Some October days in Wyoming can feel more like full-on winter than fall. And it was one of those days, with a cold steel wind blowing across the water of Soda Lake north of Pinedale. Sam Gertsch of Alpine admits he had thought twice about whether he really wanted to be out in it that day, but he decided to go for it. Turns out he was awfully glad he did as on his seventh cast he would tie into his tenth trophy class fish, a 24-inch brown trout (above), earning him the unique distinction of being an Ultimate Angler in the state of Wyoming.
Gertsch is one of just a handful of anglers to reach Ultimate Angler status as part of the Wyoming Game and Fish Master Angler program, which launched in 2019. To be an Ultimate Angler, a person must legally catch 10 trophy-sized game fish species in Wyoming. Each fish must meet or exceed a minimum length, which is determined by Game and Fish sample data and represents the top five percent in length for each species.
The 25 year-old Gertsch said estimates he spent well over 200 days traveling in pursuit of his Ultimate Angler honor. He says he didn’t have money for any hotels, as he spent most everything on a 14-foot v-hull boat. He camped every night and even slept in his boat some nights. “I’ve been over to Riverton more times than I can count,” said Gertsch, noting that Boysen Reservoir is a good place due to the diversity of fish species there.