November 21, 2015

The Cold Creek Salve

Austin and his grandfather Ron, stalking the trout of Cold Creek Pond
In Robert Redford’s 1992 movie, A River Runs Through It, Norman Maclean is beguiled by his fiancé and family into agreeing to take her prodigal brother Neal fishing.  The family’s transparent hope is that Norman, a preacher’s son, might be able to set Neal on the right path.  Norman in turn solicits his brother Paul to come with them, likely because he realized the enormity of the task his fiancé’s family laid at his feet. Not only isn’t Neal much of an outdoorsman, he’s falling behind in the fight against his own set of demons.  Neal shows up at the river with the town prostitute, inebriated.  Norm and Paul leave Neal with his new-found "diversion" to fish the river on their own, only to return at the end of the day to two naked, sunburnt slabs of flesh.  Insult to injury was they only caught one fish between the two of them (fly anglers always have their priorities in order).  When Norman and Paul got Neal home to his family after dropping off the working gal at the town outskirts, there was some real emotive, verbal and non-verbal, communication going on since the influence of preacher’s son didn’t produce the anticipated effect.  It’s at this point that Paul looks at his brother Norm and says, “Why don’t we go fishing again tomorrow and wipe this day off the books.”

I share this with you because that’s how I feel about my last fishing trip to Wayne Kirch.  I caught one largemouth bass and then promptly had a heart attack.  It totally ruined my trip, not to mention crimping my solo fishing style.  So, I have been thinking about a run up to Cold Creek; the fall stocking should have occurred and casting to and catching a few trout would be a nice remedy for my tattered fishing spirits.

This morning I left the house at 6:20 AM and arrived at the pond by 7:00 AM.  Two other anglers arrived just a minute before me.  We three were the only ones fishing the small pond, so that was a blessing.  When I arrived the temperature was less than 40 degrees according to the Trout Truck, but it was warming as the sun gained its altitude.
This might be the largest Cold Creek rainbow I've ever caught - just under 12 inches
I only fished for an hour, but Cold Creek did its job to erase the bad taste of my last trip.  After confirming with the other party-of-two that the pond had been stocked, I quickly hooked seven rainbow trout, of which I landed five (seven hook-ups in 60 minutes is pretty good on any water).  Four were nine inches or less, but one trout was just about the largest trout I’ve ever caught in le petit corps Cold Creek de l'eau… just under twelve inches but with a nice, plump body that was obviously well nourished by the hatchery pellets before being dumped in the Cold Creek pond (see October 30, 2009 post for another Cold Creek trout of close to twelve inches).

The other fishermen were very polite and affable, and they began asking me questions about fishing Cold Creek specifically which evolved into fishing in general.  I could tell that Ron and his grandson Austin enjoyed fishing, and this was a clear case of a loving grandfather trying to spend quality time with his grandson.  Ron could be my age, maybe a little older.  Austin I pegged around 15 years, plus or minus a year or two.  They appeared to be fishing bait, on hooks too large for nine-inch stocked trout.  I offered some suggestions, and even gave them a couple nymphs to try with their spinning outfits.  I left the pond before I could see if my offerings produced any fruit for them.  
I hooked all 7 trout on this little size 16 nymph, which I gave to Austin;
this is why I suggested the large bait hooks were too big for 9-inch stockers
Since my acute myocardial infarction was still fresh on my mind, and since this little excursion was about dulling that pain from Wayne Kirch, I mentioned my heart attack to Ron.  He seemed interested about my experience so I shared what I could.  I then asked Ron some questions about how he came to southern Nevada, and he stated he moved to Las Vegas in 1972 from Nebraska.  He came out west to work for Jackie Gaughan of El Cortez and Gold Spike fame.  Jackie was born in Nebraska, so there was an obvious connection between Ron and Jackie, I’m sure.  When Ron mentioned Nebraska, I took a closer look at his bright red sweatshirt expecting to see “Cornhuskers” emblazoned across his chest, but I was pleased to see it read “UNLV” instead.

