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Into the Winds - Silas Canyon; July, 2004
Upper Silas Lake in Silas Canyon; Wind River Range, Wyoming
First, let me apologize for the pics. These are film pics and were
taken with my old Canon Rebel II. My more recent pics, since August
2005, are from various digital cameras and (I hope !) better quality.
|Upper Silas Lake|
|Brook Trout, Cutthroat Trout|
|Self Sustaining ?
|Stocked; last stocked in 2006
At the time; I was living in Indiana and had made the drive out to
Laramie to do some high country fishing in the Snowy Range
(west-southwest of Laramie). After spending 2 days ducking from the
severe thunderstorms; I'd had enough and was faced with a decision: go
somewhere else or head home. I decided to drive on over to the Wind
River Range and headquarter at the Fiddlers Lake campground. That would
give me some day hike opportunities up to the lake in Silas Canyon.
Silas Canyon is situated in a hanging valley on the east slope of the
Winds in the Popo Agie Wilderness. It has 3 points which make it a
worthy trip: First, unlike many places in the range; you can easily
reach it in just a couple of hours hiking time. Its less than 3.5 miles
from the Fiddlers Lake campground to Upper Silas Lake. At the 4.5 mile
mark, you reach Island Lake and, at the head of the basin and roughly 6
miles, is Thumb Lake. Many places in the Winds require at least 2 days
of hiking. Second, the fishing is good. Finally - third - Thumb Lake,
at the head of the basin, used to be a hot Golden Trout Lake and should
(as of 2009) start returning to its former glory. Wyoming went for a
period, from 1994 to 2005, when no Golden Trout were stocked in the
state due to the loss of the brood stock at Surprise Lake on the west
slope of the Winds. In 2004, following an agreement with the Wind River
Indian Reservation; Golden Trout eggs were taken from trout in Grave
Creek Lake. These were reared overwinter and stocked at various lakes
throughout the state in 2005. The same year - 2005 - another batch of
eggs were procured and Goldens were stocked in their former lakes on
the east slope of the Winds. These lakes, stocked in 2006, include
Windy, Lower Saddlebags, Thumb, and Leg.
But, this was 2004, so Thumb was out of the picture. I hope to get
there this summer (2009 as I write this). I've heard it used to be
worth the trip, with fish up to 17 inches.
As I drove west, the sky cleared nicely and I arrived at the Fiddlers
Lake campground around 1 pm. I hurriedly setup camp, then drove over to
the trail head just south of Fiddlers Lake. I was fighting time as it
was around 2:10 in the afternoon when I started the hike. Here's a map of the route (hit the back button to come back to this page).
I reached Upper Silas just before 3:30 pm. It was a gorgeous lake. I
figured I wouldn't have time to fish, so, I'd left my fly rod back at
camp. That was a mistake because I could've had an hour or so of
fishing. I took in the scenery, wished I'd backpacked in, and headed
back to camp. On the trail, both in and back, I'd seen a trail which
headed off in the direction of the campground, roughly 3/4 mile from
the trail head. Sure enough, upon driving back to camp, I found the end
of it one campsite over from where I was staying. I was set for the
As I was eating breakfast the next morning, a group of 3 or 4 people on
mountain bikes started up the trail. I assumed they were headed for
Christina Lake. I departed camp around 8 am and quickly caught up to
the mountain bikers. They were dismounted and walking their bikes over
the rocky trail. I passed by, continuing up the trail. I reached Upper
Silas Lake around 9:30.
Upper Silas Lake
After taking a few shots, I continued along the lake. I noticed a few
small groups of people camped around the lake, mostly near the inlet
area. The trail follows the lake shore then heads up the inlet into the
upper canyon. It becomes faint in spots, particularly as you're going
up and I ended up losing it above the lake. As I found later, the
mistake I made was staying a bit too high on the south side of the
canyon. The trail - or path - mostly stays close to the outlet stream.
Still, it wasn't a bad hike and I reached Island Lake around 10:30.
Island is sort of weird shaped lake. The major inlet, from Thumb, comes
in on the south side and is close to the outlet stream. The above pic
was taken on the southeast thumb of the lake, looking towards the
inlet/outlet bay. The inlet stream flows through a meadow near the lake
and was loaded with trout this day, many of good size. I pretty much
spooked them and eventually made my way to the lake for less-spooky and
hopefully, less smart fish.
One of the islands @ Island Lake
A Cruising Island Lake Cutt
I caught a few fish at Island. The lake has excellent numbers of cutts
in the 12 to 14 inch range. I don't remember what fly I started off
with and I didn't do as well as I'd hoped. At the time, I hadn't really
specialized my fly selection or tactics for high country lakes, and
would like to have that trip back. Around 1 pm, I noticed Callibaetis
duns starting to pop up on the water. This was the first Callibaetis
hatch I'd run into in the back country. I changed over to a Parachute
Adams dry and immediately began getting rises. I missed several fish
and continued fishing. This was another mistake, because I eventually
found out the point of the hook on the fly had broken off ! I changed
flies, continued fishing, and caught a few trout. Around 2:30, I
started back towards Upper Silas Lake. This was a little early to be
heading down, but, I wanted to check out Tomahawk Lake just
south-southeast of Upper Silas. One of my hiking books, Walking the Winds,
indicated the lake had Cutthroats, and I thought it worth checking out.
The path from Island was easier to follow going down hill and I passed
Upper Silas Lake in short order. I continued on just path the lake's
outlet and turned south, heading through the timber. I hoped I wouldn't
get lost and after a short walk of 100 to 200 yards I arrived at
I found a nice big, flat boulder on the northeast side of the lake and
began fishing. I don't remember exactly what I was using, but, I had a
fish on one of my first few casts:
This is not a Cutt !
And this is also not a Cutt !
I caught lots of these 10 inch Brookies in about 45 minutes. Colorful,
not very stunted, but, not the Cutts I'd come looking for. I'm guessing
the fisheries info in the book is somewhat dated and believe there are
no Cutthroat in the lake. I took my obligatory departing shot of
Tomahawk and headed back to the trail and back to camp.
One final note - or request: Someone reading this may decided to make a
trip into Thumb Lake. I ask that you treat the lake and fishery
with respect. Large Goldens, in lakes this accessible, should all be
carefully released. They are a scarce resource. Please treat them with
Bigger pics are available on my web page at Webshots, here.
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