by Captain Winkler

Paul Thompson

Paul has been fly fishing for more than 25 years, and some might say that fly fishing has become more than a passion for him.  The passion began in the early 1990s as a graduate student working on Colorado River cutthroat trout.  While studying cutthroat trout, he grew to admire and love this group of trout and he has made it a point to travel the West and angle every subspecies of cutthroat trout.  The most difficult cutthroat in his quest was the Paiute cutthroat trout because the extant population is closed to angling.  Just to see this fish, Paul volunteered with the California Game and Fish Department and USFWS on a week-long backpacking trip into Upper Silver King Creek, CA.  He carried packs and a backpack electrofisher all week helping the biologists monitor this population.  He was rewarded (and lucky) that they needed some genetic samples collected from one of the tributaries and they allowed him to sample a few Paiute cutthroat trout with his fly rod.

The passion for cutthroat trout carried over to all salmonids and he has fly fished and landed all 5 Pacific salmon species as well as most other trout in the West.  He now uses a fly rod for all species including panfish, pike, saltwater species, and more. As of early 2019, he has landed more than 75 species of cold, warm, and saltwater species on a fly rod.



            Paul received his Master of Science in Fisheries Biology and he has been employed by the Utah Department of Natural Resources for 27 years.  For 23 of those years, he worked with the Division of Wildlife Resources starting as a fisheries biologist and he worked his way up to the Manager of the Northern Region Office.  Starting while he was in school, he has always had a love for native cutthroat trout, and he has been active in native trout conservation for more than 27 years.  During his career, he has surveyed and discovered new populations and chemically renovated and protected hundreds of stream miles of native cutthroat trout habitat.  While Paul has not been able to fly fish all the streams that he has worked on, he has revisited many of them to catch native cutthroat trout on a fly.



            Paul has always promoted the sport of fly fishing.  With the Division of Wildlife Resources, he spearheaded and helped create “How To” videos showing techniques and locations to catch golden trout and artic grayling in the high Uintas.  He helped with numerous DWR videos promoting the Weber River and its great fishery consisting of native Bonneville cutthroat trout and mountain whitefish as well as the great Blue-Ribbon brown trout fishery this river hosts.  Paul has really tried to raise interest and promote mountain whitefish, which is demonstrated through the 4-5 videos or television shows he has helped create just on this species.

Paul has assisted local TV programs like KSL Outdoors, Hooked on Utah, and At Your Leisure.  While helping with these shows, Paul often fly fishes and provides tips on catching species of fish not always associated with fly fishing.

Paul loves talking to angling groups and providing the reasoning behind the management and biology of fish species found in Utah as well as the techniques and locations on where to catch them. Paul never turned down anyone that wanted some tips on how to fish his favorite river.  He has taken numerous strangers fishing on the Weber River helping them to be successful and he will help anyone who calls looking for angling advice.

            Paul has given presentations, helped organize conservation projects with, and angled with all of the Trout Unlimited Chapters in Northern Utah.  In his job as the fisheries biologist over the Weber River, he helped discover a unique fluvial Bonneville Cutthroat Trout population and he worked with the Weber Basin Anglers on multiple conservation projects for this population. Paul worked very closely with the Cache Anglers Chapter of Trout Unlimited (TU) and through cooperative efforts, cutthroat conservation was moved forward in the Logan River, including the development of a brood stock of Bonneville Cutthroat trout that helped re-establish a population in the Right-Hand Fork.

Paul has worked and fished with Muskies Inc., Utah’s Blue-Ribbon Council, the Utah Anglers Coalition, and many other groups.



            Paul prides himself with being the best at whatever he is doing.  His efforts have been recognized within his work where he has received the following:

  • Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) Aquatics Section Employee of the Year
  • Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Northern Region Employee of the Year
  • Utah Department of Natural Resources Community Outreach Award

Paul has remained active in the Utah Chapter of the American Fisheries Society where he has served as Secretary/Treasurer and he is serving a four year role on the Executive Committee including serving as their president during 2018/2019.  He has also received two AFS Awards of Merit where he was nominated by his peers for his fisheries conservation work in Utah.

Paul most recently (2017) received the Utah Trout Unlimited Bob Trowbridge Award for his efforts with the Utah Cutthroat Trout Slam.

Paul is proud of his role in the development of the Utah Cutthroat Trout Slam.  Although developing a cutthroat slam in Utah had been discussed for years, the timing was ripe in 2016.  Brett Prettyman with Trout Unlimited was interested in developing this program in Utah, and Paul was the driver on the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources that carried the partnership forward.  Brett and Paul worked very hard within their agencies to gain support and get the Utah Cutthroat Trout Slam up and running.  This entailed laying out the framework of the program, developing a website and completion certificates and coins, and promoting the slam – a lot of promoting.  Paul participated in a four-part KSL Outdoors series promoting all four of Utah’s native cutthroat trout subspecies.  He worked and fished with Phil Monahan resulting in Going Native in Utah article in American Angler in 2017.  For the first two years of this new program, Paul was the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources point of contact and he talked to hundreds of anglers to help them be successful in completing the Utah Cutthroat Trout Slam