Am I wasting my time fishing for Wind River golden trout mid-September?

OldBill

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Aug 18, 2015
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181
A Lander hunter I had a great talk with last year at Dad's Lake said I was wasting my time fishing for goldens in mid-Sept. Based on the last several years of attempts, I can't dispute that! So far I've struck out twice at Wall and last year at Upper Golden and L. Louise (did not try Dennis on way out; sleet and 40mph winds). Granted, it's just been 3-4 hours each time and I haven't hit the "golden hour" of dusk (Dad's exploded with trout then, but no goldens there). Have always used a Jakes Money Clip, fished as deep as possible as many suggest as well as much of inlets/outlets as I could reach. Connector streams are pretty much dry at that time of year.

I've done plenty of research on the publicly "known" GDT waters. F&G are a great help, as are reports online and of course Fly-Fishing the Rocky Mountain Backcountry by Rich Osthoff (though that is 18 yrs old). I'm not mentioning anything here that isn't general knowledge.

While the 20+ mile hikes are fun of themselves, it would be nice to finally see a golden at that time of year. This year I'm in the area 24 days. With acclimation, travel, etc. 9 of those are committed to fishing and backpacking (solo this time so trying to stay out of heavy griz country). Then my girlfriend joins me and I need to do tours of the national parks, area dayhikes and 1 overnight backpack. Hoping for 2 3-4 day adventures, weather and energy allowing. My backpacks are trivial compared to folks here. After 3-4 days, I've had enough, especially solo.

So, recommendations before I hike in another 20+ miles and not catch fish?

1) Same areas, more time?
2) Target smaller waters over larger? (maybe faster turnover/less deep)
3) Go deeper into the Fitz to Bull Lake Creek? Reachable in 2 days from Elkhart.
I know where Flying Monkey is, but folks in town said it's over-rated. Confirmed GDT by F&G though.
4) Hit more popular spots (stocked more?): Titcomb/Mistake, Coon/Poison/Windy, Deep Creek Lakes
5) Attempt death-by-bushwhack to Clear Lake or over Osborn to Faler?
6) Give it up. Go in at ice out or hire a guide!
7) Wouldn't mind trying to reach Elbow L. Made Big Slide from Elkhart in 1 day.
Was told in town a few years back the chances of catching anything were low - too big, deep.

Hope Sublette F&G does another survey. The last I have was published January, 2009.
 

b.stark

Forever Wandering
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Apr 8, 2015
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A friend and I caught out biggest goldens in the winds in September. deep except sunrise and sunset. jakes money clip was the ticket. it was generally slow though. I have never really found fast golden fishing, be it July or september. to be honest if you are on limited time there are a lot more reliable biting fish to catch than goldens, I like catching them but haven't found an obsession for them yet.

Elbow would be doable in 4 days, but I have yet to hear a good report from it. the route over Osborne would be fun, we went up to crescent via the roaring fork years ago and I liked the area.

Titcomb does have goldbows. If you don't like being alone it's a good spot.
 

OldBill

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Aug 18, 2015
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181
Thanks, good to hear they can be be found at that time. I've caught all the other trout up there so the goldens remain elusive and kind of a quest at this point. It was fun just researching all the rumored spots, including Flying Monkey.

I did the same route up Roaring Fork several years back. Long but easy until that last climb to Native. Camped there with a couple of goat hikers. Had to pull out the next day due to stomach issues. Missed the turnoff for Mill Ck up Osborne the next year and a thunderstorm starting building so nixed that hike too.

Yes, I enjoy solo for 3-4 days and have been steadily lengthening it. But, do want to get that golden so maybe it's stay longer in one spot and hit it hard. Bull Fk drainage definitely has them. Solo is great unless it's heavy griz country. Then again, lots of reports from Colorado this year of black bears attacking hikers, even in camp with several other hikes. From what I've read they are blaming it on severe natural food shortage. I keep a clean camp, but ...
 

HomerJ

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Jan 19, 2012
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I got skunked at Wall and Leg lake too. Fished top/middle/deep/very deep at wall with nothing at all. Never saw a single fish. At Leg we could see them, tons of them. Little to huge! Damn'd if we could get one to bite though. Best we could do is get them to follow your lure in staying about 4" behind or come up and look at your fly to drop back down. Buddy and I through everything we had at them and still nothing. It was madding to say the least. Both trips were around the 3rd week of August.

Then last year I caught my first gt!!!! And I (and everyone in my group) caught many of them all day long on multiple days. From what I gathered, the gt are a lot more finicky on feeding. This was around the first week of August. Not sure if that has anything to do with it or not...
 

