Photos of the Day: Chasing Arctic Grayling and Native Cutthroats in the Utah High Country

Written by: Mike Mazzoni

Mike Mazzoni shows off the spectacular dorsal fin of a Utah grayling.
All photos by Mike Mazzoni

[Editor’s note: Last year, we posted two sets of photos of big trout (here and here) by Mike Mazzoni of Falcon’s Ledge in Utah. In May, he returned with a killer carp post.]

Once again, I find myself enjoying a sort of fly-fishing novelty: targeting arctic grayling, like chasing carp, is often overshadowed by eastern Utah’s superb trout fisheries. Grayling have a special place in my fly fishing memories; while working in Colorado four years ago, I landed an arctic grayling, a rare catch in a fishery known mostly for its large cutt-bows, on my first day learning to fly fish. While I have heard this species depicted as a glorified whitefish, I was immediately enthralled with this fishes’ shadowy appearance underwater, as well as its iridescent sail-like dorsal fin.

Richard Bailey looks pleased to have hooked into a grayling in the high country.

Scott Pizza, Falcon’s Ledge chef and guide, showed me new grayling water last year, and the scenery alone was worth the hike. I love the nostalgic rush that comes with the scent of rotting pine needles and the sound of quaking aspen leaves. Though clients rarely seek out grayling—due to the fish’s rarity and location at higher altitudes, as well as the abundant trout fishing opportunities nearby—I will always jump on the opportunity to guide a group of anglers looking to experience the spectacle of wild grayling, as well as native cutthroats and wild brook trout, at the end of a 3-weight in pristine Utah wilderness.

Dave Cook shows off a beautiful native cutthroat.

Richard Bailey and Dave Cook were up for the hike, if it meant the opportunity to throw dries at these beautiful, wild and often surprisingly large fish. Both Richard and Dave—here as part of a trip hosted by Adam Cook, fishing manager of Orvis Buffalo (NY)—were just as eager to target these species as I was to share with them the beautiful and wild location Scott had introduced me to the year previous. It’s always a pleasure to be able to share something I am passionate about with others, in this case an incredible hike into the Utah wilderness and a chance to catch the unique and beautiful, wild arctic grayling.

Mike Mazzoni is Guest Relations/Facilities Manager at Falcon’s Ledge in Altamont, Utah. 

Watching a grayling ghost to the surface to eat a dry fly is half the fun.

The scenery in the high country is a great complement to the fishing.

Mountain-lake grayling aren’t going to test the limits of the net, but they sure are beautiful.

Setting another cutthroat free to put on a little more weight for next year.

2 thoughts on “Photos of the Day: Chasing Arctic Grayling and Native Cutthroats in the Utah High Country”

  1. Phil, I always love to see posts on high-altitude wilderness fishing, whether in Utah or any other state.

    The article is pretty cryptic on the location, other than eastern Utah, high elevation, and wilderness. It doesn’t look like the Uintas; I wonder where it is?

  2. Definitely a thrill getting up there with Mike while at Falcon’s Ledge. Made the hike again this summer with Eric Mackay. And caught some nice, big grayling again. Such great fish!

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