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Old 03-04-2014, 07:57 PM
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Default more pics of the Winds - going bust for goldens at Elbow

In July 2012, I took an eight day trek through the Winds in search of golden trout. The golden lakes were dead but I had nice camping and fishing at several brook trout and cutthroat lakes. I hiked out of Elkhart Park destined for Elbow Lake, a well known trophy golden trout hot spot. The goldens were there but were down deep seeking refuge from the very dry and hot summer. There were three gentlemen that had been drop-tripped in with their luxurious float tubes. They had been there for the entire week and had only a handful of random hook ups. One dude even had a fish-finder on his boat and said he could see huge pods of fish gathered together about 20-40 feet deep. I spent two full, uninterrupted days on the lake and the only thing I saw were a few random rises hundreds of feet away from shore. I prospected from shore as deep as I could with wooly worms, buggers, scuds, and other nymphs and never felt a bite. Elbow had the most prolific hatches of insects I've ever seen in the backcountry. During the day, it was mayflies and the evening brought cream-colored caddis that absolutely blanketed the water..........but no rises......what a shame. I regret not getting a photo of the bugs at Elbow. It was most impressive!!

After giving up at Elbow, I broke out the maps and decided to go check out the Sauerkraut Lakes which are at the terminus of a dead end trail about five miles away from Elbow. Trails that dead end don't have a lot of visitors, and I hate crowds, so this area appealed to me. Plus there was a possible trophy golden lake nearby that I could check out. I got to the Sauerkrauts and made camp at the outlet of the upper lake. The Sauerkrauts were just absolutely loaded with small Yellowstone cuttys. A MEAT ANGLER'S PARADISE!!!! When the weather was calm it was dry fly heaven. When the rain and wind picked up, I just stripped a soft-hackle wooly worm subsurface to get action. Backcountry waters stuffed with small trout like this need the harvest. I did my part and enjoyed two or three fish each evening around the campfire. The fish allowed me to ration my food and I stayed in the bush longer than I had planned for.

I took two day hikes to explore the many lakes to the south of the Sauerkrauts. Lake "W-3" was the main attraction. In his book, Osthoff said he had caught fat goldens there, but I found zero evidence of fish in my day long session on the lake. On my last day in the area, I found surprisingly awesome brook trout at an unnamed lake south of W-3. In a brief afternoon visit, I caught four super-fat brook trout in the 13-15" range (that's big for backcountry brookies in the Rocky Mtns!!). There are a number of unnamed lakes in this area that are worth checking out. You have to bushwhack to access them, but I doubt they see more than a handful of human visitors each year. I didn't find this lake til the end of a long trip, and I was ready to get back to my wife and civilization, so I didn't fully explore the area.

And as usual, my camera battery went kaput about two-thirds of the way through the trip so I missed pictures of those awesome brookies south of W-3. And of course I caught my best cutthroat at the Sauerkrauts after the battery died. It was a skinny fourteen incher that I released. And the 22-23 mile hike out was a rain soaked march. It would've been nice to have pictures of the muddiest trail conditions I've ever experienced. I do have some other regrets for this trip. I struck out for goldens at Elbow Lake, but Upper Elbow has smaller goldens that I probably would've caught. But I never fished it. Since the Sauerkrauts were spitting out all-u-can eat cutthroats, I could've rationed my food longer and more fully explored the brook trout lakes to the south. I caught trophy-backcountry brookies yet I still walked away without capitalizing on it better.

I would totally recommend this trip to others. If you hit Elbow Lake right (try early summer or early Fall), a trophy golden trout is very possible. If you do strike a big golden at Elbow, PLEASE RELEASE!!! And that brook trout lake south of W-3 is enough for me to consider a return trip. The Sauerkrauts are an amazing place to fish and camp. Few folks make the effort to get there yet they are very easy to access. There are tons of trout to put on the campfire and the area is dotted with excellent campsites galore.



Photographer's Point on the trail out of Elkhart Park
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Night #1 was spent at an unnamed brook trout lake. It's not raining, those are rises.
I caught 12-13 pretty, little brookies in an hour.
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The famous Fremont Crossing
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Fishing at Elbow and covering up from the skeeters. In two days at Elbow, I caught nothing....bummer.
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My home at Upper Sauerkraut
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I caught some weather at the Sauerkrauts. You can see my net blowing in the fierce winds.
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The fishing was sublime for small Yellowstone Cuttrhoats at the two Sauerkraut Lakes.
Pretty sure I went over the 100 mark.

