Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Into the Winds



Bucket List

As the twenty four inch brown trout of my dreams descended into the depths of the river whence it came, it marked the end of one part of our journey and the beginning of another. My brother and I stopped at the nearest lake for a quick swim (shower), then raced a few hours to the nearest airport to greet my sister in law, Stacy, and my girl, Katie. Week two brought us further west and into the Wind River Range for four days of backpacking and fly fishing several high altitude lakes. Of all the things we planned to do on the trip, this was the one I was most looking forward to and it did not disappoint. It was truly bucket list material...




My brother and I had just spent 8 days sleeping in a tent, cooking Ramen noodles over an ultralight stove every evening, and sharing the same spoon. Our quick jump in a lake was the first time either of us had bathed. Heck, I wore the same clothes for the entire week of fishing. Thankfully, our little backpacking trip was a little more planned and the girls had brought a suitcase full of MRE's and other assorted meals.


We spent the entirety of day one hiking to our destination, a chain of lakes at around 11,000 ft. in elevation. The altitude and steep topographical changes kicked our butts but we pushed on. Alpine trout and beautiful scenery fueled the hike as we slowly got closer and closer.





A mule deer photo bomb



As we ascended in altitude, the mountains started to show their true character. Storms came in very quickly turning a relatively warm, nice day into a cold, rainy, and windy slog. 



A few quick casts before nightfall...


A quick fill of the Nalgene in the morning light...

We loved our little nook so much, we decided to spend the entire next day fishing the chain of lakes tucked into a cathedral of mountain tops. We awoke to clear sunny skies with little to no wind. Perfect conditions for sight fishing cutthroat and brook trout along the banks of the lakes. 



Matt consulting his only fly box for the trip...





The fishing was out of this world. Equal parts fun and way too easy, fish were caught on almost every cast using any fly or method you wanted. They were small and beautiful, reflecting each little brook, pond, and lake that they came from. 




Gorgeous


Learning the nuances of fly fishing...


Sneaking up some some skinny water trout...



After an hour of fishing, the weather took a turn for the worse. First the winds picked up...a lot. Twice, gusts of wind blew the hat off my head and there were a few times I was almost knocked over while perched atop a boulder. The lakes produced white caps and sight fishing became an afterthought. My dream of sight casting to a large trout cruising along the shoreline was replaced by blind casting a 4wt. into sixty mile per hour winds. 





It didn't take long before the clouds started rolling in. The first few brought cold rain showers that made us retreat back to camp for the appropriate rain gear. As we made our way back up the mountain, the temperature began to drop turning the rain into driving sleet. In one particular maelstrom of wind, sleet, and hail we took shelter in the large granite boulder fields for half an hour as the ice accumulated at our feet. 




The weather reminded me of one of my favorite Seinfeld episodes when George, the "marine biologist," describes his encounter with a giant whale in the surf. The mountain was angry that day my friends, like an old man trying to send soup back at the deli. It kicked our ass and humbled our feeble clothing selection. It got downright cold and we almost turned back...



First few days of August...




Thankfully, we did not. Despite the cold and wet conditions, we moved on, hiking farther up the mountainside seeking the last lake in the chain. The scene was beautiful and one I won't soon forget. The lake was deep, gin clear, and the water was a glacial blue color. Flanked on all sides by towering cliffs, it was a little slice of heaven along way from the car. 







We all looked forward to the hike back because we were cold, tired, and wet. The hike would warm  us up significantly as would creating a new campsite that could withstand the elements and keep us warm throughout the night.


Drying socks and keeping warm...






Our third morning brought a beautiful day, one that would have made the previous one a little more enjoyable. Shortly after we began our descent, the fly rods were unpacked and we fished a lake we bypassed on our way up. Randomly stopping to fish would become a common theme throughout our day and a half hike out...












Our first park, produced a lovely meadow stream that meandered through a wide open meadow complete with deer, mosquitos, and plenty of trout. 



Skeeters...


An amazing scene...




Lulls in the hike produced some memorable views...



Death by a thousand tiny trout...


Katie's "water break".



All in all, our first high altitude trout adventure produced an experience we won't soon forget. All four of us are looking forward to future trips, longer hikes, and bigger trout. The Wind River Range is a seemingly endless playground that beckons to be explored and is accessible to all those that are willing and able, especially those carrying the long rod. 


5 comments:

RM Lytle said...

Those are some pretty big flies for some pretty small trout! Is that a cork head mouse in that brookies mouth?!?! What an awesome adventure.

Mark said...

No corked head mice, but the smallest streamers I had for the trip. Thanks RM.

Douglas Kretzmann said...

magnificent, thank you.. enjoyed the report.

There is a Game&Fish office in Pinedale - stop in there next time, and chat to the guys. I did that on one Winds trip, got an 18" brookie and 21" cutt as a result of information received.. also some 14-15" grayling. It was one of the five best fishing trips of my life, but that was many years ago I fear.

Austin Orr (Salt396) said...

I too was up in the Winds when that nasty bit of weather rolled through. She got a little sketchy there for a bit, haha. The trees around the lake we were camped near were creaking and snapping all around us. A fantastic trip that I will definitely have to repeat soon; thanks for sharing! Looks like you had the very best stories to tell when you got back home.

Mark said...

That is awesome Austin!