Forth attempt at the illusive golden trout.
As some of you already know, my fearless companions and I found the lake referred to in Rich Osthoff's books last year. It was the prizes at the end of my three year hunt for the lake along with finally catching a Golden trout. Our first trip was a the lower section of the Wind River range to a lake mentioned briefly in his book and that attempt didn't pan out as we had hoped. Being most likely the closest lake, from any trailhead with Golden trout; we only saw small fry in the lake. After years of chasing and reading anything I could get my hands on, I later found out why we only saw the fry and nothing larger. Golden trout stay deep in the summer and are very spooky, so early in the their spring is essential to increasing your luck in catching a golden, let alone a big one. They can be caught later in the year if you find a lake over run with them, as we did last year at Dream's end (a name I gave to the lake where we finally caught them). The second attempt was thwarted by altitude sickness that we weren't willing to risk getting worse and on our third we hit pay dirt; sorry, I had to keep the Gold fever clichés going! The third attempt is chronicled here: http://packslinger.blogspot.com/2014/08/wyomings-wind-river-range-golden-trout.html.
Although we only caught small golden trout last year, we knew we had to return for another try, with only a week of vacation to use we looked into using Ace in the hole outfitters to get a to the divide, it saved us two days on our feet and after a few miles on a horse you appreciate why we used them before the invention of the car; fifteen miles only took us about a third of the time it would have taken us by foot. After "Ace", dropped us at our destination. He mentioned a horse back trip that would get us to within five or six miles of big Golden trout. After our forty plus miles on foot last year, that sounded like a pretty good deal, so we booked him for the first trip of the year, we had already proved we could find the fish and we will return to try the other lakes again, but we loved the idea of a guided trip without a heavy pack and sore feet! This is the story:
Oh, I remember it like it was last year, okay, so it was last year! A few days after returning from last years trip, my buddy Greg called and mentioned that he had spoke with another friend that works for a local television station and they had set up a trip to chase larger Goldens. Now, even though my feet and ankles still throbbed from the beating they had just received I agreed to go again. So the plan was set, My son, Greg, his two boys, and his TV buddy and a producer were set to go. The costs were low and we just had to wait for next July to roll back around.
A few weeks before our scheduled departure there was a problem and our TV buddy wasn't going to be able to come, Greg and I were not deterred, even after his sons were no longer available to go. So, now we were whittled down to three, if not us, then who was going to catch them golden trout! We arrived in Pinedale, Wyoming a little earlier than our outfitter had planned so we fished the Green for a few hours before grabbing dinner and a hotel until the next morning.
We meet them at 8 am in Pinedale for the long drive to the trailhead; once there we piled our gear on to some canvas tarps, as the outfitter loaded the bags, before saddling the horses and mules. There was only six of us now, and luckily Ace was able to accommodate the last minute change in participants. Once the gear was loaded we mounted the horses and hit the trail; fifteen miles later we made it to base camp.
If you have never spent time in the backcountry during long periods of rain, you may not understand how great it was having a tarp set up for a dry place to hang out. We would have been miserable the entire time without the shelter it provided.
Once camp was set up, our cook went straight to work on feeding us, the only thing we had to do was set up our own tents and sleeping gear. "Cookie" as we referred to him for the rest of the trip was quite the riot and even put up with the constant "better not be any beans in my stew, cookie" jokes. Even Ace and later "Hatchet" (the horse wrangler), started in on him with the same joke, except stew would be changed to eggs, pancakes, tri tip and what ever else he was making! After all of the times I have been in the backcountry and had to carry my own gear, it was nice just to bring my sleeping bag and fishing gear. No sore feet, back, and hips this trip! Our meals over the next five days included Tri tip beef, Pork loin, a wonderful pasta dish I can't remember the name of, and large stuffed 1/2 pound burgers the first night. Each day, including our ride in, they had roast turkey, beef, and/or ham sandwiches on artisan bread for us for lunch. The Breakfast included pancakes, bacon, sausage, and even eggs benedict, one morning! I never thought I would eat that well in the backcountry!
The next morning, we were up early and after breakfast we rode a few miles until the trail became too steep for the horses and day hiked to the first lake. Once there we snuck up on the outlet and saw many large Goldens and a few monsters. Below are a few pictures, I didn't bring a polarized lens with me but the water was clear enough to see them through the camera lens.
We threw everything we had at them, nymphs, dries, and streamers! Nothing, would bring them to the surface except a small microscopic bug on the surface. Every time we tried to get close the fish would spook and we would have to wait for them to settle down again.
Greg managed to hook a couple monsters but they threw the hook every time! It was about four in the afternoon when the rain started, followed by hail, and then rain again. We didn't see full sun again until we made it to the truck Friday afternoon. After the first storm hit we headed back to camp for the aforementioned burgers! Cookie sure can cook and the breakfast the next morning was just as awesome as the burgers! After breakfast, we headed to a different area, a little farther down the trail to try an inlet. Soon after arriving I caught this one, nicer than the 8'' last year!
As you can see we caught them on glow bugs, the same glow bugs I was catching monster browns on the green river near Flaming Gorge last year!
We experimented with other patterns, including big terrestrials, but glow bugs worked the best for the fish I caught.
Farther up the inlet we caught more, all around the same size. Occasionally, a monster could be seen muscling it's way in between the smaller ones. My son doesn't have a lot of patience, he gets that from me, so teaching him to fish has always been a struggle. Luckily, Ace does, and he had my son on fish rather quickly. While Ace was helping my boy, I decided I wanted to catch a fight on camera, so I just walked back and forth as everyone was fishing, waiting for the next one. As I was wandering around, my son started screaming and I ran over to see him fighting a large golden. I set the camera down, knowing immediately that the fish was the biggest Golden I had seen and we had to land it. Coltin brought it to shore and as I reached to land, it ran again and snapped the leader. What a fish to lose, we both marveled at how big the fish was and he went back to throwing in hopes of catching another. Greg started fishing above Coltin and about every twenty casts, laying dang nearly on his belly, he would hook one. I wasn't ready for the first couple, so I just sat down on shore behind a boulder and waited. The light wasn't great, due to the intermittent rain, so I had to bump up my camera's ISO to 320 to get a reasonable shutter speed to catch the fight. After a few attempts I finally shot this series, thankfully my camera can do 12 frames per second!
The last one of the day looked spawned out, we guessed it was most likely it's last dance!
We checked out a couple other lakes during the three days we had to fish and caught plenty of Brook trout, nothing of any real size, but fun. If you are looking for a trip with a chance of big golden trout, Ace in the hole outfitters offers a great trip, however, he only does a couple due to the short time span you will find golden trout in the inlets and outlets. His website is currently under construction, but you call him at (307) 413-7748.