Mountain Lake Fishing

Little Wind River 2011

The summer of 2011 took Brothers Enroute out of their home state to Wyoming and the Wind River Mountain Range. The plan was to tackle the enormous area of the Little Wind River drainage system below Roberts Mountain and just North of the Great Continental Divide. We accessed this area leaving our trucks at Washakie Park which is accessible out of Lander Wyoming. Our lengthy drive from our homes experienced a few minor setbacks. These included issues with MSRH’s truck, a traffic jam in the middle of nowhere due to a car fire, and a stop at Home Depot for parts to repair MSRH’s truck (Yes, Home Depot). The initial plan was to obtain fishing/trespass permits in Lander upon arrival that first day, but the setbacks put us in town after the stores selling the licenses had closed. Consequently, the first night was passed in Lander instead of at the trailhead in Washakie Park. The local tribe allowed us to stay on their Pow-Wow ground which was a very generous gesture to extend to “trespassers”.

The next morning we awoke early enough to assure the obtaining of licenses as soon as the store opened. It took nearly 1 hour to fill out the necessary information. They were also quite pricey at $70 apiece. Thumper and Pop-Pop were unable to attend this adventure, but a father and son duo joined us in their place (Mr. Botany and Alces). Also, along for this journey was the four-legged fishing friend of Alces (Scuba). We joked as we started that if not for anything else, Scuba would at least assuage the appetite of a bear long enough for us to clear the area. Besides one scare with some type of biting insect, Scuba was a joy to have along.

We began the journey from Washakie Park around 11 am and quickly realized “We’re not in Utah anymore”. Setbacks became a theme for the first part of the trip as within 4 hours of starting the hike we found ourselves already 2 miles off course, and nearly 2,000 feet above where we intended. The amazing size of the Wind River Range rattled us, and the disappearance of a well-groomed trail just before a fork in the path caused us to take a 4 hour detour up the side of a mountain with 50 pound packs. We kept commenting amongst ourselves that it was very strange to be climbing as much as we were. A scenic view atop a ridge apprised us of our error, and we made the corrective actions to get back on route. Blazes, cairns, GPS units, and maps were more closely followed from then on.

Brothers Enroute ready for 50 miles of Wind River fun.

Brothers Enroute ready for 50 miles of Wind River fun.

The Professor, Mr. Soccer, and MSRH admiring an out of place granite peak.

The Professor, Mr. Soccer, and MSRH admiring an out-of-place granite peak.

Vast overview of how wrong of a turn was made. Lower Twin Lake (the destination) can be seen 2 miles off the taken trajectory.

Vast overview of how wrong of a turn was made. Lower Twin Lake (the destination) can be seen 2 miles off the taken trajectory.

As seems to be a theme of most trips, we ended up behind schedule and set up camp for the first night at Lower Twin Lake. This was somewhat of a serendipitous occasion though because the Twin Lakes afforded a pleasant evening with a nice campsite and pan sized fish at seemingly regular intervals while fishing. Another beneficial feature of the used campsite was the large granite shelf to one side of Lower Twin Lake. This made tent and bag packing the next morning very quick and without the usual need for brushing off pine needles and dirt.

First night's campsite at Lower Twin Lake.

First night’s campsite at Lower Twin Lake.

That second morning we started on the trail relatively early as we wanted to arrive at the clusters of larger lakes higher in the drainage system. No time was spent fishing at Raft Lake, but a break was taken overlooking it. This was the point when the group fully realized the distance and relative size of the area to be explored. Upon continuing we found the trail fairly technical and with the altitude it quickly drained the collective energy of the group. A few river crossings slowed things down a bit as well, but the group was prepared with water ready shoes, or some just went barefoot. The frigid water was a stark and welcome contrast to the high temperatures inside the hiking boots of the moment and a few extra minutes were used to bask and bathe. By mid-afternoon, camp was once again ready to be set up and a concealed place near the shore of the upper no name lake was selected. Fishing at the inlet to the lower no name lake was profitable and the group soon had enough fish for the evening meal.

Mr. Soccer, Me, Scuba, and Alces overlooking Raft Lake.

Mr. Soccer, Me, Scuba, and Alces overlooking Raft Lake.

The Professor, Alces, and Photoman Cooling Hot Tired feet at a river crossing.

The Professor, Alces, and Photoman Cooling Hot Tired feet at a river crossing.

