In 1978, Cave Lake was under-utilized. Although just twenty minutes outside the town of Ely, it was not well known down south, or at least the southern population of potential fisherman was not what it is today. Although they stocked the lake with rainbow trout, Neal was aware that there were holdover populations of brown trout that were reproducing in the feeder creek. We must have timed our visit just right as the lake was well stocked. Even as a novice who fished dry flies exclusively, I caught many stocked rainbows. However, the real excitement was catching the brown trout, or "brownies", on dry flies. In one instance I recall standing on the boat dock watching this large (large to me at that time was anything over thirteen inches) brown sucking mayflies from the surface. I was fishing with my newly constructed seven-and-one-half foot fly rod, a rod of my own creation. I quickly cast a dry fly into the path of the cruising brown. I watched as he leisurely approached, opened his pink mouth, and sucked in the fly. What an awesome experience for a twenty-one year old novice fisherman. That was an addicting event. Neal also caught several good size brown trout, and one of the pictures we took with Neal’s creel, rod, and bib arranged around the trout was composed so well that I drew the picture in pen and ink in 1981.
|Tom, me, and Doug - Cave Lake boat dock June 2000|
My brother Neal is responsible for cultivating my interest as an outdoorsman. I suspect the seeds were planted as a boy growing up in Hooksett, New Hampshire, but someone needed to water them. In my early teens he took me on my first fishing trip to Kingston Canyon south of Austin, Nevada. He gave me a cheep, ultra-light spinning rod, lures, and a canvas creel and set me loose after just a few minutes of instruction. Neal was never long on patience, and he never really offered to teach me the art of fly fishing. In college I bought several books on fly fishing, and after years of dreaming about it I finally taught myself.
After graduating from college in 1978, I badgered Neal into a Utah fishing trip. I was still very much a beginner, and I wanted him to share his knowledge of both the sport and the places nearby where he plied that sport. I think Neal finally decided that my graduation was as good an excuse as any, so we set off for Beaver, Utah with thoughts of fishing the high mountain lakes in Fish Lake National Forest. Upon arriving in Beaver we unfortunately learned that the Utah season did not begin until June 1, so we could not fish. Neal suggested heading west on Highway 21 to Cave Lake near Ely, Nevada. That fortuitous decision turned out to be brilliant.
In those early days, we killed everything we caught. Catch and release had not really been discussed much at that time. The objective was to come home with the ice chest as full as we could get it. Cave Lake filled that bill splendidly.
|Very young FisherDad playing a rainbow |
on my first hand-made rod - May 1978
|Neal's thirteen-inch brown trout - May 1978|
Arranged on Neal’s equipment - subject of FisherDad pen and ink drawing
|Pen & Ink by FisherDad - September 1981|
|Cave Lake boat dock|
The most recent visit to Cave Lake was in 2003 with Brian and two of his buddies. That was more of a camping trip than a real fishing trip, as all three had to be assisted constantly with tying knots and unraveling “bird nests”. Still, it was a fun trip for the boys and included the obligatory Great Basin National Park side trip. Splitting time between the three of them was fine, but it would have been better had I spent more time just with Brian.
|Neal with a trio of brown trout - May 1978|
|Eleven dead Cave Lake trout, including three nice browns - May 1978|
|Toyota 4x4 at Success Summit, Schell Creek Range - 1979|
|Looking north into Duck Creek, Success Summit - 1979|
|"Skunk Camp" with Doug and Tom, June 2000|
|Brian and friends heading towards Cave Lake - June 2003|
|Brian, Jeremy, and Delano feeding chipmunks peanuts near camp |
(at least they were not skunks)