Trip Report Winds 9-3-18 to 9-12-18

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robertseeburger
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Trip Report Winds 9-3-18 to 9-12-18

Post by robertseeburger » Fri Sep 21, 2018 8:33 am

My friend Mike and I got a chance to do a third annual installment of a Wind River Range backpack earlier this month. Trip one ( sept 2016) was an introductory visit to Titcomb Basin..great scenery so-so fishing. Trip two (sept 2017) was a visit to the Indian Reservation side...scenery good but not as spectacular, and fishing for cutts was outstanding. We decided that this year we would venture into the Fitzpatrick Wilderness and look for goldens with a 10 day trip. We started and ended at Elkhart Park.

We started on Monday 9-3..Memorial Day. The parking lot at Elkhart Park was packed. We started up the trail toward Titcomb Basin and we were stunned at the number of people we saw. It was like grand central station. Yeah we picked perhaps the busiest day of the year, but it was incredible and people passed us to return to the trailhead. I estimate that we saw over 100 people in two hours and there was one more thing. We saw perhaps 30 dogs as well. Dogs seem to be very popular at this trailhead which is great. They all seemed to be happy and under control. We asked people where they came from and virtually all of them came from Titcomb Basin/Island Lake. We asked how crowded it was for camping and everyone kind of rolled their eyes and indicated it was crowded. One of the things people like about the Winds is the "no permits" required. I think probably somehow the number of people going into Titcomb Basin will eventually cause a change here. Oh well. We weren't going to Titcomb basin.

An obligatory picture of us two old farts at Photographer's Point.
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We went toward Pole Creek and made it about halfway between the crossing and Cook Lakes which we thought was good for the first day.
On day two, we headed over Angel Pass. The cross country hike around Spider Lake was tedious with a lot of ups and downs even though it is basically level. We were suffering from what I call the "day 2 malaise". Angel Pass was a "class 2+" pass. Some moves on the west side required some finesse. The east side has a talus field that isn't too long but is moderate in difficulty. After that it is easy.
A picture at the top of Angel Pass.
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And another one from Angel Pass looking east
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We were going to camp at this lake but it was extremely windy. So we decided to go to the next lower lake in the basin.
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The next day we had a really short day to go to Upper Golden Lake and did some fishing. We then went north to Camp Lake and spent the next several days in this area. Weather had been good up to this point but now we got hit with some violent thunderstorms. We had false starts at getting high into Alpine Lakes and Brown Cliff Lakes and turned around. Got pounded by rain.
A fishing picture.
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And one where the stream empties into a lake. Very serene.
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During one of our rambles in this area we found something that was quite weird. In an area where we were off trail, in the woods, in the middle of nowhere, we found a cache. It was a bear canister and some other stuff.
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We opened the bear canister and it was full of painting materials. So someone planted all this stuff up there with an intent to return and do some canvas painting. We left it all intact.

More on fishing later, but the net is that fishing was not very good.. Here is what it looks like when fishing stinks. Life is still good!
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A view of the Fortress and Brown Cliffs
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We eventually returned to the Golden Lakes and went over Hay Pass.
A view toward the 3 Golden Lakes.
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And another.. can't stop taking pictures with this view..hard to select which one to post.
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Part 2 coming...
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robertseeburger
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Re: Trip Report Winds 9-3-18 to 9-12-18

Post by robertseeburger » Fri Sep 21, 2018 9:03 am

Part 2.. will be short
We went over Hay Pass and returned via Timico Lake. This is a very beautiful, stark big lake.
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We had heard on the way in that there was one lake with very large cutthroat trout. In fact, a backpacker showed us a picture of a 23 inch cut which he said weighed 6 pounds. We decided to camp there on the way out and try our hand.
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We found some good fishing..
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Ok, I had mentioned fishing earlier. Here are some fish pics..always fun, nothing special.
A cut that was actually 17 inches.
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A brook trout...perhaps 12 inches.
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And a golden.. perhaps 12-14 inches.
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The fishing summary is as follows:

1) Brook Trout like.. decent fishing for 10-12 inch brook. beautiful pre spawning colors. Lots of fun.
2) Two Cut lakes. good fishing for cuts from 12-18 inches. Lots of fun. Took both flies and lures. We never caught the big one. But I saw a big one, perhaps 2 feet long. I fished a cove for him for almost three hours. I threw everything at him.. (lures, flies...even tried bait.). He came and went every few minutes. He never liked any of my offerings...except he massively attacked...a bobber!!. A huge hit and splash. Sigh. I was sad to leave but I gave him my best shot.
3) Goldens...HMM how to summarize. We fished 6 or 7 lakes that we were fairly certain had goldens. And we each caught 2 fish total 10-14 inches. All in one lake. In the other lakes, we caught nothing. Not only that we saw nothing. We saw no rises, no cruisers..nothing. We fished lures. We fished flies. We fished deep. We fished shallow. We fished around lakes. We fished HARD. But nothing. If you have read some of my posts, you see some success in the Sierras for goldens. And of course some failures. It happens. I have one particular lake in the sierras that I call my nemesis lake which this has happened to me more than once. But I have never had a more systematic across the board fishing failure than this. We talked endlessly about what was happening and all we could figure is that something drove the goldens deep to the bottom. Oh well. Perhaps September is too late in the Winds for goldens? Next year we resolved to try earlier the summer. But we didn't get any golden nirvana here. Still a great trip with beautiful scenery.

We made it back to Elkhart Park. I should mention how many people we saw. We saw over 100 first day. And then in the next 8 days, we saw only 3 people. We saw two people doing the Wind River High Route. And then we saw a solo backpacker at Timico Lake who was doing a loop trip over Hay and Indian Passes. And then we saw a fair number of people on the last day, including elk hunters with bow and arrow. We saw a herd of elk at Golden Lake.
So the net is..not a lot of people except a few people hiking in one concentrated area.

Where to go on a trip next year? Perhaps Dry Creek. Perhaps Cirque of the Towers. Perhaps return to Indian Reservation side for cuts. Perhaps Bear basin. We have been on three trips and have just a taste..but now we sort of know the landscape.

One last shot.. a summer thank you and retirement for a pair of boots. I wasn't sure they would make it. 7 days canyonlands,9 days Tunemah, 11 days Great Western Divide, and 10 days Winds.
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Re: Trip Report Winds 9-3-18 to 9-12-18

Post by Troutdog 59 » Fri Sep 21, 2018 1:39 pm

Fantastic pics and report as always Mr Burgert!!! Thanks for sharing the journey. I must admit I'm a bit intrigued with the Winds and especially the Fitzpatrick Wilderness. How is getting around in the Fitz? I've read the trails basically disappear around the Golden Lakes and going east towards Sassafras and Marked Tree Lakes is brutal no trail hiking? Thinking of doing a trip next year either on the Reservation side or in the Grave Lake/Little Wind River area out of the Big Sandy TH. Thanks again for the report.
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In the strangest places if you look at it right.

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Re: Trip Report Winds 9-3-18 to 9-12-18

Post by robertseeburger » Sun Sep 23, 2018 8:17 am

To Troutdog..
Of course WanderingDaisy is your best source for the winds, but I will answer your question with what I know.
I was surprised just how good the trail was over Hay pass and at Golden Lakes. I found the top map very accurate..it shows a trail
going past them and up all the way to Camp Lake. At Camp Lake..it goes away..just as on the map. But it is pretty good all the way to Camp Lake.
As far as going down from Golden Lakes to Marked Tree Lakes.. I have heard it is difficult thru dense trees, but I dont know. We considered making our loop around to Milky Lakes but decided to return via Hay Pass. I dont know where Sassafras Lake is even. The net is I found the trails here better than last year on the Indian Reservation side.

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Re: Trip Report Winds 9-3-18 to 9-12-18

Post by robertseeburger » Sun Sep 23, 2018 8:19 am

I just realized I posted one pic twice.. Here is a picture that I intended to post..
A cut.
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Re: Trip Report Winds 9-3-18 to 9-12-18

Post by windknot » Fri Jan 18, 2019 11:52 am

I'm really late on this, but thanks for posting this report! I need to get out to the Winds someday.

I'm curious -- we hear about the amazing fishing for goldens in the Winds compared with our lowly high Sierra. But from reading your and WD's reports, it doesn't sound like the Winds are exactly teeming with 18"+ goldens on every cast. And yet you've caught many 18" goldens in the Sierra, as have several others on this board. Even I have lucked into a few. So I'd love to hear your perspective on the fishing quality of the lakes in the Winds that you've visited compared with the lakes in the Sierra that you've visited, both with regard to overall fishing in general and fishing for large goldens in particular.

Thanks again for sharing, I appreciate it!