Trout supper made to order.

Trout supper made to order.

Later that evening the guitars were unpacked and another session of requests and “If you play it in E I can play the harmonica part”, ensued. Unsurprisingly these sessions end up being some of the most fun the group has during the annual trip. It also lends to some of the more picturesque human moments for the group. Thumper being absent this trip placed a damper on any real talented percussion for the session, but lack of talent doesn’t usually stop Brothers Enroute.

The Professor, Alces, MSRH, Myself, Mr. Soccer, and Photoman all enjoying White Man Fire while singing “Light My Fire”.

The Professor, Alces, MSRH, Myself, Mr. Soccer, and Photoman all enjoying White Man Fire while singing “Light My Fire”.

The next day was not to be a long hike with full packs as we changed our original plans and our next campsite was moved to a nearer lake. Upon arrival at this lake (Wykee Lake) we set up camp for a couple of nights and got down to the business of catching fish. An awesome omen was that MSRH hooked a monster fish that might still be swimming with his lure and an unraveled spool of line. I had never seen a pole act like that on a mountain fish. He assured us that his drag was tight too. We caught quite a few large fish in this lake and the fishing was a blast. Healthy, but hungry lake trout that knew how to fight were the most common caught. Gold and copper lures seemed to be most effective. I had never experienced such fast fishing with such large fish. It truly was laughingly fun. The remainder of that day was mostly spent catching fish that we had heard existed in the Wind River Range. A fish every other cast was common for approximately ten fish per hole. Then you would have to move on to the next hole. Signs of bear were also noticed at this lake and more caution with food storage was practiced for the night.

Mr. Soccer with one of many large Lake Trouts caught at Wykee Lake.

Mr. Soccer with one of many large Lake Trouts caught at Wykee Lake.

The next day the group donned day packs and ventured up the drainage to Lake Polaris. The stream/river between Lake Polaris and Wykee Lake was very entertaining to fish as fingerlings would grab almost whatever fly we threw at them. It has always been an interest of the group to be able to catch any type and size of fish according to what is available. Lake Polaris was fished until enough food had been caught for lunch. This area lacked little for breathtaking scenery and the grandiose nature only caused ones self-worth to retrospectively diminish as more was seen. After lunch the group split to again meet up at Lake Solitude. A really picturesque waterfall was used with our filters to fill the water-packs. Lake Solitude was also fun fishing but not as fast or as with as big of fish as Wykee. The scenery was absolutely breath-taking. After the group reformed, we continued on to see if other lakes could produce fishing fun. Upper and Lower Ice Lakes were both fished, but Upper didn’t seem to have any fish in it at all. Lower Ice Lake was stingy fishing, and not much success was had. I had to put a lure in Darren Lake to see if a Golden Trout might be found, but after a few casts without success and the threat of a setting sun, the attempt for a Golden was given up. As mentioned, the sun was setting and the large distance back to camp needed to be covered before nightfall. Bear signs were plentiful, and the childhood chant of “no bears are out tonight” didn’t really help calm imaginations.

The Professor attempting fly-fishing on a windy day at Lake Polaris.

The Professor attempting fly-fishing on a windy day at Lake Polaris.

Mr. Soccer, MSRH, and I filtering water and enjoying the scenery.

Mr. Soccer, MSRH, and I filtering water and enjoying the scenery.

Mr. Soccer, MSRH, and I boulder fishing at outlet of Lake Solitude.

Mr. Soccer, MSRH, and I boulder fishing at the outlet of Lake Solitude.

Ice Lake seemed to be a fitting name for this glacier fed body of water.

Ice Lake seemed to be a fitting name for this “glacier” fed body of water.

The next morning we packed camp again to start the trek back out of the drainage system. By this time our packs were lighter from food consumption, but no relief was really felt after a few miles. The goal of the group that day was the sandy beach at Raft Lake. This was accomplished and tents were set up right on the beach in an alcove of a rock outcropping. Lake bathing, a little fishing, and much relaxing was done. The next day’s hike out to the truck was to be a long one. During preparations for the nightly fire The Professor and Alces went to the outlet of Raft Lake and fly fished for a while. As is the annoying capability of The Professor, he ended up catching the biggest fish of the trip on a fly rod on the last night. It was large enough to provide meat for whoever wanted it.  It fought for approximately a half hour.   The campfire that night was indeed memorable because of the location, good food, and good music.