Cold Creek certainly delivered today, both in the fishing but more importantly in connecting with Ron and young Austin.  I hope that Austin is able to connect with his game warden uncle in Pioche to get a good lesson in fly fishing.  I think young men like Austin are critical to “passing the torch” in this awesome outdoor adventure we call fly fishing. 
My fingers were more numb than usual in cold weather due to blood thinners, so when I tied the little black
nymph on Austin's line I accidentally sunk the hook into my finger without feeling it; you can see where
the point traveled toward my fingernail from the entry point.  Being a barbless size 16 there was no real

 damage, but I was amused that I couldn't feel the point penetrating my index finger...

October 22, 2015

Maiden Voyage of Water Master Grizzly Interrupted by Heart Attack

Here's a Dacey Reservoir rainbow trout that I was trying to bring to net on a previous trip in April 2014.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog you know that I’ve been ignored by NFO Scadden regarding a warranty repair to my Outlaw Escape.  After conducting a little research I contacted Richard Stuber at Big Sky Inflatables to discuss their Water Master Grizzly, and how it compared to what I saw as deficiencies in the NFO Escape.  I first became aware of the Water Master in 2005 or 2006 while watching the Trout Bum Diaries vol.1 that featured these fishing rafts.  Richard said the Water Master would not only provide me with a more reliable boat that will last the next 20-plus years, but that it would hold and row much better in the wind than the Outlaw Escape.  The larger tubes and their 360 degree contact with the water cause the boat to sit much higher on the water while maintaining a large footprint.  Big Sky offered a “real” lifetime warranty on the raft.  I couldn’t resist; I always wanted to be a Trout Bum anyway.

My last fishing trip was in late April 2015 when my good friend Bill Bergan met me in Elko, NV to fish its surrounding waters.  A busy and stressful summer at work and home prevented me from fishing all summer, and I was really anxious to get on the water again.  My October PERS Board meeting was scheduled to finish early on Thursday afternoon, so I packed the Trout Truck Wednesday night and departed directly from the meeting after swapping jeans for my suit that I enthusiastically retired into a garment bag.  I was off on a solo fishing trip to the Wayne Kirch Wildlife Management Area (WMA).   My target was Dacey reservoir, and I was looking forward to launching my new Water Master Grizzly on its maiden voyage.  Kirch WMA sits between the Nevada towns of Alamo and Preston (Lund is Preston’s sister town).  Admittedly, I was in much need of R&R for a couple days.

The Premonition

Just after passing through the White River Narrows north of Hiko, NV, I noticed the temperature gauge on the Trout Truck was running hot, halfway between normal and overheated.  I parked off the highway, and with my little flashlight I inspected the engine compartment.  There was coolant splashed onto the right side of the compartment, but I could not see any evidence of its source; all the hoses were dry, as were the water pump and engine seals.  I also noticed the radiator was warm, not hot (the ambient air temperature was still under 60 degrees).  Using layers of shop cloths I kept in the truck, I opened the radiator cap and found it only warm and slightly low.  Not being much of a mechanic, I decided to drive the 45 miles back to Alamo to see if they could fix whatever was wrong (which I assumed to be a stuck thermostat).  On the drive back I alternated between driving with the heater on/off, but it didn’t seem to make a difference; the engine didn’t overheat regardless.  Unable to find an available mechanic in Alamo, I called Todd at Jim Marsh Service and we jointly concluded that I likely helped unstick the thermostat by removing the radiator cap (sometimes air pockets get stuck in there while under pressure, and relieving the pressure unsticks the valve).  So, I headed back out to Kirch WMA.  This annoying sidetrack cost me two hours of fishing, which I hoped was not a bad premonition of things to come.  I called my wife to warn her that I might be having truck difficulties, but not to worry because the highway was well traveled and had some, albeit spotty, cell service.  I also asked her to pray for a happy outcome.

The Heart Attack

Although the trip began with high hopes to arrive at Dacey by 3:00 PM, I did not roll into the primitive boat launch area until 5:00 PM.  Since sunset was to occur at 5:50 PM, I rushed to inflate my new watercraft, don my waders, and string up my fly rod.  Although the forecast was for very light breezes, by the time I got on the water strong winds from the north were kicking up some whitecaps.  I rowed out a hundred yards or so and tried to maintain a position from which I could cast, but it was pretty futile as the unanticipated whitecaps were rocking my little watercraft, and the constant oaring occupied my hands such that I could not get in very many casts.  Two float-tubers had just preceded me on the water, but since they were only able to fin, or kick-paddle, they left the reservoir just after I started to fish.  For the record, I actually did land a 12-inch bass on my first cast, but after five more casts I decided to give it up in favor of an early Friday morning assault.