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I enjoyed trout for dinner each evening at the Sauerkrauts. Hot sauce, lemon juice, oil oil, and soy sauce.
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Saturday Night Fever at Upper Sauerkraut
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striking out for goldens at Lake "W-3"
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Old 03-04-2014, 08:09 PM
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Default Re: more pics of the Winds - going bust for goldens at Elbow

Words cant describe, other than how awesome.... 8 days of solitude and mother nature WOW
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Old 03-04-2014, 08:39 PM
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Default Re: more pics of the Winds - going bust for goldens at Elbow

Countr21: Great trip report and photos!

I did a horseback trip into Sauerkraut lakes a couple years ago, what an awesome trip. The fishing was unbelievable, all with dry flies as we didn't have any wx or wind to speak of. On the second day we did a side trip over to Elbow lake trying to see if we could hook into a Golden, but our experience was the same as yours. We didn't see a single fish.

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Old 03-04-2014, 09:07 PM
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Default Re: more pics of the Winds - going bust for goldens at Elbow

Those are sort of Colorado-ey looking cutthroats from Sauerkraut. I don't know if WGFD has stocked Yellowstones there in the past (very, very possible). I also don't know if Sauerkraut has native fish. Based on the elevation and connectivity to the Green River draining, it's possible, but certainly not guaranteed.

Just interesting that they look more like CRCTs than YCTs. If anything, it proves that it can be hard to tell them apart by looks alone.
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Old 03-05-2014, 02:02 AM
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Default Re: more pics of the Winds - going bust for goldens at Elbow

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Originally Posted by Poke 'Em View Post
Those are sort of Colorado-ey looking cutthroats from Sauerkraut. I don't know if WGFD has stocked Yellowstones there in the past (very, very possible). I also don't know if Sauerkraut has native fish. Based on the elevation and connectivity to the Green River draining, it's possible, but certainly not guaranteed.

Just interesting that they look more like CRCTs than YCTs. If anything, it proves that it can be hard to tell them apart by looks alone.
I'm pretty sure these are Yellowstones, probably descendants of stockings made by Finis Mitchell. There were only a handful of lakes in the range that held native fish before man intervened. Finis Mitchell stocked hundreds of high lakes in the Winds during the 1930s and 1940s to benefit his own outfitting and guide trips. Wyo G&F gave him the fingerling trout for free and he packed them up into the lakes in big milk cans covered with burlap. The pack mules were made to keep moving to keep the water oxygenated. They stopped at stream crossings to replenish the water that had splashed out of the can.

For anyone who wanders the Winds often, Finis Mitchell's little book Wind River Trails written in the 70's is fantastic reading. Finis Mitchell spent more time in the Winds than probably anyone else in the world, ever. And he is directly responsible for almost all of the fish in the high lakes of the Wind River Range. IMO the guy should have a statue in Pinedale and/or Lander.
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Old 03-05-2014, 08:55 AM
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Default Re: more pics of the Winds - going bust for goldens at Elbow

You are living the dream dude! Again, terrific report and pic's.

Any bear sightings during your time in the Winds?
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Old 03-05-2014, 08:59 PM
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Default Re: more pics of the Winds - going bust for goldens at Elbow

Quote:
Originally Posted by Poke 'Em View Post
Those are sort of Colorado-ey looking cutthroats from Sauerkraut. I don't know if WGFD has stocked Yellowstones there in the past (very, very possible). I also don't know if Sauerkraut has native fish. Based on the elevation and connectivity to the Green River draining, it's possible, but certainly not guaranteed.

Just interesting that they look more like CRCTs than YCTs. If anything, it proves that it can be hard to tell them apart by looks alone.
Poke 'Em: I'm not sure either, but an interesting point, when I showed my photos of the cutts I had caught from Sauerkraut (when I was working on my Wyoming Cutt Slam), the fish biologist told me that none of those fish count as they are all stockers. For the Wyoming Cutt Slam the fish have to be caught in their native drainage. I had photos of Snake river Cutts that I had caught on the Bighorn, the Green and the New Fork, none of those counted, so I had to catch one from a drainage on the Snake river.

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Old 03-06-2014, 05:05 AM
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Default Re: more pics of the Winds - going bust for goldens at Elbow

Finis Mitchell

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Old 03-06-2014, 07:07 PM
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Default Re: more pics of the Winds - going bust for goldens at Elbow

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Originally Posted by stenacron View Post
Any bear sightings during your time in the Winds?
I've only had four encounters with bears in the backcountry that were "up close and personal," or within charging range. Only once in the Winds, and I've never seen a Grizzly (thank goodness).

(1) While backpacking a small part of the Appalachian Trail in North Georgia when I was a teenager, I unzipped my tent to crawl out for the morning and scared the heck out of a tiny, little bear. He took off running down a muddy, leaf covered slope and the poor thing fell and tumbled all the way down with arms and legs sprawling all about.

