Clements Lake and East Basin in the High Uintas, mid-July 2018

Born to Hike

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Joined
Jan 14, 2017
Messages
146
Hi everyone, this is my first ever post on Backcountrypost. :oops: I've enjoyed reading other posts on this site especially the posts of Backpacking trips in high Alpine Wilderness areas, so I thought I should contribute with this trip - it was a good one!
I LOVE BACKPACKING - especially summer trips in High Alpine Wilderness areas. Last year, I took a short trip to the Brown Duck Basin with my son and his group of 16 year old boys and decided to go back this year deeper in the this area and check out the country while fishing along the way.

I had a little mishap the 1st of July with a Motorcycle and gravel road, and was still nursing some road rash, a gumpy knee (swollen Bursis sack) and a small fracture to my right hand (I am not kidding..attached photos to prove it) 0703182259a.jpg0703182300.jpg0703182300b.jpg
An opening come up in my schedule to go Backpacking July 16th through the 21st. I could walk well enough, and knowing your body heals faster and better (if you take care of yourself properly) in the mountains I decided to go for it. It was short notice, so no one else I knew could go except for my 2 loyal dogs. I first had my knee checked out by an orthopedic doctors office that specialized with knees to insure I wasn't doing anything too stupid by going..got the green light from them and hopped in the truck with the dogs and made the 5 hour drive to the Moon Lake trail head on the South slope of the Uintas and headed out on the trail at about 2:30 in the afternoon.

I took along my birthday gift from my wife: a Garmin InReach mini. Very awesome little device! She could follow my exact location, and we communicated constantly with texting using an app and Bluetooth connection on my smartphone via satellite. VERY NICE piece of tech!

The first day of hiking wound up being an 8+ mile hike in to the Brown Duck Lake Basin, arriving first to Brown Duck Lake itself. That evening I was the only person there..
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I continued on to Island Lake.
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Just to clarify: the dog is playing in the water, NOT pooping..
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I quickly chose a spot to camp, pulled out my rod and soon caught a 12" Brooke (sorry no pics of that one). I did not see one mosquito there..the only disappointment at this lake was sharing it with bunch of cows! :rolleyes:

The next day I made my way to Clements Lake to the North. I didn't want to go far that day with a pack (for the sake of my gumpy knee) and chose to go cross country over to Clements, checking out the 2 or 3 smaller upper lakes that drain into Clements Lake.
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Came across this hunters (?) or cowboys (?) camp site with no one being there for some time. Kind of surprising that people would leave full tents in the Wilderness like that..
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This little beauty body of water was at the top of the elevation line before heading down towards Clements. No fish though..
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First upper unnamed "lake"/pond that drains into the South end Clements. No fish. The water level was low enough that it was no longer flowing above ground towards Clements.

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The second unnamed "lake". Again no fish. It was fun going cross country and finding these bodies of water. I just took it easy and enjoyed the day.
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This third and the largest of the unnamed "lakes" showed some promise of fish. I thought I saw some rising to the surface, but they turned out to be tadpoles! No fish here either, but very beautiful country to walk through and explore on the way to Clements.


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I arrived at Clements Lake on the South side. I was ready to stop for a break and have some lunch, but of course I had to try a cast or two first..
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First cast, a 3 or 4 year Brookie. Happy for the prospect of good fishing, I let this one go and had some lunch. This side of the lake is quite shallow, and I could watch the fish swimming around while I rested and ate.

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My pack and the dog's pack. Like a few others on this site, I am OCD with backpacking gear and love to look at what other people use..so here ya go fellow OCDers!

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The dogs waste no time finding shade a chance to nap..

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View of Clements looking from South to North. I could hear a group of Scouts on the North end..oh well..I'll be sharing this lake after all.
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I explored around a bit for a good camp site and came across this smaller lake just West Clements by a hundred yards in the middle of a georgous meadow. Fish in this body of water too!
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I found a nice place to setup camp and began to really relax and be grateful I was there. The weather was perfect, hardly a cloud in the sky and almost too warm during the day. Above is my attempting a photo of the lake at dusk. All I had for photo taking was my smartphone..but I still tried to take that perfect shot, and some more fishing!
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A beautiful fish! Is this a native Golden Trout??

The next morning I woke up learning an interesting lesson: Of all the hiking trips my dogs (at least these two) have been on, they had not yet learned about porcupines, and one had wondered close to our camp early in the next morning to teach them a lesson, apparently..