I was only on the water for about 15 or 20 minutes, not long enough to get exhausted, but I did feel unusually tired so I let the wind push me back into the boat launch area.  The other anglers had departed by the time I reached the launch, and that was when I realized I was more exhausted than I thought.  I folded back my seat, lay back in the raft for a few minutes, hoping to regain my strength.  More and more it settled in that what I was feeling wasn’t physical exhaustion… it was something else I had never experienced before.  I recognized the symptoms as a classic heart attack.  Dull aching pain (nothing sharp or acute) emanated bilaterally from my shoulders through my arms.  I also felt a dull ache in my ribcage, and between my shoulder blades.  Ironically, I did not feel any pain in my heart; although I was expecting to feel something there, I did not.  Perhaps the other aching was masking that pain, I don’t really know.

A somewhat morbid selfie while experiencing an acute MI before driving to Preston for help.
Since I was alone and the nearest hospital was about 70 miles north in Ely, NV (William Bee Ririe Hospital and Rural Health Clinic), I decided I had to drive myself to Preston to get help.  Preston just about splits the distance between Kirch WMA and Ely, so I drove for 35 miles while suffering through my heart attack.  Along the way I picked up cell service and called Denise to tell her what was happening, and to ask her for prayers.  When I arrived in Preston I stopped at the Lane's Ranch Motel.  When the motel attendant asked if I wanted a room I told her I thought I was having a heart attack.  She immediately called the Preston volunteer fire and ambulance service, and they arrived within 5 minutes.  They gave me a nitro tablet and patched me into a 3-point EKG.  The nitro tablet had no effect, and the attendant in the ambulance said my heart rhythm seemed normal.  I began to hope I had some strange flu bug.

Upon arriving at the William Bee Ririe Emergency Room (ER) they patched me into a 12-point EKG and confirmed I was indeed experiencing an acute myocardial infarction (MI).  I’m not sure, but this would have been between 7:30 and 8:00 PM Thursday night.  The quick thinking of Dr. Denis Astarita ordered the resident Pharmacist, Daren Kunz, to administer the clot busting drug tPA.  Later my wife told me that my son, Doug, had called ahead to the Ely ER to warn them of my impending arrival, and I assume that explained why Pharmacist Kunz was still at the ER.  One-third through that drug and my shoulder, arm, and chest pain subsided.  They administered two more nitro tablets but they appeared to have no effect on me, not even the customary headache.

I began to feel pretty good.  In fact, I was feeling good enough to have thoughts about how I would get back to Preston to retrieve the Trout Truck and drive home to Vegas.  When I overheard Dr. Astarita order a medical flight to Las Vegas I knew it was worse than I thought.  I’m guessing that was around 10:00 PM.  An American Medflight air ambulance arrived about midnight and transported me from Ely to McCarran Airport in Vegas in about one hour.  I was then picked up at McCarran by Medic West who transported me and the Medflight attendants to Summerlin Hospital at about 1:30 AM Friday.  The Medflight attendants traveled with me from the Ely ER to the Summerlin ER in Las Vegas, which was probably as required since I was being transferred from one ER to the other.  Family and close friends were waiting for my arrival, and I was in my Cardiac ICU bed by 3:00 PM.

Although I was somewhat stabilized, my heart remained in arrhythmia as I tried to sleep.  All the sensors must have been ratcheted down because it seemed like I was setting off the EKG alarm every twenty minutes or so.  My nurse came in at 6:15 AM to inform me that Dr. Sanjay Vohra would be conducting a catheterization, likely with stents, at 7:00 AM (sooner than I was originally advised).  A few minutes later Dr. Vohra called to tell me about the procedure, hopefully a radial catheterization. Then he said something I thought was remarkable, “Afterwards we’ll discuss how you can prevent this from ever happening again.”  Before the Cath Lab attendants arrived my nurse noticed my Bible, which my wife had brought to me in the Summerlin ER (my YouVersion Bible was in my iPhone, but my old Bible has all my notes written in it).  She offered to pray with me before the procedure, which brought the other assisting nurse to tears.

