THE GREAT OUTDOORS — Anglers in Utah have the opportunity to chase what is arguably trout fishing's greatest challenge — the International Game Fish Association Trout Fantasy Slam.
The International Game Fish Association is a non-profit group that is committed to "the conservation of game fish and the promotion of responsible, ethical angling practices through science, education, rule making, record keeping and recognition of outstanding accomplishments in the field of angling," according to the organization's website. Record catches recorded by the International Game Fish Association are the gold standard for angling records across the world.
One accomplishment is so rare, though, that only one person has completed it. Brian Harris, a fly fishing guide based in Utah, completed the International Game Fish Association Trout Fantasy Slam on July 8, 2017.
Completing the Fantasy Slam is easy in theory. An angler just has to catch five of the seven natural trout species in a single day. Those species are brown, bull, brook, cutthroat, golden, lake and rainbow trout. Harris completed his Fantasy Slam by catching at least one golden, cutthroat, brown, brook and rainbow trout.
"Being first in the world was just icing on the cake," Harris said of his accomplishment. But that wasn't his motivation for chasing the Slam.
"The reason I went after the slam was due to the fact that I grew up on the Gulf and always wanted to complete the inshore slam," Harris said. "Without having the species readily available to me anymore, I looked into what was. The trout slams were the obvious choice, and the fact the IGFA isn’t as big with the trout guys gave me another reason to bring the organization to light with Western locals."
While Harris won't give away the locations where he completed his Slam, he did give this bit of advice: "The general idea was start low, work up high."
Utah is a unique state for something like the Fantasy Slam because of the variety of trout species that live here. Quite a few streams in the Uinta Mountains offer an opportunity to catch four trout species in a day — which the International Game Fish Association dubs a Super Grand Slam — but if you want to add your name to the short list of those who've completed the Fantasy Slam, there are few better places to do it than at Flaming Gorge.
To see official rules for the Fantasy Slam and how to verify your catches, click here. Anglers can also shoot for a Grand Slam, which means catching three species in one day and a Super Grand slam which is catching four different species in a day.
Here is a game plan for completing the Fantasy Slam in the Flaming Gorge area:
Start at Flaming Gorge Reservoir for lake trout
Keeping Harris' advice about starting low and working up high, you can start your Fantasy Slam efforts on Flaming Gorge Reservoir. If you get up at the crack of dawn, you can troll for lake trout. This is usually the hardest trout species to catch, but you can typically have success within the first few hours of the morning.
After you've caught your lake trout, stay on the reservoir and fish for rainbow trout. If you're lucky, you'll end up with a cutthroat in the boat as well.
But don't spend too much time on the lake. If you can't catch a cutthroat quickly after you've boated both a lake and rainbow trout, dock the boat and head for the hills.
Catch your brown trout on the Green River
From the town of Dutch John, head south to the Little Hole boat ramp on the Green River. From there, hike up or downstream for about a half mile. This puts you in the thick of brown trout country. A half hour is all you need to catch one brown for your slam. At this point, you're just two fish away!
Find the brook and cutthroat trout
Leave the Green River and head west, past the Flaming Gorge Dam and back onto Highway 44. You'll want to head to Sheep Creek Lake, which is near the town of Manila.
On the way, make a slight detour to fish Carter Creek. You can access Carter Creek from Highway 44, but the brook trout are more easily found higher up, near the Deep Creek Campground.
Once you've caught your brook trout, you'll head to Sheep Creek Lake. It's a tricky lake to fish at times, but persistence will pay off with a Colorado River cutthroat trout.
If luck is in your favor, you could do all of that in one day and find your name in a world record book.