The next morning involved packing up and starting the long hike back out to the trailhead. The correct route out that was missed coming in was taken on the way back out. One interesting thing of note was the decreased flow and levels of the streams on the way back out. Most of the runoff had now melted and made its way down the drainage, so the difference in levels was quite noticeable. The correct path out was somewhat sadistic in its path. Instead of maintaining the same level on a hillside, it would dive down into a valley, and then come straight back up to the same level. The previous thought of “easy” six miles out evaporated with the sweat in the warming cool mountain air. However, by mid-day everybody was back at the trucks and ready to start the long drive home. Without any time to really ferment the greatness of this trip, Brothers Enroute already knew this trip would be the gold standard.

I am waiting for the fire to start itself while eating Swedish Fish.

I am waiting for the fire to start itself while eating Swedish Fish.

Fish of the Trip: Rainbow Trout circa 6 lbs. Caught on a fly rod and a hopper.

Fish of the Trip: Rainbow Trout circa 6 lbs. Caught on a fly rod and a hopper.

Brothers Enroute packed up and ready to head back to the trailhead, and civilization.

Brothers Enroute packed up and ready to head back to the trailhead, and civilization.

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Timothy Lakes Basin 2009

Although other backpacking trips had been taken in previous years, this was the first “big year”. It was the first year that all the Brothers, and Brothers-in-Law were present. The group included the following men: Pop-Pop, MSRH, The Professor, Photoman, Mr. Soccer, Thumper, and I. These 7 have seemed to be the mainstays of the group. The relations and the reason for the name of this blog can be understood by the following graphic.

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Nicknames have been adopted because that makes it fun, and I have yet to ask permission if I can post their faces all over my blog.

An important precursor to this first big trip was a trip the previous summer (2008) to the Chain Lakes Basin by The Professor, MSRH, Mr. Soccer, and Pop-Pop. Trial and error was a great educator. Another few trips of education were taken by me and some friends from work to Grandaddy Lake Basin in the summer of 2007 and Bulberry Lakes during the summer of 2008. This education included what to take, how much to take, what is truly needed, how many miles are possible with a heavily loaded pack. The Timothy Lakes Basin trip then became a fine tuning trip and truly enjoyable.

The Uinta Mountain range in Eastern Utah is a common summer destination for Brothersenroute because of the proximity. Timothy Lakes Basin is an area South of King’s Peak and West of Mt Emmons. Snow melts and lakes drain off eventually collecting and running down the Swift Creek drainage. The Swift Creek Trailhead can be accessed out of Mountain Home Utah which is just north of Duchesne Utah. Some people will use the Swift Creek Trail to tackle King’s Peak, South King’s Peak as well as the other peaks in the area. All topographical maps of this area can be accessed from the USGS website with the map locator & downloader feature. Mt. Emmons and Garfield Basin are the two main 7.5 inch topographical maps used for this trip.

We all arrived at the Swift Creek Trailhead around 1:00 p.m. on a Wednesday. It was raining in the typical Utah summer fashion. A light rain was followed by a gully washer for about five minutes, and then it lightened up to a sprinkle before fading out completely about 1 hour later. Our prior years’ education had prepared us for this occurrence, and since the trip was during the first of June, we actually expected precipitation. We donned our lightweight ponchos and let the deluge pass before starting up the trail.

Swift Creek Trailhead upon arrival.

Swift Creek Trailhead upon arrival.

After a short stroll on a flat and maintained path a bridge takes the trail across Swift Creek. Wild raspberries were noticed along the trail near the bridge, and could be a nice little treat before the climb, or just before getting back to the trailhead according to the time of year. After crossing the bridge, the trail starts to climb, and traverses the mountainside with a series of switchbacks. While the ponchos were great for keeping the misty rain out, they also soon created human saunas while climbing with loaded packs. After a while, the trail topped out on the ridgeline which made for much easier travel. Packs were adjusted and clothing changed and situated in order to more effectively regulate body temperatures. The trail at that point traveled for a mile or two along the ridgeline before dropping a short distance to the drainage valley. The trail then quizzically encounters 3 creek crossings within little over a mile. Having studied this trail beforehand, we were ready with “water-shoes” to accomplish this. We were not however prepared for the temperature of the water. Wow! After the creek crossings the trail then climbed again for another half mile before arriving at Deer Lake. This lake is a very picturesque and was in the plans for a longer stop for fishing, but the slow pace caused by the rain and the steepness of the trail only caused this to be a short stop. Small brook trout were seen surfacing, and a few 6-8 inchers were caught before we continued on. It was now getting late in the day, and exhaustion was setting in as the temperatures dropped. Snow drifts and soggy going was now the majority of the trail. Mr. Soccer and I powered on alone ahead of the group and struggled through the wet and snow. White Miller Lake was passed without a thought, and camp was finally set up in the dark South and East of Farmers Lake.