I met Dr. Vohra in the Cath Lab for the first time.  I was nervous as all get out, shaking uncontrollably.  The notion that the catheterization could fail and open heart surgery could be the immediate result attempted to occupy my thoughts.  Once Dr. Vohra got underway I was able to calm down (it was likely the IV meds that did the trick).  Entering through my right wrist, Dr. Vohra placed two medicated stents in my left anterior artery that he said was about 90 percent blocked (just imagine how blocked it might have been in William Bee Ririe before they administered the tPA clot buster).  Amazingly, the procedure was simple and relatively painless due to the local anesthetic at the wrist entry point.  I was back in my room by 8:00 AM Friday.

Saturday afternoon I was back in the Cath Lab for Dr. Vohra to place one more stent in my right anterior artery.  This one was blocked about 70 percent.  Good as new (ok, not really), I walked out of the Hospital Sunday afternoon, October 25, 2015.

It turns out, Dr. Vohra’s coronary heart disease solution is a vegan diet. He told me about the book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Caldwell B. Esselstyn, MD.  Ironically, it was the same book that Renee, my IV nurse at the Nevada Clinic, had strongly recommended last July when I first gave up bread, which in itself lowered my total cholesterol from 209 to 159.  Esselstyn’s approach is to lower cholesterol (which is undeniably linked to coronary disease) through diet and nutrition rather than by pharmaceuticals.  Studies by doctors like Campbell (The China Study) and Esselstyn (use of plant-based nutrition to reduce cholesterol levels to below 150) seem to make sense to me, and I had already cut out red meat and pork, and most processed foods; how much more of a leap to be vegan?  I’ll leave it for you who are interested to research on your own; I’m a baby on this nutrition walk myself.

What’s Faith Got to Do with It? 

So, at this point you’re thinking what a lucky guy I am.  For some reason I did not die while fishing on the reservoir, driving my truck to Preston, being transported in the three separate ambulances, in the Ely ER, Summerlin ER, or the Summerlin Cath Lab.  Yes, I’m leading a charmed life.  But I know better.  Let me share with you some of my most personal thoughts as I endured those 48 hours.

When I suspected a heart attack at the reservoir, I sat on my little cot chair before taking off my waders and prayed to Christ Jesus, “I know that you are always in control, Lord.  That every breath I take, every new day I experience, is a gift from You.  If You say it is time for me to come home, so be it.  But Lord, if this is a wake-up call for me to align better with your plan for my life, as opposed to my plan, so be it as well.  Either way Lord, I only ask that you lay a protection over my wife and children.”  With that prayer I felt the Holy Spirit in me, calming my confusion, and giving me the clarity and strength to pursue the quickest care possible.  The God of the universe created us for His purpose, which is good and holy, yet we fight against His desires for us because our free will is intoxicating.  The Bible says, ‘“I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”’ (Jeremiah 29:11).

The other unworldly-thought that ran through my mind was how blessed I was that The Lord of the universe had already saved me through the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ Jesus.  Jesus’s grace at the cross already saved my soul, and there was nothing I could do, and nothing I needed to do to earn His forgiveness.  It was comforting to know that concerning my salvation, nothing was left undone.  If I died, my soul was saved for all eternity and I would see my loved ones in heaven.  Don’t misunderstand me, I wanted to survive, I was not ready to leave my wife, family, and friends.  But I would be leaving them with a Christian foundation that would save their eternal souls in the same way.  Colossians 1:13-14 says, “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

I was scared, but oddly calm, knowing that The Lord was leading me through this crazy journey.  Not wanting to speed while experiencing what turned out to be an acute MI, the drive to Preston took a full thirty minutes or more.  A lot can pass through your mind in thirty minutes.  As soon as I had cell service I called my wife and told her that I thought I was having a heart attack, that I was driving to Preston to get help for my remaining travel to Ely, and that I needed prayers.  I did not have to tell her; I knew that her first course of action would be notifying all our Christian friends that my health was in peril and that petition prayers were needed to get me through this health crisis.  I knew the guys in my Men’s Group, men I’ve known twenty years or longer, would know what to do.  We’ve always been there for each other when crisis hits.  Thinking about all the sets of medical professional hands I passed through during the night before my first angioplasty (19 by my count), I know the Holy Spirit traveled right along with me and The Lord delivered me swiftly through their care.  There is no doubt in my mind that the petitions of my prayer warriors were answered by God.  In 1 John 5:14 the Bible says, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”  I know my prayer warriors are in the will of God.

