Osthoff - He is the man
Me and a friend have read and reread Osthoff's book and he is "the real deal" as he glossed himself in the book. We hiked in and did the St. Joe's river in Idaho near the Idaho/Montana border about three years ago, which he details in a chapter in his book. Unbelievable backcountry area by the way. He notes in the book that he went in the late 1980's-early 1990's, and it was our experience that trip that the average was about 2" smaller than he was talking about, and we didn't crack 18", where he talks about a few 20" fish. This was in four days of hard fishing. I've always wondered about his book becoming dated, but this is the only example I've found so far, and I've now fished a bunch of the locations he outlines in the book. For the most part, his info is honest and spot on.
I have spent some extensive time in the Winds, averaging 7-8 days a year for the past 16 years. My friend and I spent some time poring over 7:5 topo maps for the Winds and thought we had finally figured out a "secret" string of golden trout lakes he details, but does not give the location in his book (about page 100 I think). My freind ordered some flies from Osthoff and got him talking and he admitted to us that we were right. He was very explicit in requesting that we don't make it "public knowledge" so I apologize if I can't lay it out here.
We went there that summer (2005) and it was awesome!! One of the hardest hikes (28 miles and three separate drops/gains of over 1,500 feet) I have ever been on but the camping and fishing were spectacular. By far my best Winds trip to date. Caught some beautiful goldens and saw some bigger ones cruising about 20 feet beyond my casting range. There's a string of three lakes with a long outlet stream and several waterfalls, and we caught goldens all over. Our base camp was on a larger cutthroat lake right at the inlet about 50 feet down from a large waterfall, and we caught more 14"-18" cutts sight fishing than I care to try to remember. I guess my point is that Osthoff's info is straightforward, generally accurate and if your willing to do some homework and exploring, there are some gems to be found in that book. He definitely peppers his writing with "clues".
The Winds in general is probably among the finest hike in fishing destinations in the U.S. I have spent time in plenty of back country/backpack areas all over Idaho, Washington, Utah, Montana and Wyoming and I always find myself dreaming about the Winds. Pretty much no matter where you put in, the first days hike is absolutely brutal. There is just not an easy way in. The other days are no picnic either, but I think the sheer remoteness and difficulty in hiking in cleans alot of the "tourists" out. The horse outfitters are known to gouge everyone in sight and are more pricey than other areas. That's cheating anyway right?? The lakes are deep, enough bugs are present, the water is crystal clean and the fish are healthy. Most of the lakes on the west side are relatively open in terms of vegetation along the shores, and walking along the bank with a hopper and sight fishing to cruisers during the summer has been my norm. For whatever reason (wind probably), the east side lakes generally have trees right down to the shore, and finding an isolated rock or casting corridor can be difficult.
Anyway, sorry for the book. I just love the Winds and obviously think highly of them. If anyone is serious (not just looking for general info) about planning a trip, I would be happy to help with general tips or planning on where to put in and what kind of gear to take. Just give me an email or a PM. Please don't ask about the golden lakes - that information is there for you to discover. Good luck. Josko, I owe you one so let me know when you are serious about the Winds and you are ready to go and I will hook you up with all the info you need.