Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Wind River Golden Trout - July 2011

After a month of deliberation we had no set dates for the Wind Rivers this year.  After a few more weeks of phone calls and emails it looked like the trip was off.   Just after the 4th of July I received a call from Kory saying he had two weekends open for the Winds.  He had promised his boy he would take him on his first backpacking trip this year.  We picked out the end of July despite the rumors that the mosquitoes were the worst anybody had ever seen in the Winds.  We had talked to friends and a few scout groups from Northern Utah that had just gone the week before us.  My older brother Lance had just come out of the Big Sandy area the day before we were set to head off.  He confirmed what we had heard, he said they were so bad you couldn’t eat food without eating the skeeters.  

We made sure we had plenty of repellant for the trip and added a few head nets to the packs.  We ended up hitting the trailhead two hours behind schedule, it was mid afternoon, pushing 83˚ at the trailhead.  This was by far the hottest hike in I’ve ever done, the good thing was, we weren’t seeing many mosquitoes on the trail.  About 2 miles into our hike, around 10,000’ we hit the wall.  It took about everything you had not to swallow mosquitoes as you hiked, they were everywhere.

Breather on Trail
Creek on the hike in

Night at camp

Bull Moose
We made it to the lower of the upper two lakes we planned on camping at right at dark, there’s nothing like traversing a boulder ladened meadows with shoulder high brush in the dark.  The thought that we were in the dark in 4’ high brush in bear country made you a bit uneasy.  We spent the next hour in the dark trying to find a flat spot to drop our tent, we found a spot on the crest of a 10,763’ mountain.

Kory and I both woke at the same time the next morning, to each other’s shouts “hey” “Get out of here”.  We thought we had a bear in camp, we both woke to something walking through camp.  I creped out of the tent with my can of bear spray only to be greeted by a big bull moose, we didn’t mind sharing the mountain with a moose.   A bear would have been whole different story
Golden Lakes

Kory with cut

Fishing off of snow field

River next to camp

Ice Lake

Ice creek


This trip was the start of our fifth year in search of the elusive golden trout.   This was our second trip into this spot, we know the upper lakes held golden trout.  2009 was a bust in this area, however, we did find some nice cutthroat trout and cutbows.   Knowing we would find some good fishing, with a chance at some goldens, we came back.  The first day on the mountain we headed to the highest lakes in the basin.  The lower lakes held good cuts, we fished them in the morning.  We spent the rest of the day fishing lakes that were just over 11,000’ in elevation.  We had no luck in the upper golden lakes, we didn’t even see fish swimming in the lakes.  
Hayden's first Brookie - Nice first Brookie!

Cruising for bugs
Fat Brook
Day 2 on the mountain was a killer, we hiked out of our basin into another basin looking for golden trout.  We had fished part of this basin in 2009, only pulling out brookies.  The first lake we fished had nice brookies in it, some of the largest we ever caught in the Wind Rivers.  This new basin was no easy hike, 8 mile round trip with 2000’ in elevation to gain and 1916’ in elevation drop.  With Hayden along we didn’t want to push it too hard.  Well, this hike did it, not to Hayden, but to Kory and me.  It kicked our butts, but it was worth it.  We finally found the elusive golden trout, it only took 5 years to do it.  It was worth the 5 year wait!  My first cast in the upper creeks landed me the largest golden of the trip.  I guess my ultimate intimidator was too much for him to handle.   Up to that point, that was the most exciting fish I had ever caught, he wasn’t a true Wind River monster.  For me it was, I actually let out a good old redneck holler, something I never do.  We fished up the two creeks to the upper lakes, we caught plenty of smaller golden trout in the creeks.

I was the first one to the upper lake, as I crept around a large boulder I spotted a big curser.  He was a good 2-3 pound golden trout.  I got my cast all setup, landed my fly perfectly out in front of him.  The next thing I see is a splash 8 feet from my fly, I look up to see some old man hobbling down to the lakes edge from the scrub pines reeling in his spinner.  He and his wife were huddled up in the scrub pines getting a break from the wind.  He must have been pretty pissed to see me pop out of the boulder field.  He was dead set on me not catching one of those big goldens.  He did screw it for me.  The rest of the time on this lake we only saw a few other big fish, the rest were small.  We never did pull one out of the lakes.   I didn’t fish the right flies for the high elevation golden lakes.  Next year we will be better prepared to fish these deep lakes.

My first Wind River Golden Trout

Kory's first Wind River Golden Trout

The mosquitoes were so bad this year, it about ruined the trip for us.   The only way to keep them from killing you off was to hike faster.  A wall of mosquitoes would follow you as you hiked, once you stopped it was unbearable.  You couldn’t breathe without swallowing them, eat without eating them.  This late spring/summer made for the right conditions for them.  At 11,000’ in elevation they were horrible, in the middle of massive boulder fields they hunted you down.   2011 was not a year for the faint of heart in the Wind Rivers!