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My black lab got the worst of it. A great dog, but sometimes a stupid dog..
I very quickly jumped out of bed (yes I was still sleeping), grabbed my handy little knife with pliers and as fast as I could pulled out the quills before they caused serious harm. My dogs were VERY WILLING to let me do this unpleasant task btw!
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The pile of quills..nasty little things - if you touched the sides of them they would even stick to your fingers! They were put in the fire and burned that day.
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After a bit of recuperation, I pulled out my Tankara fly rod and did some fishing. Arctic Greyling!
I found a stream feeding Clements and found about 20 + Greyling marooned in a deeper pool of water about 20' long and 3' deep. I guessed they must have been spawning and became marooned when the stream flow became less and too shallow to swim back out to the lake. I almost felt like I was cheating catching these fish, it was TOO easy!
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A picture showing the marooned Arctic Greyling. A poor shot, but if you look closely you can see them in there..
I wish I had a way to rescue these poor fish and put them back into the lake. This location was about 1/3 mile from the lake.
I caught Greyling in Clements too, all with my fly rod.
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I really enjoyed fishing the South end of the lake. Often I could watch the fish going after my spinners and flys.
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Very therapeutic standing in the water and fishing: I could actually feel the swelling in my knee decrease just standing shin-deep in the water. Like I said before, the weather was perfect..
Thursday I fished, napped and took it very easy at Clements. I DID begin to get bored though and made plans to explore East Basin the next day.
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Friday I packed my day pack and headed out. The pic above is East Basin Pass.
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My smartphone camera does not do justice of the views I had coming off of East Basin Pass towards East Basin. Pictured above is a view of Lambert Meadow to the North, and the ridgeline beyond.
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Lambert Meadow on the right, Ottoson Basin on the left and Dead Horse Pass way off to the North and left of this pic. I could have stayed there and looked at the view of the vastness of the Uintas for a couple of hours, but wanted to put in some miles checking out East Basin.
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After dropping into East Basin I made my way towards Horseshoe Lake. This first little body of water had fish rising to the surface, didn't take the time to fish it though.
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Nice little meadow with hardly a trail, but good size cairns. :)
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I soon turned West off-trail towards Horseshoe Lake, and came across this MASSIVE ant nest!
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I soon was out of the trees skirting the edge of Brown Duck Mountain in open Meadows. I love meadows like these!
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Ice cold spring flowing out underneath these rocks..
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This meadow just kept going. Another view with the top Eastern side end of Brown Duck Mountain in the background.
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South end of Horseshoe Lake.
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Looking West at Horseshoe lake, AND wondering about the change in the weather..
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North end of Horseshoe Lake.
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Just chillin' at Horseshoe Lake. There were NO fish in this lake, at least from my observation. I ate lunch there, waiting to see what the weather might do (it was threatening rain at that time). Fortunately no major storm that day, just a few sprinkles.
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From Horseshoe I headed North cross country to Picture Lake, shown above. I could see why they call it "Picture Lake". Not a bad pic for an amature with just a smartphone eh? There were fish in this lake, but not interested with what I had to offer (spinners, lures). I think my luck would have been better with my fly rod, which I left back at camp.
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After Picture Lake I made my way North to another smaller lake (can't remember the name of it right now). This one seemed empty of fish, but had ducks, deer, and Elk around too. I got the impression that this lake is not visited often by people due to the wildlife I found here and made a quick exit in hopes of not disturbing their little piece of Heaven too much.
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I headed East towards the center of East Basin and soon caught the trail. The middle of this Basin had a good amount of water flowing through it with a handful of larger ponds and small lakes. All of them were full of fish. I wished I had more time to see what I could catch, but this day was turning into a 15 + mile hike, and I was needing to head back to base camp.
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Another view of the Basin looking West at Brown Duck Peak. I definitely could spend a few days in this Basin, and may do so in the future. The only sign of people were tracks of horses and I saw no other signs of people. It would be a good walk in from the nearest trail head (at least 15 miles).
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A few more pics of the center of East Basin..
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I boogied my way back to base camp but had to stop climbing the pass for a few minutes and again enjoy the view. Ostler Peak is in the far background to the left. Again my little phone camera does not do justice..
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The weather again was perfect. That evening returning to Clements was calm and beautiful, and the fish in this lake were starting to boil to the surface. It was Friday evening though, and more people had shown up at the lake (on the North side). The hike into this Lake from the nearest trailhead is 10 miles btw..
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The next morning (Saturday) I made my way back to the Moon Lake Fork trailhead. Here is my attempt at another selfie, multitasking of course..
For some reason the front camera on my phone makes a reverse image of the picture (as you can see from the trail sign).

