Residing in the West, I never knew much about the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), so when my friend Mike Ortego from Fishing Florida Radio asked me about the Trout Royal Slam, I really had no idea what it was all about. Mike brought the idea to our attention and said from what he knew I was really close to achieving this milestone. As we looked into the details of what it takes to fulfill the criteria for a Trout Royal Slam, Mike was right and I was only two fish away from tackling this goal. As designated by the IGFA, the Trout Royal Slam consists of catching a rainbow, brown, lake or mackinaw, cutthroat, bull, brook, and golden trout. I had accounted for all of these species except for a bull and golden. With a filming trip for Wild Fish Wild Places planned for the Yukon just a few days later, this seemed to be a great place to start the story to fulfill the trout slam.
As the production crew departed for Whitehorse, we started to discuss the story and possibly taking down one more species of the slam, the bull trout, when my good friend and co-host for this show Dreu Murin stated he already had everything on the list except a bull. With this news, the excitement of being able to accomplish a Trout Royal Slam in the next five days was a welcome addition to the story we weren’t expecting. When we arrived to Inconnu Lodge, nestled along the shores of McEvoy Lake about 180 miles northeast of Whitehorse, the filming and fishing strategy started to unfold amongst the crew. We started talking about grayling, pike, lake trout, and inconnu but when Ken (head guide at Inconnu Lodge) brought up the bull trout, we were all ears and started to discuss the plan of attack. The bull trout was once classified as a Dolly Varden but has since been listed as a separate species and protected in most of the lower 48 where present. Bull trout live in cold, deep lakes and move into the river systems after ice out to forage on baitfish and anything else that gets in their path, as they are a veracious predator.
The plan for landing a bull trout was to head to Upper Whitefish, a system of lakes and connecting rivers that the guys knew would be holding a good number of fish. The travel consisted of a float plane ride to the lake where they had some canoes stashed near an old hunter’s cabin. From there it was a 45-minute paddle into the river system and down to some deeper, rocky pools where these elusive fish frequent during the summer months.
When we arrived at the spot it was a long, deep stretch of a boulder-strewn river just perfect for predatory fish waiting to ambush some unsuspecting prey. As Dreu and I made our way out into position, we were throwing our NuCast eight-weight fly rods with a large articulated streamer, hoping to draw some big bullies up. On the first cast I saw a big swirl in the crystal-clear water, and my fly disappeared! Fish on!
As I started to yell, Dreu connected with his first fish as well—a double hook-up first cast, but both were lake trout. Lake trout are beautiful fish and great fun, but we had come for the bulls. As we worked throughout the morning connecting with multiple lakers and grayling, we still needed to get a bull trout to the camera. Our guide Ken said “Usually if you can get the grayling excited, the bull trout will start getting aggressive.” With that, Ken started casting a dry fly hooking the grayling with every drift.
Sure enough, about 15 minutes after getting the grayling going I had a nice take on my streamer. As it broke the surface, our guide Rob and I both yelled out “Bull!” As we landed the small bull trout for the camera, it was a very exciting moment and great to be one fish closer to the trout slam. However, Dreu was the one who needed the fish.
As we worked that stretch of river over, our guides decided we needed to work a little harder and get to a place that hadn’t been fished in over two years. As we busted our way through the heavy Yukon bush, we made our way to a beautiful-looking spot with an island in the middle of the river—there was a good push of water and a deep hole at the tail end. I decided to work on the grayling while Dreu pursued his quest for a bull trout. As the grayling action couldn’t get much hotter, we had everyone jumping in to catch the little fish on dry flies, and then it happened, fish on! Dreu was connected and being so far down river it was sure to be a bull. The fish immediately went for current and made some impressive runs screaming some drag. Dreu played the fish perfectly and landed his trophy to complete his Trout Royal Slam. It couldn’t have been a better story or more beautiful location.
For the entire list of different Slams recognized by IGFA, check them out online and get registered. Be sure to tune in to the World Fishing Network for these episodes and the season finale where I chase the final species for my slam, the Golden Trout.
Images courtesy Denis Isbister/Wild Fish Wild Places