February 23, 2011

The Big Horn Craggs

Here is another blast from the past taking me back to August of 2008. It's hard to find a more remote spot in the lower 48 than the Bighorn Craggs of Idaho. You are 40 miles from the nearest paved road and it's another 7 mile hike from the trail head to get into this beautiful country. This was a 50 mile hike that took us to 28 different lakes along the way. The fish species available to catch were golden trout, westslope cutthroat and rainbow trout. We had a lot of success on almost all the lakes and we landed some really nice fish. The elevation for this hike was between 8,000 and 9,000 feet. We had all sorts of weather conditions during the week and I really thought we were going to be blown off the mountain the first night. You would hear the roar of the wind coming down the mountain and it would get louder and louder until BOOM! The tent would irrupt and shake a good 15 seconds and then it would be calm for about ten minutes before the next wave would hit. My brother and I didn't get much sleep that night but that didn't stop us from getting up early to go catch fish.

We hiked over to the next basin where we fished the day landing golden after golden trout ranging from 8-16 inches long. I put goldens number one on my list of trout to catch. They are usually really hard to catch not only because they are very selective in what they eat, but you have to work your butt off to even get the chance to get to a lake that holds them. When fishing for Goldens, my brother and I have been fortunate to have had as many fast action days as we have when going after them. We caught smaller goldens later in the week in a few other lakes but nothing like we did in that first basin. We also were able to catch some big westslope cutts and rainbows. They put up a really good fight and would leap high out of the water in hopes of shaking loose from the hook. My brother fly fished the whole time and I mostly cast spinners since I'm not great at casting in windy conditions. The flies that worked the best were the Royal Wulff, Hopper, Elk Hair Caddis, Blue Dun, Adams & Pheasant Tail Nymph.

The photos below don't do justice to just how rugged and beautiful the craggs truely are. There were parts that the trail was litterally cut out of the cliff face and there were more switch backs than I care to remember. The mule deer we saw had no fear being around us. I was surprised at how close they would come to us. This hike is more than worth it for just the scenery let alone the great fishing experience. In my opinion, the Bighorn Craggs should be on any alpine fishermans list of destinations if it isn't already.

A view of the Sawtooth range on our way to the Craggs

Harbor and Wilson Lakes.

Fishfin Ridge.

Golden country; Gooseneck, Crater and Big Clear Lake.

Birdbill and Gentian lakes where we camped.

Fish Fin Ridge is in the background.

Big Clear Lake

My biggest golden of the trip.

Gooseneck Lake.

Golden from Gooseneck Lake.

Golden Trout.

Nice Mule deer buck.

Ship Island Lake.

Westslope cutt from Echo Lake.

That was one big tree!

Trail cut out of the mountain.

Check out the Craggs in the background!

Terrace Lakes.

Westslope Cutt from the lower Terrace lake.

Double! Jason's rainbow and my westslope cutt from the lower Terrace lake.

Buck Lake has great rainbow action.

Fish on!!!

Enjoying the spoils of Buck Lake.

Buck lake rainbow.

Deer greeted us in camp at Welcome lake.


  1. Another spectacular set of photos and a good fishing post to go wit it. Keep 'em coming, Rick. Of course, I am biased.

  2. GREAT pics!!! I need to find a golden trout!! : )

  3. Rick-

    Awesome post about an EPIC adventure!! This has definitely made the bucket list for my family and I. We do a one-week backpack every year and this will be one of our next trips for sure!!

    Thanks for such an inspiring blog!!