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Re: Trip Report Winds 9-3-18 to 9-12-18

Post by Wandering Daisy » Fri Jan 18, 2019 4:55 pm

I am a very basic fisherman fly only. The average fish I catch in the Winds has been bigger and easier to catch than Sierra fish. The largest was a very fat 22 inches but it was a Yellowstone cutthroat not golden. The largest golden I have caught, about 18, was in the Sierra.

(back home so I can elaborate). Goldens are not native to the Winds, and in that odd way, a species more scarce seems to generate more interest, so you get more fishermen's reports on chasing goldens. To me the real reason to go to the Winds fishing, is not the golden, but rather that there are a wide variety of species, especially the cutthroat, mackinaw, brown trout, splake, rainbows. They also have a lot of "gold-bows", golden-rainbow mix, which may be confused with golden, and the Yellowstone Cutthroat, which looks a lot like golden and can get really large. I suspect that some of the reported "big goldens" caught in the Winds are not goldens at all. There are also just more lakes and a more pro-active attitude about planting fish. There are also the big lakes on the edge of the range, similar to Edison and Florence Lake in the Sierra, that get fished probably more than the high country lakes. IF you are ONLY going after golden, the benefit of going to Wyoming may not justify the effort and the expense of the out-of-state fishing license. I would go there to catch species that are NOT in the Sierra, particularly the Yellowstone Cutthroat.

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Re: Trip Report Winds 9-3-18 to 9-12-18

Post by windknot » Mon Jan 21, 2019 10:34 am

Thanks WD. Your perspective confirms a lot of what I've surmised, and the seemingly disproportionate interest in "rare" species like goldens matches what I've experienced here in Washington. Heck, even though goldens are native to CA they're not native to most of the high Sierra, and so their relative scarcity obviously skews a lot of the fishing trips on this board toward targeting goldens more than other species. I'd certainly be going after Yellowstone cutts if I ever make it to the Winds, with the added appeal being that cutts tend to more willingly take artificial flies than other trout species. The best fishing experiences I've had so far in the WA Cascades have been for coastal or westslope cutts, despite still targeting golden lakes a few times (can't help it!).

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Re: Trip Report Winds 9-3-18 to 9-12-18

Post by Wandering Daisy » Tue Jan 22, 2019 6:41 pm

Fishing changes each year in any area, Sierra and Wind Rivers alike. The initial planting of fish in the high lakes in the Wind Rivers was primarily done by one person - Finnis Mitchell in pre-WWII. Lots of non-official, non-regulated planting of fish by outfitters and the like. He also wrote a bare bones guidebook, which is currently out of print, with lots of fishing information, although most outdated. Wyo G&F now stocks lakes on the public land; US Fish and Wildlife manage and stock the Wind River Indian Reservation waters. The Yellowstone cutthroat in the Reservation high lakes is a part of the USF&W effort to save this endangered species. You can still fish for them, within limits.

I always wonder if the reintroduction of grizzlies has had any impact on the fisheries. Grizzlies have been up in the north part of the range for about 10 years now; and have migrated all the way down to the southern range, although not in great numbers. The grizzlies have had an impact on elk and perhaps mountain sheep. There used to be HUGE elk paths, nearly an inch thick in elk droppings along the NF Bull Lake Creek. I was back in there in 2016 and the elk trails were noticeably less used and there were HUGE piles of bear poop. On my trip last summer saw less mountain sheep than I had in the past. This is just anecdotal information, not a survey of any kind.

And fishermen are pretty tight-lipped. You really have to go and find out for yourself.

I am not a catch-and-release person- I catch and eat, and only catch what I can eat. Sorry, you will see dead fish in these photos. Be assured they were tasty and every bit eaten.
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Last edited by Wandering Daisy on Tue Jan 22, 2019 9:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Trip Report Winds 9-3-18 to 9-12-18

Post by Wandering Daisy » Tue Jan 22, 2019 9:01 pm

So here are some goldens from both the Sierra and Wind Rivers, to compare. I do see more long, big-headed trout in the Sierra than in the Wind Rivers. The fish seem a bit fatter in the Winds and easier to catch. Note that this comparison is based on more remote less fished lakes in both ranges. I certainly have been skunked in both ranges fishing the more popular lakes where you have to be a better fisherman then me.
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And here is a photo from the early 1970's. Large fish were well known in this area, at the upper reaches of the Green River. I think they are brown trout. Evidently, fish this size have not been caught at this location in over 20 years. We used to catch these quite often. So a lot of old "fish stories" do not reflect current conditions. All the other fish photos above are from the last 10 years.
70's Wind River Fish ThreeForks.jpg
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