Written by: Tom Rosenbauer
The saltwater Grand Slam has been established as a quasi-official accomplishment by the International Game Fish Association for many years. According to the IGFA, a grand slam is catching three different species of fish in a single calendar day. They also have categories for Super Slam, four different species, and Fantasy Slam, for five different species. When most fly anglers talk of a Grand Slam, it’s a bonefish, permit, and tarpon on the same day. And for the Super Slam, the most recognized additional species is a snook, and I’ve heard of mutton snapper added for the Fantasy Slam.
I’ve never caught what I consider a grand slam (bonefish, tarpon, permit) in salt water. I’ve been close in Belize with a permit and a bonefish, and also in the Keys with a permit and a tarpon. I was so close on that Keys slam, and after catching the permit and tarpon I worked over some bonefish that brutally snubbed me. In any other part of the world, the bonefish would have been a sure thing, but a Keys bonefish is a different animal. Or at least I tell myself that to ease the pain.
If you think you’re hot stuff because you realized a grand slam, consider this one: While fishing in Cuba, Greg Vincent of H2O Bonefishing made a Super Slam in four casts. That’s right: One cast for each fish. That takes more than just superb fishing skills. It requires a lifetime of reading the body language of fish, picking out the one fish most likely to eat, and pitching the fly at just the right moment to intercept the fish without spooking it. And not screwing up that one cast.
Many years ago, after hearing about the saltwater Grand Slam, I decided to create the Vermont Grand Slam for local waters. I even wrote about it somewhere, but the when and where escape me—probably for The Orvis News, back when it was printed on stuff made from dead trees instead of in pixels. I wanted to make the Vermont Slam a stretch, something you might achieve once or twice a season if you were lucky. I decided that it would include the three species of trout that reproduce in Vermont—brooks, browns, and rainbows—and that all three of the fish must be wild, not hatchery stock. It’s easy to stay away from stocked trout in Vermont because the state does not dump hatchery fish in many rivers, other than the mainly larger rivers close to population centers (or what pass for population centers in Vermont). To make it more difficult, I decided for my slam, all three species must be caught in the same stream, without getting into a car and moving to another spot, even another spot is on the same creek.
I never venture forth and attempt to catch a Grand Slam—it’s more opportunistic. It usually happens when I catch a brook trout in a stream mostly populated by browns and rainbows. Brown and rainbow trout prefer the lower, deeper, slightly warmer waters of our valley streams, while brook trout stay in the colder headwaters. It’s often said that rainbows and especially browns out-compete brook trout where they occur together, but in headwater streams, with colder water and a sparse food supply, brook trout have a competitive advantage because they thrive in colder water and are better adapted to surviving with a sparse food supply and harsh environment. In many of these headwater streams, brook trout are the only fish able to survive. Dace, sculpins, and creek chubs can’t even cut it. My Vermont Grand Slams have always happened either in the early season, when some brook trout drop into the lower reaches for the winter and have not moved back into the headwaters, or at the mouth of a cold tributary in the summer, where the temperatures are cool enough to hold brook trout.
You can create your own Local Slam. One of the great things about this is that it’s your slam, and no one on social media can troll you and blather that you didn’t do it right. Better yet, keep it to yourself and off social media. People will care as much about your local slam as they would pictures of your cat. If you’re in the West, you might try to catch several subspecies of cutthroats in a single day, as friends of mine in Utah recently did. If you live outside of trout country, maybe four different species of panfish within city limits. Or a largemouth and smallmouth bass and a bluegill and another sunfish. A mirror carp, a common carp, and a goldfish. If you don’t have a wide variety of species, try catching sunfish on a dry fly, nymph, popper, and streamer. Try steelhead on a swung fly, a nymph, and a stripped streamer.
Just make it your slam and don’t make it too easy. A slam should be a stretch, something you might do once or twice a year. Or maybe once in a lifetime. You decide.