The Water Master Grizzly

Ok, for you die-hard fly fishermen (no pun intended) reading this solely to learn about the Water Master’s performance let me first say that it was only on the water for about 15 or 20 minutes.  That said I have several early observations. 

First, I like the foot strap (adjustable to two locations).  The NFO Escape has a fixed-position bar for a footrest.  Being shorter than most, I always found it too far away.  Ironically, when I placed the sole of my boots on the Escape footrest (as opposed to my Achilles heel) my knees were up such that my hands would hit them when I rowed.  The Water Master strap works much better in my opinion, at least for shorter anglers.

FisherDad demonstrating the Water Master on cement, three days post-angioplasty, 
The other thing I noticed, and which I appreciated while throwing my Water Master into the Trout Truck bed while suffering the heart attack, was that it was easier for me to portage out of the water.  The Water Master is balanced, whereas the Escape is heavier at the stern than the bow (or vice, versa), and that imbalance makes it more difficult to lift over my head than the Water Master, despite both weighing about the same.

I also noticed that the standard Water Master oars appeared longer than the Escape, but admittedly I did not measure them.  The weeds were very thick at the boat launch, and I thought the Water Master skimmed over them very nicely, and with my knees in a lower position it was much easier to row the watercraft.

So, hopefully I will be released by my family to fish in the late winter, after the first thaw, and then I can make a more complete report on the Water Master Grizzly.  After all, its maiden voyage was divinely interrupted by an acute myocardial infarction. 

The Water Master leaning against Trout Truck. 


July 24, 2015

North Fork Outdoors: Finally Responds to Warranty Claims

UPDATE:  My buddy Bill ran into a NFO representative at a fly fishing show near or in Sacramento.  Through Bill’s banter with the rep regarding his eyewitness account of the failed repairs, I received a text message directly from Dave Scadden saying that he would repair the Escape.  He has done so, although I have yet to inflate it and test it out.  I will say the repairs look to be much more robust than the first set, but we’ll see how it holds air on one of my upcoming trips.  More to come later.

I purchased my Outlaw Escape from North Fork Outdoors (NFO) in the fall of 2010.  Although I’d been a contented owner of several Fish Cat tubes, I was looking for a compact tube that provided a footrest to rest my feet out of frigid water as well as a unique oar system that could handle the windy days that often descend upon my favorite reservoirs.  NFO is owned and operated by Dave Scadden. 
Brand New NFO Outlaw Escape - October 26, 2010
I was aware of Scadden’s products, having first borrowed an Escalade X on my 2003 Henderson Springs trip with good friend Bill Bergan (who also owns a couple Scadden products).  After Scadden introduced his NFO Outlaw series I would frequently check the NFO website, watching for a frameless model designed more for Nevada’s reservoirs than the whitewater rivers of Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.  So, when I first laid my eyes on his Outlaw Escape I was certain I had found my nirvana.  Or so I thought. 
Borrowed Escalade X - November 2003
I purchased my Escape in the fall of 2010.  Until the spring of 2014 it provided 4 years of yeoman service.  Over those years I touted my delight over the Outlaw Escape’s performance, and I received numerous inquiries about the watercraft.  At first readers just wanted to know how the Escape compared to the Fish Cat, Caddis, and other similar tubes.  I always replied that it was superior. 
Fish Cat - The Workhorse
More sophisticated tubers were worried about NFO’s use of Bravo valves manufactured by Scoprega out of Italy.  (I did report my disappointment that the Escape did not come with an acceptable valve adapter for filling the tube.)  Several commenters reported concerns about the Bravo valves rather than the more common Halkey Roberts valves.  The writers said they could not find parts for them.  But my research uncovered a marine outfitter, Defender, that supplies Bravo valve replacements and tools.  Consequently, my blog advised not to let the new Bravo valves become a reason to avoid the NFO Outlaw watercrafts. You can read many of these comments on the bottom of my New Watercraft blog posted December 9, 2010.

