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Trip Report Wind River Range 9-2-9-9

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Trip Report Wind River Range 9-2-9-9

Postby robertseeburger » Mon Sep 11, 2017 3:48 pm

My friend Mike and I made our second annual trip to the Wind River Range. Last year, we hit the popular Titcomb Basin in September and got snowed upon, but it was quite beautiful. This year, we wanted to focus on fishing, after consulting with a couple of people, including Wandering Daisy, we decided to hit the Indian Reservation Side of the range. For anyone who follows my posts, you know I am an avid Golden Trout fisherman, and the reservation side is more known for Cuts...but we decided to try it. We set our sites for the St. Lawrence Basin trailhead for a one week trip.

There are 800 or so lakes in the Winds. We sampled like 4-5 last year, with mixed results. In trying to decide where to go this year, the challenge in a one week trip was how to prioritize where to go with the starting point of St Lawrence in mind? We kept on getting one answer when we asked around from friends and associates... "They are all good". So..with no more specific guidance, we set off..just vowing to try and explore and hope the results were good.

We got to Lander the night before and got our permits for the reservation without incident. The drive to the trailhead was uneventful. We saw several antelope on the drive up. The directions in Wandering Daisy's good were perfect and we wound up starting by noon. We headed up toward
Entigo Pass and crossed without any issues. We felt good. The one challenge we had was that fires in the area, (specifically Montana) made the air smokey and the visibility was poor. This never got any better during the week as you will see from some pictures. This was disappointing. Then problems started. We turned left at the sign for Raft lake and proceeded on a trail that is not on the topo map. (Afterword, we re-read Wandering Daisy's book and there was a warning here. ). We got somewhat lost before figuring out what happened. We wound up camping at Movo Lake the first night, pretty exhausted. There were a couple of huge packer type campsites there. We saw some decent trout in the lake but caught nothing in an hour or so of fishing next day.

The next day we set off up the canyon from Movo Lake. The area is quite beautiful and there are several large lakes in the area. This is one of the unnamed lakes above Movo.

The rest of the day was exhausting. There were tons of downed trees which made travel difficult. In addition, the trail was very hard to follow. We got off the trail several times and even when we were off the "correct" trail, there were always a lot of ducks to "help". In the dense forest, we guessed that we did 300 or so tree crossings. There were tons of mushrooms all around. It almost felt like a rain forest.

I had a new pain at the end of the day that I have not experienced backpacking. The muscles on the front of my hips were sore from lifting over all the downed
trees. Again, re-reading Wandering Daisy's book, she talks about the downed trees. In retrospect, we probably would not have done this lower root from the trailhead. We eventually made it to Sonnicant Lake, which is a beautiful lake.

And now it is time to mention something else....BUGS!!! In the sierras, I usually don't take insect repellent in September. I knew that this was a big snow year in the Winds, so we brought some, but I would say that this was the most insect intensive September I have ever experienced. Mosquitoes were bad....but nothing compared to the black flies. I usually don't have problems with mosquitoes---they are dumb. But these black flies---got under my pants around the socks and under an open shirt and got my lower back. I was eaten alive and the welts were bad...and itchy. I am still itching as write this.

Sonnicant was beautiful though. Another view from where we camped. We sat on this rock and had cocktails and watched in the sun set. (Albeit in the smoke).

With the amount of snow, there were wildflowers everywhere. It definitely had the feeling of July not September.

As for people we met on the trip. We saw no one the first two days, and then met several groups at Sonnicant Lake. Several were thru hikers coming from Kavegah Pass. We met a guy with a dog whose dog had a large number of welts from the black flies. The last four days we saw no one, which surprised us.
We met a guy named Greg from Truckee, hiking solo. It turns out he is a golden trout fisherman from California. He asked for my input on places to go in the Sierras. I gave him a couple of ideas and he was happy and he proceeded to tell us about the best lakes to fish in the area. This is the first person who gave us any specific guidance. There are about 40-50 lakes in the area and were just going to target a couple a couple, almost at random. Based upon Greg's guidance
we changed our plans somewhat.

Here is a nice one we got. An 18 incher. I ate this one and one other. All the rest released.

Most of the trout were indeed cutthroats. Here is a typical one.

Here is a view of Mike playing an 18 inch cut.

Another fine big lake in the area. Heebeecheeche.

Another view of Mike playing a fish. What could be better than this? Snow in the background, a waterfall on the right (not in the picture), beautiful mountain day, playing a large trout? (Although note the smoke in the background).

And last .. my biggest trout.. me with a 22 inch golden or hybrid. I didn't expect to see this in the area.

22 inch golden trout from wind river.jpg

There was only one car in the parking lot when we got to the trailhead. Perhaps the smoke caused people not to come.
We had great weather though the whole time. No rain, no bears. We saw tons of elk and deer sign, and heard elk bellowing, but never saw one.
We saw perhaps 100 antelope driving out. We learned a lot with our second trip to the Winds. Next time we will read Wandering Daisy's book a little more closely on the trails. But had a great time. And if anyone wants any advice on which lakes to fish, just remember .. they are all good!
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Re: Trip Report Wind River Range 9-2-9-9

Postby Dwwd » Mon Sep 11, 2017 8:05 pm

Nice trip report. Did you notice any underwater, bug or plant life to match the stomach contents of the one you ate?
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Re: Trip Report Wind River Range 9-2-9-9

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Sep 12, 2017 8:25 am

I think that last fish is a Yellowstone Cutthroat, which actually looks very much like a Golden. USF&W plant these endangerd fish in the high lakes on the Reservation, about once every 4 years I was told. OK to catch and keep them, as they are doing quite well in the Wind Rivers. That fish looks a lot like the one I caught last year, which was the biggest fish I ever caught.