(2) In about 1996, I once saw a truck do a stocking of 10" rainbows on a remote lake in the Rawahs that you can access by a rough road (so not really the backcountry). I returned the next day with a friend so he could hopefully bag some little stockers. We found the sandy shore of the lake littered with dead, little rainbows that didn't survive the shock of being transferred to the new water. As my friend casted, a tall, yet skinny bear emerged from the timber about 200 yards away. He (or she) walked up to each dead fish, and very nimbly held the fish down with its huge claws and carefully ripped out the side filet and left the head and skeleton. It slowly walked down the lake shore, fileting each fish. I was in awe how the big animal did such delicate work with such large claws and fangs. But it was now approaching our position (we were sitting quiet and motionless to watch the show), and it was starting to become uncomfortable. I had a .22 rifle with me, and I now (shamefully) chambered a round. Looking back on this I obviously feel incredibly stupid - WTH is a 22 going to do to a bear? Probably just **** it off!!! When the animal was within twenty yards or so, we both stood up, and the bear now spotted us. It freaked out and darted into the woods. My friend returned to his casting.

(3) Summer of 2010 or 2011, I was one mile from the Box Canyon trailhead on a return hike from deep inside the Lake Plateau in the Beartooths of Montana. It was the last mile of about a 15-16 mile hike, and I was beat. I rounded a bend on the very wide trail, and looked up to see movement about thirty yards ahead. At first I thought it was a large black sheepdog, but quickly realized it was a small, yet very obese black bear. It didn't hear or see me, so I clapped my hands. It looked up and saw the fat white man, and ran off terrified.

(4) July of 2013, I was moving my camp about a mile up closer to an awesome golden lake in the Popo Agie Wilderness. I was huffing and puffing as I hiked up a steep slope and heard a loud audible *CRACK-CRACK* from behind a house-sized boulder. I immediately stopped, and heard even more movement, but I can't see it. I say to myself, "okay this can only mean three things, it's a: (1) a human (2) an elk, deer, moose (3) A BEAR!!" I yelled out, "HELLO! IS THAT A PERSON!?" No answer.......not gonna lie, I was a little scared. I crept up the trail to get a better look and poked my head around the boulder, just as the object was doing the same thing. We locked eyes from about ten yards away.....YES IT WAS A BEAR! The hugest black bear I've ever laid eyes on! Before I could even blink, the thing bolted off through the thick timber crashing through the tree limbs and making all kinds of racket. I'll never forget how Eff'g fast that thing moved. How can something that large have such explosive power?? This was within about 200 yards of my new campsite. Needless to say, I kept my camp extra clean on that trip and hanged my food much further away from camp than normal.
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Old 03-06-2014, 08:35 PM
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Default Re: more pics of the Winds - going bust for goldens at Elbow

Nice trip. We have always looked at the Sauerkraut lakes with a bit of curiosity when finding routes on maps, but it's never bothered us as a good location. In the winds, if we're hunting for specific fish, they're Goldens, and we don't know of any reports of them around there. What we do know is that the Goldens in the winds are pretty darn picky when it comes to flies. Deep is where they always seem to be, save for one spot where we did find some in a stream. Jake's Money Clips, spoons, or spinners seem to usually be the ticket, though it was only last summer when I first tried flies for them. One morning I saw Goldens surfacing like crazy, but never could find a fly they liked. That might haunt me for years. The best thing about finding Goldens is the fact that the lakes many live in tend to be far off the beaten path, and relatively unknown. The scenery getting them is often more spectacular than the scenery at the lakes. I still don't think Goldens are all *that* special, but they sure are a challenge that bugs a guy, and they happen to live in the kind of territory I like to hike. Honestly, nice cutthroats are more fun to fish for to me. Or brookies. I'm not picky!

Elbow Lake was probably my favorite place in my first backcountry mountain trip. A friend convinced me that it would a great idea for me to go with him on a 7-day backpacking trip in the Winds. I had no clue what I was getting into, and the second day about left me for dead on the trail. Over the next couple days we meandered around to Elbow and it struck me as a singularly spectacular location. We arrived in a storm and watched the clouds brush the peaks after the squall passed and we got out of the tent. It was there where the hugeness of the mountains really sunk in deep. Since then I have done several backpacking trips in a handful of mountain ranges, but I always come back to the Winds.

OK, enough of my waxing nostalgic. Here are a couple cool pictures from the Winds that I took.

Camp at Elbow Lake. It made me feel very small (that's a 3-man tent)
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Again, sorry for hijacking your thread, but the Winds get me all kinds of worked up! Go back again sometime, and don't tell everybody about all the best spots
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