However, my fervor for the Escape began to wane in May 2014 when I began to notice the glue separation on the rack and pinion (R&P) integrated oar system.  The high winds experienced during my Southwest Fly Fishing photoshoot necessitated additional force on the oaring system, resulting in a partial glue failure. (In my opinion, the design of the R&P integrated systems is flawed in the long haul, and I’m wondering if the design used on NFO’s Switch Blade is a better solution.)  I continued to use the Escape through the summer and fall of 2014, relying on finning more than the oaring for obvious reasons.  Unfortunately, by the fall season the glue on the black cones at the tip of the pontoons was starting to separate, too.  Although I had no apparent leaks, that was my obvious concern.  Finning rather than oaring was one thing, but risking a tube leak was quite another.  

When Bill Bergan and I began to plan our Ruby Marsh fishing trip I decided it was time to check on that NFO lifetime warranty.  I emailed Scadden with pictures of the problem and he confirmed the glue was warranted for life:

“Hi Mark. Yes it sounds like it will be covered under warranty so please send it back to the shop with a note attached stating the problem and we will get it taken care of for you. Thanks so much! Dave”

Here are the pictures I emailed Scadden on March 5, 2015
Glue Separation on Cone
R&P Integrated Oar System Glue Separation
To his credit, Scadden returned the repaired tube within a week before my Ruby Marsh departure.  I inflated the tube and inspected the repairs.  The cone repair looked okay, but the repair to the R&P integrated oar system was not.  Unfortunately, I did not have time to send the Escape back.  Also, I did not have a pool in which to test the tube for leaks.

My very first float with the repaired Escape was on the calm water of the Ruby Marshes.  Within two hours my escape was looking like a “Chinese Shar-Pei dog” according to my buddy Bill.  When we headed for the Wild Horse Reservoir in northeastern Nevada the next day, I was able to check out the tube in the water before launch.  It had a small leak in just below the port-side pontoon cone, which was just repaired by Scadden.  I used a UV sealer to plug the leak, overlaid it with duct tape, and launched the tube.  However, after a few hours I noticed the other tube bladder was losing air as well.  By the time I extracted from the reservoir there was noticeably less air pressure.  Submerging that cone into the reservoir revealed yet another leak.  The following self-explanatory pictures were emailed to Scadden on May 9, 2015: 





I have not floated the Escape since last April.  I have placed no less than three phone calls to Scadden, leaving voice messages each time.  I’ve sent three emails, with detailed pictures of the leaking cones.  I’ve received no callbacks or emails, other than to say, “We have received your email and will respond and soon as possible.

As much as I enjoyed the tube’s performance for 4 years, I cannot say I’d recommend the NFO products to anyone given Scadden’s non responsiveness to the warranty coverage. NFO currently sells the escape for $999.99 full retail, and it lasted less than five years. My three Fish Cats, purchased well over ten years ago for about $140 each, still hold their air. You be the judge on taking a $1,000 risk that Scadden builds quality products, and more importantly keeps his word as to the warranty.

April 30, 2015

Elko County Waters: Ruby Marshes, South Fork Reservoir, and Wild Horse Reservoir


Viewing the Ruby Mountains from Jiggs, NV.
The small, white speck on the slopes in the middle of the picture is the RCR cabin.

It had been over 11 years since I fished with my good friend and fellow pescador, Bill Bergan. In November 2003 I flew to Sacramento where Bill picked me up and whisked me off to fish the lakes at Henderson Springs in Northern California. Since then we have been scheming up new fishing adventures, but we could never connect. I was pushing the waters around the Ruby Mountains south of Elko, Nevada. It turns out the driving time to Elko from Sacramento and Las Vegas was about equal. Bill knew how beautiful the Rubies were from our 1979 backpack trip to Favre Lake on the Ruby Mountain's Lamoille Canyon trail. We eventually settled on the Ruby Mountain area where Bill was able to meet me, ironically, driving directly from another group fishing trip at Henderson Springs.


The Ditch near Unit 21 where Brown Dike and Long Dike roads cross.
Through the wonder of the Internet, Bill discovered the Ruby Crest Ranch & Elko Guide Service located in the South Fork area which is about 15 miles south of Elko. The ranch and guide service is owned and operated by Bill and Betty Gibson. They served as our gracious hosts, and Bill Gibson introduced us to a few nuances of the nearby waters. I wholeheartedly recommend Bill and Betty to anyone interested in fishing or hunting in Elko County, but more on them later.


