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Into the Winds - Silas Canyon;  July, 2004


Upper Silas Lake in Silas Canyon; Wind River Range, Wyoming

Stats:

Upper Silas Lake
Tomahawk Lake
Island Lake
Thumb Lake
unknown
10,600 ft
10,800 ft
unknown


Brook Trout, Cutthroat Trout
Brook Trout
Cutthroat Trout
Golden Trout
Self Sustaining
Self Sustaining
Self Sustaining ?
Stocked; last stocked in 2006
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.
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 next day.
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 Lake
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 Tomahawk Lake.

Tomahawk Lake

Tomahawk Lake
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.

Tomahawk Lake
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 respect.

Bigger pics are available on my web page at Webshots, here.

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