Lower 48 Backpacking for Big Trout

shaunsquid

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I am planning my 2020 backpacking trips. On the list are Desolation Wilderness, Golden Trout Wilderness, and maybe Yosemite. But...

I am a California boy, born and raised, with a short stay in Seattle. I have done plenty of packing in California, a bit in Washington, and have caught more than my fair share of small rainbows and brookies at elevation.

With that said, I got a couple of buddies hooked on backpacking after a Yosemite trip this summer. Now they want to see what other states have to offer. I feel like this could be a great opportunity to take a crack at some bigger fish that the Sierras just don't hold (okay, okay...there are some hogs in some of the high mountain lakes but I don't pack a float tube so rarely get a crack at them). Don't get me wrong, I love the little guys, but I would like to shoot for something that will test me a bit.

Does anybody have any recommendations for some back country trips, preferably West-ish for ease of travel, preferably with rivers holding good fish? Googling around I am finding mentions of some beautiful trips, but mostly the small fish I am used to.

The FAQs:
- Seasoned hikers, but don't like to do more than 10 miles a day
- Maximum 5 nights, more likely 3 nights
- Elevation not a problem
- Bears/cats, not a concern
- Good views a must

Any help greatly appreciated, DMs welcome.
 

mcnerney

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For starters, I'd recommend reading Rich Osthoff's book, Fly-Fishing the Rocky Mountain Backcountry.
The Wind River Range in Wyoming has some huge Goldens if you do your research and are willing to put in the work to get to them.
I would talk to the owner of the Outdoor Shop in Pinedale, WY and Wyoming Game and Fish dept. Beartooth Publishing sells two hiking maps, Wind River Range South and Wind River Range North.
Wind River Range Trip Planning
Another thought would be to hike into the Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado during the salmon fly hatch.
Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park (U.S. National Park Service)
Yellowstone National Park offers some excellent backcountry fishing, but you will need a backcountry camping permit. The most popular sites are done by lottery.
Camp in the Backcountry - Yellowstone National Park (U.S. National Park Service)
 
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caddis75

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I highly recommend Wind River. The views are unreal and so is the cutthroat fishing. If you catch them after ice-out, you'll catch em by the buckets.
 

dillon

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The wild and scenic section of the lower Rogue when the half pounders are running would make for a memorable trip. You can even sleep and eat in lodges along the way. These sea run trout are really bigger than a half pound and you might hook into a full size steelhead...
 

cwb124

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I have found remote/wilderness rivers/streams in the lower 48 that hold big fish are few and far between. Seems like all the big fish are in tailwaters close to population centers. Just how it goes I guess.

I suppose your best bet is alpine lakes that can hold large fish. You could also scour google maps and read some forums and do some backpacking into big bull trout rivers in Alberta or even British Columbia.
 

Bigfly

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Generally, the higher you go, the smaller the fish. Due primarily to a shorter growing season, and less food.
You might try looking at back country in the Sierras around 6-7000ft elev.
The places that are as you wished for, are not found on internet (and hopefully never will be...).
You will need to consider what makes a spot popular with the universal fisherman.....easy hiking, fishing, then avoid these.
Your thought about toting a tube was a good one. Since you are disinclined to due this, you can bet most others feel the same. This is the approach you will need.....What no one else is willing to do, is what needs to be done. Get a gazetteer and study where trails go, and where they don't......
The best fishing I have found, is usually when I am about lost, and far away from people..
Since campers eat trout, you need to be way off trail. Big ones are a popular feed. Please put them back and eat the little ones...they taste the same. When the adventure is over don't give coordinates to others.
If we ARE turning into a wussy species, it's because we want it delivered...go find them for yourself.

Have fun

Jim
 
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myt1

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One option mentioned above is Gunnison Gorge.

I have done this, and yes, there are big fish down there.

Sadly, I didn't really catch any. I saw them when they were being electrocuted for a fish count. Some were as big as tuna.

I'm not sure I would classify the Gorge as a backpacking trip though.

You carry your stuff down, set up base camp, fish a few days, and then trudge your stuff back to the top. Not really backpacking in the traditional sense of the word, but still a trip worth doing.
 

nawagner

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If going to WY, stick to the Winds and skip the Bighorn Mountains. If you must... search for a couple of my Golden trip reports in the Bighorns.
 

patrick62

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In the 1990s I lived in Albuquerque and did a lot of backpacking/fishing in northern New Mexico. Lots of fish. Some of them were pretty big.
 

dillon

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Aside from the Rouge I mentioned in an earlier post there are other remote sections of rivers in Oregonthat are said to hold big trout. These sections are typically canyon water that is generally unfloatable and tough to access. I’ve done some of them in my youth, but those days are gone... I’m not going to mention them here for the world to see, but some research might yield some prospects and a pm might do the same.
 
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shaunsquid

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Sorry for the delayed response, crazy month.

Thanks to all who chimed in. Some really great info here. I might reach out to a few of you by DM as I start to try and cobble together wilderness permits and drive times.

Had beers with the few guys who would be coming with over the weekend. One of they is really interested in Yellowstone, but that is in large part because he has not been anywhere but Yosemite. I am sure he won't cry over any of the places I take him. Though Yellowstone is still definitely on the list of possibilities.
 

mcnerney

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If you're thinking backpacking Yellowstone, you need to start working on your backcountry camping permit. I think the deadline is the end of January and the drawing is in April.
 

shaunsquid

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If you're thinking backpacking Yellowstone, you need to start working on your backcountry camping permit. I think the deadline is the end of January and the drawing is in April.
Yessir. Here in California it is typically 6 months to the day that you can submit for a permit in advance. It is getting crazy these days.

I had to submit 4 times for Yosemite permits this year, and 3 for the Desolation Wilderness trip I wanted.

I found out something crazy and infuriating: People are using computer programs to submit permit applications in large numbers and automatically for them...so they don't have to hover with their mouse at midnight.
 

Bigfly

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I find, when I don't go where the hoard wants to go, and when they want to go, it helps avoid them, and I can find quiet time/water....
If you are not part of the crowd, you won't see a crowd. Don't go to Yosemite, or Whitney, or anywhere famous during mid-summer.


Jim
 
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