It had been almost two years to the date of my last exploration of the Winds and I knew all too well it was time for another trip. As usual I searched through backpacking destinations around the US but found myself drawn back to a place that I have grown particularly fond of over the past several years. It's a place of no roads, a place of no crowds, a place of freedom. You won't find tour buses unloading people at the trailheads here. You won't find traffic backed up for miles. You won't find rangers issuing permits. One word describes the Winds for me and it is freedom. Freedom to explore, freedom to mold a trip as you go, freedom to experience nature at its finest. And the Winds offer the best of it! With the snow levels seemingly too high to attempt a cross of the CD we decided to fall back to a familiar option. We headed out on our first day and made it to Seneca lake by 1pm. We always enjoy setting up camp early, then fishing and exploring the area before nightfall, so reaching our destination early is always a plus! Surprisingly at Seneca lake we found willing rainbow trout scattered throughout the deep waters. As always rainbows put on quite an aerial display once hooked! Makes for some fun fishing! Our next day would take us to Island lake, which we bypassed for more solitude in Titcomb basin. Over the years I have grown particularly fond of Island Lake. Something about the peaks along the CD that loom in the background. The lake is incredibly scenic and one I would recommend to any hiker. I had been to the Island lake/Titcomb area twice before, but each time I have been able to explore new terrain. This year we climbed the massive snowfield to what would be a mostly frozen over Mistake Lake. Titcomb basin was as beautiful as always. So many pictures you bring back from the Winds cant capture how vast and incredible the views really are, but some pictures of Titcomb basin are able to given the outside viewer a small sliver of what the Winds have to offer! From Titcomb we followed the outlet of Island lake down to Fremont crossing and then cut across to the Jean lakes. This was new territory for me and boy did I enjoy it! We settled at a campsite at Lower Jean Lakes that was unbelievable. 360 degree mountain views with a pristine lake sitting some 60 feet below us. I don't recall ever seeing anyone pass by our campsite even. Total solitude. The next day we would climb even higher over snowfield after snowfield to Upper Jean lake, the unnamed lake above that, and the finally down into the Elbow lake. It was an incredibly scenic hike, but one that took us much longer than expected fighting through all the snow. Back at Elbow lake we saw two other people the entire day. One stopping because of a storm, the other just passing through. It was like a piece of the wilderness was cutout just for us! Or perhaps everyone was deterred by the storms. The next day we headed back to Seneca lake via the highline trail and then hiked out the following morning. It was an awesome trip! Fish were caught! New sites were seen! Snow was trekked through! And I somehow failed to mention in my report it rained almost every single day, accompanied with hail on occasion! When I stepped out of the wilderness I was ready to give my feet a rest, but I also was eager to begin planning my next trip back! Hopefully that will be sooner rather than later! Til next time
It is that time of year once again! The colors are changing, temperatures are rising, animals are coming out, and new life is being born! I have made it up to the Hiwassee river several times in the past few weeks. The fishing has been fantastic! I haven't had an epic days yet where it seems like every cast is a fish, but I have had great luck with streamers and nymphs. Over the last few weeks I have managed to fool a couple big boys, lose a few hogs to line snaps and insecure hook connections, and still remain in the hunt for a few big fellows I have spotted! Exciting times! Yesterday, as darkness was getting near, I notice a bald eagle soaring just above me on the river! It had a certain majesty to its flight. Freely cutting through the air and eventually diving down to snatch its prey! Truly an unbelievable sight to soak in! So far it has been a great spring! Get out and enjoy the fishing! Enjoy the weather and springtime! Here are a few pics from the trips. Til next time...
This was nothing short of an adventure bringing this fish in
It was a long awaited trip two years in the making. We were supposed to make this trek last year but got sidetracked in the Winds for another fishing adventure. It did not disappoint. This year we saw our plans through and got the permit to hike again in Kings Canyon National Park. We had a grueling trek of over 7000ft of elevation gain and 7000ft elevation loss and around 50 miles. Every last bit was worth it. Hands down one of the most scenic places I have ever been. We were immediately greeted by the deep canyon as we traveled in from Sequoia National Forest to Cedar Lodge. Unimaginable and indescribable are two words that come mind. We began our hike with towering granite walls on either side of us forming a perimeter we would not grow tired of. The first day of hiking took us over 2000ft up into a nice valley on the South Fork of the Kings River. It was a beautiful stretch of river ranging from cascading falls to gentle meadow stream. As soon as I got to camp I strung up the rod and went at it. A number of rainbows were to be had instantly. Native to this drainage, the bows were some of the most beautiful I have ever caught in my life. I find such joy in be able to appreciate the biggest of catches in the mountains of Montana and the smallest of catches in the high alpine meadows of the Sierras. Both different in their own right and both incredible fun and thrilling. The next day we made the trek up another 3000-4000ft to our next campsite. This day greeted us with huge rainshowers. We tried at first to hunker down and wait it out; besides this is California, it never rains here right? WRONG!! We had already received a shower the evening before. But this turned out to be much more than a shower. Thunder, lightning, rain, hail, the works...After a while of trying to wait it out we decided to pack up and hike on through. It was a grueling day of travel soaking our gear to some extent, but we finally found a campsite and made the most of it. The next day would lead us up to some beautiful Alpine Lakes. We were to spend two days there, so this was our destination in the hike so to say. Climbing over the ridge we were not disappointed shortly after crossing the 10000ft elevation barrier. HUGE peaks towered over the lake valleys in every direction you could see. Beautiful streams caught your eye with occasional deer prancing by. As we made it to our campsite we sat in awe of the scenery for some time. This place was a paradise. The rain held off for the most part, although it threatened all day long. We strung up the rods and fished around one of the lakes