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The first view of Moon Lake on the way back. The water level this year was very low. The dark dots on the beach are cars from families enjoying the beach on a Saturday afternoon..
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Back at the Truck. It was a five day, 36+ mile trip. Not bad for being injured! It was theraputic and good for the body, mind and soul getting in the mountains while being mindful to not go full bore. Very grateful I made the last-minute decision to go.

For those of you who endured to the end reading this trip report: Clements Lake was the BEST FISHING I have found so far in the Uintas: Brookies, Cutthroat, Arctic Greyling, and I think Goldens all in one Lake. In general during all parts of the day it would take longer to release a fish than catch another one! And they were eager to be caught. All of the trout that I caught were at least 3 years old fish, good sized and fun to catch. Maybe it was the time of year, not sure. But I reeled in over 100 in a couple of days, and actually got a little bored of fishing!
 

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Last edited:

bentley

Member
Joined
Feb 19, 2013
Messages
15
Hi everyone, this is my first ever post on Backcountrypost. :oops: I've enjoyed reading other posts on this site especially the posts of Backpacking trips in high Alpine Wilderness areas, so I thought I should contribute with this trip - it was a good one!
I LOVE BACKPACKING - especially summer trips in High Alpine Wilderness areas. Last year, I took a short trip to the Brown Duck Basin with my son and his group of 16 year old boys and decided to go back this year deeper in the this area and check out the country while fishing along the way.

I had a little mishap the 1st of July with a Motorcycle and gravel road, and was still nursing some road rash, a gumpy knee (swollen Bursis sack) and a small fracture to my right hand (I am not kidding..attached photos to prove it)View attachment 68197View attachment 68199View attachment 68200
An opening come up in my schedule to go Backpacking July 16th through the 21st. I could walk well enough, and knowing your body heals faster and better (if you take care of yourself properly) in the mountains I decided to go for it. It was short notice, so no one else I knew could go except for my 2 loyal dogs. I first had my knee checked out by an orthopedic doctors office that specialized with knees to insure I wasn't doing anything too stupid by going..got the green light from them and hopped in the truck with the dogs and made the 5 hour drive to the Moon Lake trail head on the South slope of the Uintas and headed out on the trail at about 2:30 in the afternoon.

I took along my birthday gift from my wife: a Garmin InReach mini. Very awesome little device! She could follow my exact location, and we communicated constantly with texting using an app and Bluetooth connection on my smartphone via satellite. VERY NICE piece of tech!

The first day of hiking wound up being an 8+ mile hike in to the Brown Duck Lake Basin, arriving first to Brown Duck Lake itself. That evening I was the only person there..View attachment 68201
I continued on to Island Lake. View attachment 68204
Just to clarify: the dog is playing in the water, NOT pooping..
View attachment 68205

I quickly chose a spot to camp, pulled out my rod and soon caught a 12" Brooke (sorry no pics of that one). I did not see one mosquito there..the only disappointment at this lake was sharing it with bunch of cows! :rolleyes:

The next day I made my way to Clements Lake to the North. I didn't want to go far that day with a pack (for the sake of my gumpy knee) and chose to go cross country over to Clements, checking out the 2 or 3 smaller upper lakes that drain into Clements Lake.
View attachment 68210Came across this hunters (?) or cowboys (?) camp site with no one being there for some time. Kind of surprising that people would leave full tents in the Wilderness like that..
View attachment 68211
This little beauty body of water was at the top of the elevation line before heading down towards Clements. No fish though..
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First upper unnamed "lake"/pond that drains into the South end Clements. No fish. The water level was low enough that it was no longer flowing above ground towards Clements.

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The second unnamed "lake". Again no fish. It was fun going cross country and finding these bodies of water. I just took it easy and enjoyed the day.
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This third and the largest of the unnamed "lakes" showed some promise of fish. I thought I saw some rising to the surface, but they turned out to be tadpoles! No fish here either, but very beautiful country to walk through and explore on the way to Clements.