OldBill

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Aug 18, 2015
Messages
181
Thanks Homer. There's a video of many decent goldens being caught at Wall but it was from July. The lake is huge but I could only see accessing it from 1 side and even there options for shore access are limited.

Sounds like I've got the right lure for it though! Also carry an assortment of scuds, nymphs, terrestrials to fish behind a clear bobber or with a short section of flyline attached. Always can catch something.

Well, maybe this year I'll try again for Bull Lake drainage. Maybe even as far as Flying Monkey. The N. Fk will be too far and heard bear are much more likely there anyway. If time allows maybe finally find Faler as well or see if Surprise has been resurrected. Views along the Middle Fk section of Fremont and Highline are amazing even if no goldens.
 

fastsinkingscud

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Mar 30, 2018
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Never posted here before but I enjoyed the conversation above a lot because I can relate a couple things you mentioned.

I actually caught my very first golden at Wall in July 2015. The goldens were all over the outlet cruising fast and eating all over, but I couldn't fool them. Eventually I tried a copper john on a dead sink and foul-hooked a ~15" fish that had paused to inspect, but apparently not eat, the fly. I only had two hours to fish Wall that afternoon before rejoining friends below, but I now wish that I had stayed. I've gone back to Wall twice since that magical day, for about 5 days fishing in total, and all I've found is relentless wind and zero fish.

I also found it extremely funny that Bill mentioned "death-by-bushwhack" when mentioning Clear Lake. I took my girlfriend on an attempt to Faler last summer and I would advise careful and cautious off trail route-finding to anyone traveling in that drainage. I stupidly got us into a couple of hairy spots in the deadfall below Clear and in the talus/scree below Faler. She was not pleased!!!

I've seen lots of bear sign around Flying Monkey too, which it sounds like you're hinting at. I'm not a professional biologist or anything, but I've got a hunch that some of the scats I've seen up there (mostly pine nuts?) are so big that only a griz could have produced them. My brother and I also fished flying monkey area last summer for three days and saw basically zero fish. It was mid-July and we ran into a guy from Ft Collins I think that was on day 21 of his trip. Pretty wild meeting someone else there and impressive to hear about his journey.
 

Absarokanaut

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Sep 17, 2014
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Nick has a point. Just as coat color is not a factor indicating which species of bear you're pondering neither is scat whatever the size or composition despite the joke about spray and bells.
 
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OldBill

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Aug 18, 2015
Messages
181
Ha! Maybe I should have rephrased "wasting my time in september trying to catch golden trout". Walking 20+miles to not catch fish gets old.

Been lazy about posting a trip report. Mostly because I had the worst weather in the almost 20 years I've been visiting NW Wy. First week was good, but hazy due to the fires. Acclimated, fished the Green and explored a Wind R tributary (thanks Absorkanaut!). Had a 5 day window to get to Flying Monkey before a storm/weather change was predicted. Got to Upper Golden on day 2, surprised a couple of fisherman there on their way out. Said they had no luck and the weather change was moved up. So, tried my luck that evening and started out the next day. Made it to Mary's L and just got set up before the rain hit. Luckily, the next morning it cleared briefly for the hike out.

The next day, the cold rain/snow came and stayed for another week. The day after that my girlfriend arrived. Not the best introduction to the area. I kept saying "There really are mountains behind those clouds". Just zero to low visibility, wet and cold. At least the animals were out and the weather improved enough for a few dayhikes.
IMG_6564_r.JPG
IMG_0242_r.JPG
 

Tetonrick

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Joined
Mar 1, 2020
Messages
6
Hi old bill,

sounds
Like a great trip and smart decision making. Checking in to see if you have heard much about Griz activity in the area you attwmpted
To reach

thx. Rw
 

OldBill

Member
Joined
Aug 18, 2015
Messages
181
It was a great trip. Still haven't caught one, but that doesn't stop me from trying every year. I don't worry too much about griz but pay very close attention the further north I go, especially on the Eastern side of the range. The further north, the better the chance. There are confirmed griz sightings as far south as Lander.

Best info on griz is the distribution maps in:

https://wgfd.wyo.gov/Wildlife-in-Wyoming/More-Wildlife/Large-Carnivore/Grizzly-Bear-Management

Old trail reports saying to only be concerned about griz in the northern part of the range are no longer accurate. There are more of them up there, but they are everywhere now. I wouldn't go solo in the Absarokas but have no issue with the Winds myself.
 
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