for some fast action Brook Trout fishing. Fun as expected. When we made it to the far end of the lake I found 6 deer all grazing together. Three large bucks, 2 does, and an infant. I sat and watched them for probably 10-15 yards away for a good while. It added something to scene I am not quite sure how to describe. Passing the deer we climbed a large rock and fished for alittle more finally sitting down and just soaking in the scene ahead of us. We would turn and question each other, is this the most incredible view we have ever seen? We thought back of past trips and tried to compare. Each beautiful in their own right. This one right up there at the top somewhere. The next days would be a free day that we used to hike into an adjacent basin. It was around a 700ft climb but well worth it for the views we got. We debated whether to do this or not, but looking back I am so thankful we did. It was probably that most scenic spot of the trip. As far as you could see mountain in every direction! The next day would be our toughest day. We had to climb 2000ft in just under 2 miles up Glen Pass and then drop another 4000ft over 8 miles to our destination. The rest day really helped us out and getting up the pass was not too overly difficult. The downhill climb took its toll on our bodies but we made it tired and worn out. We still had enough energy to explore the meadow stream near by. Browns and rainbows rose eagerly to our flies - some drastically bigger than the other drainage we were in. The fishing was incredibly fun and reminded me a lot of the fishing I do back at home in the Smoky Mountains. As we made it back to camp I decided to take one last fishing trip up into the meadows above our campsite. It was the surreal meadow fishing experience you always imagine. Beautiful mountain scenery towering on each side and willing trout hiding in every crevasse of the stream! The last day we hiked our way out leaving plenty of time to explore the giant sequoia trees. It is an amazing site to take in. We laughed at ourselves for thinking some of the lodgepole pine trees on the trail were really big. These sequoias made those look like tiny twigs!!! It was the conclusion of another trip. Another beautiful site in God's creation to check off the list! A time and a place I certainly will never forget. Enjoy some of the pics. More to come....
Cool scene climbing into the lake basin
David packing hard
Danny slaying some fish with Finn Dome in the background
Small brook trout from the lake
David casting with "Painted Lady" looming in the background
Morning scene from our tent
Into sixty lake basin
Middle and Upper Rae Lakes
Our campsite was in between the two lakes
On top of Glen Pass
Nothing but mountains as far as you can see
Same thing the other direction!
Danny climbing through an old sequoia that a group of people lived in for awhile back in the logging days
As soon as I touched down in Montana, I hit the ground running! Not really..I spent almost a day in Bozeman before trekking down to Gardiner to begin the first leg of my trip. My first stop would be 3 days fishing in Yellowstone National Park! It wasn't an easy decision as I had recently read reports that the Madison River was fishing really well. But the hunger for native Cutts drove me to the Northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park once again. Last August I experienced phenomenal fishing on the Lamar River and Slough Creek. So with the images of huge fish and willing risers burnt in my mind, I found myself headed straight to the Lamar River once again. I found it just as I had remembered, although July offered much more company (other fishermen) than I found in August of last year. In the mornings and evenings the fishing was out of control GOOD!! Especially the evenings! The crowds would thin out, the temperatures would cool off, and soon my only company became the river and the buffalo herd near by. At that moment fishing would TURN on fire!!! The afternoons were a bit slower but fish could still be had. I fished Soda Butte a few times on this trip to fantastic luck! The fish would readily rise to a well presented drake pattern! Great size and good fight! On the downside, I lost an absolute HOG of a cutthroat one evening on Soda Butte creek. Sitting a mere 5 yards from me in deep water the fish spit the hook after a rowdy 5 min fight. I tried everything in my power to hook him again, even returning the next morning, but no luck. Luckily there was many more fish to be had in the River and on the trip! I made stops at the Yellowstone River and Slough Creek to finish up the first leg of my journey. One particular evening I was the last person fishing Soda Butte Creek as dark was setting in. Feeling good about my good fortunes on the stream, I had a little pep in my step! It was then that I noticed an interesting scene unfold before my eyes. Out of the sky a large osprey gracefully flew down and snagged a large trout from the creek right in front of me! He circled just over my head a few times, as if to let me know, "this is how you catch fish boy." He landed in a tree just across from me and started enjoying his meal! Another day in Yellowstone and a humbling moment I will not forget! From there I headed back to Bozeman to pick up my friend for some backpacking fun in the Beartooths. 5 or 6 years earlier I had planned a trip to the Beartooths that was thwarted by high snowpack. Now was my chance to see what it was all about! Well..It did not disappoint! The scenery was unreal! The fishing was was incredible! The trailless travel was fun! And the hunger to go back is burning hot! We found beautiful vistas at almost every turn. The fish were BIG! Even bigger than I had hoped! And they would willing rise to a well presented dry of the right color. Subsurface action worked well too! In terms of a "fishing backpacking" trip, this was probably my best! I would not hesitate to put the Beartooths right on par with the Winds in terms of excellent alpine lake fishing. The trailless travel led to some sore feet, but I found it incredibly fun! We spent sufficient time exploring around; climbing ridge-lines, and one afternoon sumitting Lonesome Mountain. Every ridge and every mountain revealed absolutely incredible views of Montana and Wyoming! But all good things must come to an end, so this trip was wrapped up after 12 days of exploration and fun! It seemed like I had been gone so long, but I easily could have stayed another week or two exploring and fishing the area! All the more reason to go back!! Here is an appetizer of what happened!!! til next time..
Sunrise from our campsite
View from the ridgeline looking back into Wyoming
Storms were rolling in this day
Check out the fish wrecklessly rising
Working one in
Never get tired of this
Surreal fishing experience
Letting him run
Stacked in the outlet
Blue Blue water
Sunset shot on a clear night
2nd to last campsite
Calm mornings and windy afternoons
Hiking back out
Decided to take the trail this time instead of rock-hop