Too bad about the smoke; I also had smoke problems last year, but it was not as bad as this year. I am surprised the black flies are still active. They usually are gone by mid August. But they peak at a certain stage of snowmelt, so this years high snowpack appears to have delayed the season. The way I deal with black flies is to wear knee high gaiters so they cannot crawl up my pant legs, put rubberbands around my shirt sleeves, wear gloves and headnet and deet. They are actually a non-native gnat that has invaded from Minnasota in the last 15 years or so. Our dog also got totally eaten by black flies at Sonnicant Lake when we were there a few years ago. Black flies tend to prefer some people over others. Although I attract mosquitoes, black flies did not seem to bite me. Bite or not, they are a pain, because they really like to swarm around your face.

Deadfall is pretty extensive on the Reservation "trails". Trails are not maintained, so what is on the map eventually disappears, unless someone makes the effort to put cairns on the deadfall detours. Even then, it takes a great deal of effort to follow the route- pretty much an intense tracking excercise. I assume you went out on the main trail from Sonnicant Lake? Just curious if that trail has been cleared of deadfall. There were about a dozen large deadfall areas when I went out that trail last year. If you went out from Lake Heebeecheeche the trail is in poor shape until you intersect the main trail from Sonnicant Lake. A new packer started clearing deadfall on the trail to Wilson Creek Lakes last year. I was hoping he would also clear the main trail to Sonnicant.
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Re: Trip Report Wind River Range 9-2-9-9

Postby robertseeburger » Wed Sep 13, 2017 7:09 am

A couple of replies

For DWWD...I only opens one trout on the trip ... and it was full of small grubs.. about size 16 or 18. Not much to add.

For Wandering Daisy..

1) Lesson learned on black flies!.. they were worst at Sonnicant Lake for us. There were still some large snow fields right by the outlet of Sonnicant lake, so this makes sense relative to snowmelt and black fly peak.

2) On the trails.. I will add as follows. The trail from Sonnicant to Heebeecheeche was very difficult to follow. But the route was pretty obvious. We got off route in between but had no problem. The route we took was also well-ducked!. On the main trail (directly out from Sonnicant to the trailhead), it was much better than what we called the "low trail"--the one from Movo Lake to Wykee Lake. It was easy to follow, well used, and we never got off trail. However, there were deadfall that were not removed. Your number of a dozen or so seems to make sense. To us, this was very easy after the experience on the lower trail.

3) On the trout.. I wasn't sure what the breed was. I would add that the same thing happened last year. We caught many 7-10 inch brook trout at Cook Lakes, and then I caught one 16 inch trout. The fishing guide indicates that Cook Lakes have brook and lake trout, but not golden. Several people replied with something to the effect of "nice golden" to my post. When I caught this one, I wasn't sure. The tail section with the spots sure looks like a golden. But it does have the characteristic cut marks also. I have never heard of Yellowstone Cuts. Oh well. It is the largest "backpacking mountain trout" I have ever caught!
And released for someone else.

One more haha I forgot in the original post. Mike and I went into a store before the trip and asked about the area and tried to get information on specific lakes.
We got the typical response of "All of them are good", which we expected. We did mention one lake we were considering going to...and the guy's face kind of puckered up and he stuttered a little. No verbal information provided. When we walked out, I asked Mike what his reaction to the mention of the lake and the guys reaction, and Mike said "I think the lake has big trout". I laughed and said that was my reaction as well. This turned out to be the lake where we did indeed catch many large trout. Given Apple's announcement yesterday about new facial recognition in their phones.. I was thinking that in 10 years from now, there will be a "fisherman's liars" app to tell when fisherman are telling the truth or not.
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Re: Trip Report Wind River Range 9-2-9-9

Postby RiseToADry » Sat Sep 16, 2017 8:10 pm

Fantastic Golden/Cutt. It looks like a Golden to me - very little spots mostly on the tail, but I've never seen/caught a Yellowstone Cutty before.
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Re: Trip Report Wind River Range 9-2-9-9

Postby robertseeburger » Sun Sep 17, 2017 8:24 am

After some reading and looking at pictures, I agree with Wandering Daisy. It isn't a golden, but looks like a Yellowstone Cut.
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Re: Trip Report Wind River Range 9-2-9-9

Postby Troutdog 59 » Tue Sep 19, 2017 8:13 am

Fantastic report Robert and some impressive Cutts from an area I have long wished to visit. Heck, I was abut 12 when I first heard of the Winds and Cook Lake and its once fabled lunkers, but I've yet to get there. Reports susch as this and WD's guide book area have stoked my interest. Not sure we will make it there until 2019 as we already have some out of state plans for next year. I have also dealt with black flies in the Rockies and the Rubys and it can change the mood of things. Dang things are persistent!! If I may, you mentioned "most" of the fish were cutts. Do you mind sharing what other species of trout you caught on this trip? No details or locations needed. Just curious what else might be in the area. Again, great post and thanks for sharing the trip.
Last edited by Troutdog 59 on Thu Sep 21, 2017 3:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Trip Report Wind River Range 9-2-9-9

Postby robertseeburger » Tue Sep 19, 2017 3:33 pm

Mostly cuts on the trip.. but definitely caught some brook trout as well, and also a first for me in the high mountains..
Lake trout or perhaps even lake/brook hybrids...
In general brook trout were small, lake trout went 12-15 inches...and cuts ran the gamut, from small to large.
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