- $55,000 — money raised for conservation projects benefitting all four species
- 2,931 — people registered for the slam
- 43 — number of states with anglers registered for the slam — and one from Canada
- 709 — slams completed
- 55 — number of multiple completions
- 407 — youth registered for the slam
Aspen, our previously disinterested 14-year-old, snuck up on some fish with Hyrum in an area where the stream crossed the road, providing some open space to carefully cast. After a few attempts, the fly captured the interest of a small cutty.
“Set it!” Hyrum exclaimed. Being used to catching much larger fish, she set the hook too hard and the fish soared overhead — thankfully landing softly and surviving the adventure. Aspen however, could hardly breathe through her laughter at accidentally “yeeting the fish” while Hyrum returned it to the water in the net to make sure it was okay. She smiled the most genuine smile we had seen in some time, as she posed for the quick picture before letting it go.
“Can I catch another one?,” she asked. Hyrum and I raised our eyebrows and tried to maintain our cool composure as we quickly said yes and got her going again. She went on and on telling us how she will tell her kids one day, when she’s teaching them to fish, about this day. Aspen continues to tell us that it was one of her favorite days of last year. So, our previously passive teen, was now interactive and making plans to continue fishing and pass it on to the next generation. Our smiles matched hers.
We went on like this, from one weekend to the next planning our trips, filming and photographing each individual successfully landing the cutthroat from the list. After our too-cool teen Treycen, now 16, landed the smallest fish of the group on Day One, he became determined to up his game. I was impressed as I witnessed Hyrum’s patience and care as he untangled Treycen’s line again and again on the Logan River while we fished for the Bear River cutthroat.
My heart swelled as I witnessed the tender care my tough linebacker son gave each fish when they were in his loving hands. As we continued our family adventures, each child wanted to turn their goal of catching just one of each fish, into a trip of catching many and appreciating the beauty and differences from species to species and fish to fish over the few weekends that we traveled to complete the slam.
We did many things as a family in 2020. Trips to other states and following blue lines, camping in our new trailer, but if you ask our children, amongst the most memorable of these was completing the Utah Cutthroat Slam together. A family accomplishment that became memorialized in certificates and medallions and emblazoned in our memories forever.
Through this family adventure, our children remembered how to live, and love the outdoors. We made memories to last a lifetime. They felt their individual worth and we strengthened our unity as a family not only by spending that time together with a common cause, but by cheering on and encouraging each other’s successes. And for us, as parents, that’s priceless.
Hyrum had the honor of catching the last fish to complete our family slam. It was a beauty of a Colorado River cutthroat; vibrant in color and vivacious in life. It’s splash once in the net sprayed us with an unexpected sprinkling of water at the end of a hot day.
As the sun began to set, Hyrum released it back into the river to await the next admirer. We packed up the car for the scenic drive home and hugged each of the children to celebrate the completion of the slam, much like that fish did – looking forward to more beautiful days on the river and maybe taking in a snack or two on the way hime with smiles on our faces.
The Weaver family lives in South Jordan, Utah. Aspen gets all the slam glory as the 700th person to complete the Utah Cutthroat Slam since it was launched in 2016. The others earned less exciting, but still important numbers — Hyrum (698), Stacey (699), Brooklynn (701) and Treycen (702)