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One of the numerous switchbacks before topping the ridge-line.

Crossing one of the creeks on the way back to the trailhead.

Crossing one of the creeks on the way back to the trailhead.

Thumper, Photoman, Pop-Pop, and The Professor on the Dam of Deer Lake.

Thumper, Photoman, Pop-Pop, and The Professor on the Dam of Deer Lake.

We awoke to 2 inches of snow on Thursday, but most everyone was prepared and few issues arose caused from the snow. The morning was overcast, misty and cold, but The Professor and I woke with the sun (if it could have been seen) to circumnavigate Farmers Lake while fishing. Few fish were caught, mostly with jigs, but it was good to be fishing again at 11,000 feet.   The morning mist then burned off, and shortly thereafter, so did the snow. The rest of the group awoke and prepared breakfast slowly, still recovering from the previous day’s hike. All were ready before noon to get lines in as many lakes as possible, and a counterclockwise loop of Farmer’s Lake Basin was conducted. Five of the six lakes were fished without abundant success, but everyone caught a fish, and most caught several. Due to the early time of the year, it was noticed that the fish were small, and not very well nourished. By 6 that evening the group was back to camp ready for food and the night’s entertainment afforded by the guitars carried in, and a selected thumping stump. Guitars are crucial for Brothersenroute as an effective way to self-entertain between dinner and bed. If needed, the group will take turns carrying the guitars so as to afford this luxury. Mostly though, MSRH and Photoman carry the instruments.

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MSRH with a typical sized cutthroat caught during day 2

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The guitar carriers on the West shore of Farmers Lake.

Day 3 was an adventure into Timothy Lakes Basin. The plan was to hit all of the lakes in the basin in a clockwise path. The day’s hike started around 10 am, and after a short 45-minute hike, Center Timothy Lake accepted our lures, jigs, and flies.   This lake contained both Cutthroat and Brook Trout that could be caught without much difficulty. Once again it wasn’t rapid fishing, but each hole contained a fish hungry enough to be caught. Upper Timothy Lake was then fished along the west shore. The northern side seemed to be the most productive with one hole producing a 12 to 14 inch fish every cast for a short time. The center of this lake was also still covered with ice. The most effective way to catch a fish was to cast the lure on the ice and then reel it back until it fell in the water nearest the ice. It seemed as if the fish were patrolling the ices edge for food. To the North of Upper Timothy we stopped for lunch, which included fresh fish, wheat crackers, and trail mix. It was then trekking above the treeline to the Carrol Lakes. These lakes produced similar results and by this time of the day we were all looking for bigger fish, so not much time was spent at any lake. The scenery with the recent snowfall, and boulder-ridden slopes was sufficient for us to be relishing our time regardless of the fish size. It was turning colder and getting darker, so we quickly hit East Timothy before heading back to camp. We had successfully fished every lake within the upper part of Timothy Lake Basin. Camp offered freezer dried meals and acoustic renditions of The White Stripes, Neil Young, and The Boss. It had been a long day with a lot of ground covered, with a difficult return to the trailhead the following day so bed was unusually early that night.

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Center Timothy Lake with Pop-Pop, Me, Thumper, The Professor and Mr. Soccer.

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A bird found the ice on Upper Timothy as useful as we did.

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Upper Caroll Lake with East Caroll Lake in the background. The snowy ridgeline to Mt. Emmons is also seen.

The 4th day was our hike back out to the trailhead. As we all had long drives back to our respective homes, we started early and travelled relatively quickly. We made it down to the creek crossings faster than we anticipated, but that didn’t make the water any warmer. And is always the case, the trucks and civilization seemed momentarily foreign after the short 4 days absence. It was also a paradigm shift to realize while returning home that the distance traveled on foot for the last 4 days was covered in 40 minutes by vehicle.