Wind River Range BIG Cutthroat on Dry Flies

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flyfisher8
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Wind River Range BIG Cutthroat on Dry Flies

Post by flyfisher8 » Mon May 29, 2017 9:41 pm

Wind river range Sept 1 - 11 2016 Days 1- 5
Nothing in fishing excites me as much as sight fishing mountain lakes with dry flies and the for the last 3 summers the Wind river range has been my go to place. This trip was planned as a 10 day shuttle trip from Meadow Lake TH to Boulder lake TH on the west side of the Winds out of PInedale WY. Ultimately our goal was to cross the continental divide cross country over Fall Creek Pass into the drainage of the Middle Fork of Bull Lake Creek at the Golden Lakes and then follow the creek drainage down to Sassafras Lake , Marked Tree lake (now entering the Wind River Indian Reservation (WRIR) to Alpine Lake where I hoped the Big Ones resided! We would also be with in striking distance of the fabled home of the Big Golden trout - mysteriously known as Flying Monkey Lake. With luck we could find them all!
At this time I would like to credit Wandering Daisy's fantastic book for both getting us into this off trail adventure, but more importantly for getting us out!
Our route took us into the Bridger Wilderness via the Timico Lake trail. Arriving mid afternoon after meeting with friends at the Wind River Brewing Company for lunch, we began the hike under threatening skies with thunder and lightening and smatterings of rain. Kind of par for the course for Wyoming even in late summer and we hiked until dusk - not the usual plan but the short days of Sept caught us.
Dawn brought clear skies and wind - the wind would be our constant companion for the next week plus! On to TImico lake thru forest and golden meadow grasses. A good trail led us this beautiful lake but the trail ended here.
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Day 3 - My first Wind river Cross country experience and it was really a matter of rocks and grasses and Wind (at our backs - for now) By mid morning we had crossed the divide, had seen Angel Pass (just N of Fall Creek Pass) and began our descent ultimately to Alpine Lake on the WRIR. Down the boulder field to Dennis Lake then connecting with the Hay Pass trail and overlooking the Golden Lakes. A more remote and awe inspiring mountain lake valley is hard for me to imagine!
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The trail switchbacked down to the Golden Lake but here we left the established trail and followed use trails east thru the forest to camp where we could look down the valley of the Middle fork Bull Lake Creek all the way to Alpine Lake. This is where the trail really ends and elk paths become your way of least resistance.
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Day 4 Morning began with a group meeting - we were leaving the trail heading into the unknown in to the wilderness. Did we want to turn back? Unanimously we chose to push forward! And soon bogged down in forest, rock piles. dead fall and boggy meadows and willow swamps. It took half a day to reach the inlet to Marked Tree Lake. I was not opposed to camping - the lake was purported to have nice cutts and it did , but I wll always remember it for this rainbow... and the puddle that formed in our tent that night and when I cut my foot ...
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Day 5 We are moving slowly. Contigency days ie fishing days are being used up and this day took the cake. The Alpine Fire of 2012 devastated about 50 K acres of land and forest and we were now headed into it. Now we crawled. To round Marked tree lake we chose to climb over a prominent point 600 odd feet high . Upon cresting the ridge we were met with the fires scars of deadfall and charcoal and grass. Except for a short section of green forest at the outlet of Marked tree lake we worked our way down the creek valley toward Alpine Lake in our personal Mordor. At least we were not lost. 5 hours and we covered 2 miles but we made it to the lake and found the prime campsite unburned and we were the only people on the face of the earth... More to come...
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Re: Wind River Range BIG Cutthroat on Dry Flies Days 5-9