View attachment 68228
I arrived at Clements Lake on the South side. I was ready to stop for a break and have some lunch, but of course I had to try a cast or two first..
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First cast, a 3 or 4 year Brookie. Happy for the prospect of good fishing, I let this one go and had some lunch. This side of the lake is quite shallow, and I could watch the fish swimming around while I rested and ate.

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My pack and the dog's pack. Like a few others on this site, I am OCD with backpacking gear and love to look at what other people use..so here ya go fellow OCDers!

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The dogs waste no time finding shade a chance to nap..

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View of Clements looking from South to North. I could hear a group of Scouts on the North end..oh well..I'll be sharing this lake after all.
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I explored around a bit for a good camp site and came across this smaller lake just West Clements by a hundred yards in the middle of a georgous meadow. Fish in this body of water too!
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I found a nice place to setup camp and began to really relax and be grateful I was there. The weather was perfect, hardly a cloud in the sky and almost too warm during the day. Above is my attempting a photo of the lake at dusk. All I had for photo taking was my smartphone..but I still tried to take that perfect shot, and some more fishing!
View attachment 68244
A beautiful fish! Is this a native Golden Trout??

The next morning I woke up learning an interesting lesson: Of all the hiking trips my dogs (at least these two) have been on, they had not yet learned about porcupines, and one had wondered close to our camp early in the next morning to teach them a lesson, apparently..

View attachment 68246
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My black lab got the worst of it. A great dog, but sometimes a stupid dog..
I very quickly jumped out of bed (yes I was still sleeping), grabbed my handy little knife with pliers and as fast as I could pulled out the quills before they caused serious harm. My dogs were VERY WILLING to let me do this unpleasant task btw!
View attachment 68248
The pile of quills..nasty little things - if you touched the sides of them they would even stick to your fingers! They were put in the fire and burned that day.
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After a bit of recuperation, I pulled out my Tankara fly rod and did some fishing. Arctic Greyling!
I found a stream feeding Clements and found about 20 + Greyling marooned in a deeper pool of water about 20' long and 3' deep. I guessed they must have been spawning and became marooned when the stream flow became less and too shallow to swim back out to the lake. I almost felt like I was cheating catching these fish, it was TOO easy!
View attachment 68239A picture showing the marooned Arctic Greyling. A poor shot, but if you look closely you can see them in there..
I wish I had a way to rescue these poor fish and put them back into the lake. This location was about 1/3 mile from the lake.
I caught Greyling in Clements too, all with my fly rod.
View attachment 68253
I really enjoyed fishing the South end of the lake. Often I could watch the fish going after my spinners and flys.
View attachment 68254
Very therapeutic standing in the water and fishing: I could actually feel the swelling in my knee decrease just standing shin-deep in the water. Like I said before, the weather was perfect..
Thursday I fished, napped and took it very easy at Clements. I DID begin to get bored though and made plans to explore East Basin the next day.
View attachment 68256
Friday I packed my day pack and headed out. The pic above is East Basin Pass.
View attachment 68257
My smartphone camera does not do justice of the views I had coming off of East Basin Pass towards East Basin. Pictured above is a view of Lambert Meadow to the North, and the ridgeline beyond.
View attachment 68260
Lambert Meadow on the right, Ottoson Basin on the left and Dead Horse Pass way off to the North and left of this pic. I could have stayed there and looked at the view of the vastness of the Uintas for a couple of hours, but wanted to put in some miles checking out East Basin.
View attachment 68263
After dropping into East Basin I made my way towards Horseshoe Lake. This first little body of water had fish rising to the surface, didn't take the time to fish it though.
View attachment 68266
Nice little meadow with hardly a trail, but good size cairns. :)
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I soon turned West off-trail towards Horseshoe Lake, and came across this MASSIVE ant nest!
View attachment 68268
View attachment 68273
I soon was out of the trees skirting the edge of Brown Duck Mountain in open Meadows. I love meadows like these!
View attachment 68272
Ice cold spring flowing out underneath these rocks..
View attachment 68276This meadow just kept going. Another view with the top Eastern side end of Brown Duck Mountain in the background.
View attachment 68277
South end of Horseshoe Lake.
View attachment 68294
Looking West at Horseshoe lake, AND wondering about the change in the weather..
View attachment 68281
North end of Horseshoe Lake.
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Just chillin' at Horseshoe Lake. There were NO fish in this lake, at least from my observation. I ate lunch there, waiting to see what the weather might do (it was threatening rain at that time). Fortunately no major storm that day, just a few sprinkles.
View attachment 68297
From Horseshoe I headed North cross country to Picture Lake, shown above. I could see why they call it "Picture Lake". Not a bad pic for an amature with just a smartphone eh? There were fish in this lake, but not interested with what I had to offer (spinners, lures). I think my luck would have been better with my fly rod, which I left back at camp.
View attachment 68304
After Picture Lake I made my way North to another smaller lake (can't remember the name of it right now). This one seemed empty of fish, but had ducks, deer, and Elk around too. I got the impression that this lake is not visited often by people due to the wildlife I found here and made a quick exit in hopes of not disturbing their little piece of Heaven too much.
View attachment 68307
I headed East towards the center of East Basin and soon caught the trail. The middle of this Basin had a good amount of water flowing through it with a handful of larger ponds and small lakes. All of them were full of fish. I wished I had more time to see what I could catch, but this day was turning into a 15 + mile hike, and I was needing to head back to base camp.
View attachment 68309
Another view of the Basin looking West at Brown Duck Peak. I definitely could spend a few days in this Basin, and may do so in the future. The only sign of people were tracks of horses and I saw no other signs of people. It would be a good walk in from the nearest trail head (at least 15 miles).
View attachment 68312
A few more pics of the center of East Basin..
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View attachment 68321
I boogied my way back to base camp but had to stop climbing the pass for a few minutes and again enjoy the view. Ostler Peak is in the far background to the left. Again my little phone camera does not do justice..
View attachment 68323The weather again was perfect. That evening returning to Clements was calm and beautiful, and the fish in this lake were starting to boil to the surface. It was Friday evening though, and more people had shown up at the lake (on the North side). The hike into this Lake from the nearest trailhead is 10 miles btw..
View attachment 68333
The next morning (Saturday) I made my way back to the Moon Lake Fork trailhead. Here is my attempt at another selfie, multitasking of course..
For some reason the front camera on my phone makes a reverse image of the picture (as you can see from the trail sign).