Post by flyfisher8 » Tue May 30, 2017 8:00 pm

Day 5 - Much if not most of the lake shore areas were burned in the 2012 Alpine fire yet somehow the area retained a definite charm though I wish I could have seen it before it burned. I found a shore somewhat protected from the brunt of the wind with some chop but the golden/cutthroat hybrids were cruising and rising this sunny afternoon and all the work was worth it. But that fishing was all I was to get. Another group powwow and it was decided that since it took parts of 5 days to get here and we were taking a different looping path back, all agreed to get up early the next morning and start moving west above the Bull Lake Creek drainage, hundreds of feet above the lakes to the north. That evening we were serenaded by the bugling of several bull elk - with calls coming from all around us.
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Day 6 - Use- trails reportedly existed from Alpine lake either up Bull Lake Creek to the 4 lakes with their golden trout or up onto the North ridge that we hoped to follow to the Brown Cliffs region. However all trails were obliterated by the fire and this greatly slowed us - again. Only after we happily reentered green forest did we find 'old Indian trails' aided by the occasional blaze cut into a tree. As we climbed higher we encountered snow from the storm 2 nights before.
Paradoxically, as the forest opened up in the country east of the Brown Cliffs, we lost the faint path in the meadows and had our most difficult time of the trip. I will not admit being lost, but we sure did not quite know where we were! Only after spying the largest of the Bull Lake Creek lakes far below could we correct our path and find 'Little half-fish' lake - our destination for the night. Though surrounded by magnificent craggy mountain scenery, we had our most uncomfortable camp - exposed to constant cold winds. That night I was awakened by ice crystals hitting the tent but no accumulation occurred.

Day 7 - East of Brown Cliffs to Douglas Lakes to Upper Golden Lakes via Camp Pass
A clear cold morning - good hiking weather to look for use trails and ultimately the delapidated bridge that crosses SnowbridgeCreek. All found! Then the trail was gone and it was time for micro-route finding all the while maintaining a south westerly bearing. At the base of a rocky outcropping/hill we made the correct decision to cross a pile of dead fall to swing west then south around the hill and the welcome call of "Trail!" was heard. Soon we were at the beautiful Douglas Lakes with Douglas Peak looming above us. Travel was becoming much more straight forward and after crossing the outlet of turquoise colored Camp Lake we found a real trail! We saw people again later that morning - a group of climbers high on the southern flanks of Douglas Peak and above Lake 10787- our first company? since day 2. We arrived at Upper Golden Lake in time for lunch and settled in enjoy the beauty of the mountain valley. Only one small golden rose to my dry fly but I missed it on the strike.

Days 8 and 9 - Our hike up and over Hay Pass felt wonderful with wide open spaces and blue bird skies. Eventually camped at Lake Victor. Coldest night of the trip well into the 20's with all water bottles frozen and a 10 ft wide shelf of ice rimming the lake. Stopped at the big pool of North Fork Lake near the trail and found the residents cruising for terrestrials. Finished the bail out hike to BoulderLake TH late in the afternoon led by the carrot of dinner and a cold one in Pinedale.

More pics to be posted on a seperate page. Thanks for reading.
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Re: Wind River Range BIG Cutthroat on Dry Flies

Post by ERIC » Tue May 30, 2017 8:05 pm

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Re: Wind River Range BIG Cutthroat on Dry Flies addendum

Post by flyfisher8 » Tue May 30, 2017 8:36 pm

additional pictures:
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Re: Wind River Range BIG Cutthroat on Dry Flies

Post by Wandering Daisy » Tue Jun 06, 2017 7:42 am

You were brave to go into the Alpine Lake fire zone! I went over Windy Gap last summer, about 2 weeks before you did your trip, and had to drop through the fire zone for about a mile. Charred tree trunks are still standing but any trails have been wiped out. That area is tough travel (even before the fire). Most trails are not maintained on the Wind RIver Indian Reservation, resulting in a pretty wild wilderness experience compared to the Sierra. Glad you had a good trip. Hay Pass really does have a fine view.

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Re: Wind River Range BIG Cutthroat on Dry Flies

Post by Wandering Daisy » Tue Jun 06, 2017 7:43 am

By the way, did you need a 4wd to get to the Meadow Lake trailhead? It used to be a bad road.

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Re: Wind River Range BIG Cutthroat on Dry Flies

Post by flyfisher8 » Tue Jun 06, 2017 7:56 am

Our approach to the Meadow lake trail was on a clear dry day so road was dusty and rocky. My high clearance vehicle was nice but did not need to shift to 4WD. Am headed over Windy Gap late august. Very excited! Looks like a beautiful area!

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