View attachment 68339
The first view of Moon Lake on the way back. The water level this year was very low. The dark dots on the beach are cars from families enjoying the beach on a Saturday afternoon..
View attachment 68341Back at the Truck. It was a five day, 36+ mile trip. Not bad for being injured! It was theraputic and good for the body, mind and soul getting in the mountains while being mindful to not go full bore. Very grateful I made the last-minute decision to go.

For those of you who endured to the end reading this trip report: Clements Lake was the BEST FISHING I have found so far in the Uintas: Brookies, Cutthroat, Arctic Greyling, and I think Goldens all in one Lake. In general during all parts of the day it would take longer to release a fish than catch another one! And they were eager to be caught. All of the trout that I caught were at least 3 years old fish, good sized and fun to catch. Maybe it was the time of year, not sure. But I reeled in over 100 in a couple of days, and actually got a little bored of fishing!
Clements is one of the better fishing lakes in the Uintas as you found out. The fish you pictured is most likely a colorado cutthroat. The DWR doesn't stock very many uinta lakes with this beautiful fish.
 

Miya

Because I am able.
.
Joined
Dec 31, 2017
Messages
1,227
Glad you are healing up and still getting out there!
Loved seeing your catches! Thanks for sharing!
That was A LOT of quills! I would have been freaking out, haha. Hopefully they learned their lesson this time and they won't get...'quilled' again. :)
 

Born to Hike

Member
.
Joined
Jan 14, 2017
Messages
146
Clements is one of the better fishing lakes in the Uintas as you found out. The fish you pictured is most likely a colorado cutthroat. The DWR doesn't stock very many uinta lakes with this beautiful fish.

Ahh good to know: I couldn't imagine Goldens in such an out of the way place.
 

jar155

Member
.
Joined
Jul 11, 2018
Messages
17
Ahh good to know: I couldn't imagine Goldens in such an out of the way place.
I still run into a golden trout here and there in the Uintas. There are a handful of lakes and a couple of small streams that hold them still. Most people don't talk about where, simply because they're rare and people are protective of them.

Excellent trip! I have almost this exact trip planned for next year with my wife. We're going to leave the kids with my parents for a long weekend and head out. Thanks for the pictures.
 

DrNed

The mountains are calling and I must go
.
Joined
Mar 31, 2013
Messages
1,014
Welcome to your first TR!

Loved your photos and report. Hope to see more
soon.
 
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