The Ruby Crest Ranch (RCR) is located in South Fork, Nevada.
I have been captivated by the Ruby Mountains ever since I was a teenager. I learned about them through my brother Neal. Their alternate nickname, the Alps of Nevada, conjured up images that were spot-on when I first set my eyes upon them in 1979. Not only are they dotted with 25 or so alpine lakes and lined with miles upon miles of creeks and streams, they are home to the Ruby Lakes National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). The NWR contains almost 40,000 acres of wetlands, and is one of the most remote refuges in the lower 48 states. Their website reports that Ruby Lake serves as a magnet for a wide diversity of wildlife species and is strategically located along migration corridors serving both the Pacific and Central Flyways. The refuge has been identified as one of 500 Globally Important Bird Areas by the American Bird Conservancy. I suspiciously observed that while it mentions the fishery “is popular with local anglers” it never says it is a “world class fishery” holding trophy size trout and bass. Our host, Bill Gibson, says that is because the NWR doesn’t want to encourage the anglers.


A wild stallion and his three mares at the southern end of the Ruby Valley.
I wanted to be able to fish the Ruby Marsh Collection Ditch (Ditch) on my way to Elko on Monday morning, so I spent Sunday evening in Ely, Nevada. I left the Ely motel at 5:00 AM and at 7:30 AM I arrived at the Ditch below the Gallagher Hatchery, about where it connects with the Brown Dike Road. Think of the Ditch as a man made spring creek that collects water from numerous spring heads and delivers it to the marsh. I had great adventure working over large trout back in October 2012, and I had to revisit that spot again. I did indeed find trout in the culvert pool, but it was a lone dark shadow of about 18 inches downstream about 100 feet that intrigued me for over an hour as I tempted it with several nymphs, and I even floated a size 18 black gnat dry fly. The only honest look the trout gave me was a half-hearted chase of Denny Richard’s stillwater Callibaetis nymph. Amazingly, except for the Callibaetis nymph, the fish never moved from his spot no matter what I did. I silently vowed to return later… although I never did because the fishing everywhere else was so outstanding.


This is looking south from where the Ditch flows into the Marsh.
Taking a break on the Ditch while pondering my next move.
The trout was near the far bank, at a spot indicated by where the tall grass
on the right side of the picture appears to touch the far bank.
The red circle identifies the trout and its shadow.
I arrived an hour later at the Ruby Crest Ranch, greeted by a spirited but loving welcome from the yellow Labrador clan headed by Ruby, the matriarch of the pack. Their raucous “hello” was followed by Betty who announced that “the boys” were fishing the South Fork Reservoir. She told me I could reach the two Bills (Bill Bergan and Bill Gibson) via cell service that extended to the reservoir. They were fishing from Gibson’s small aluminum skiff powered by an electric trolling motor. They had already caught several well sized smallmouth bass and a trout or two. Gibson generously let Bergan and me take the skiff out to try for more bass, and later he took us to the boat launch area where we connected with several nice trout pointlessly trying to spawn along the shore (the South Fork of the Humboldt didn’t have enough spring snowmelt to provide safe passage upstream).

Master Guide Bill Gibson orchestrating his beloved yellow Labradors.
Bergan in the skiff with the Rubies in the background, fishing South Fork Reservoir.
My first of the trip, a 15 inch South Fork rainbow.
Bergan with a very fine looking cutthroat hybrid
from South Fork that pushed 20 inches. 
A close up of Bergan's magnificent cutthroat.
My pretty little 15 inch rainbow from South Fork.
Tuesday morning we traveled over Harrison Pass to the Ruby Marshes and the Ditch. Fishing the Ditch was a little slow, but the trout size compensated for the pace. Of particular note was the absolute solitude amidst awesome natural wonder. The Ditch is close to 10 miles long, and even if a few other anglers are working it there is no “elbow to elbow” casting that you might find on other popular streams. The isolation of the area is hard not to recognize and appreciate. Fishing the Ditch takes patience, and much of it is “sight” fishing. I have read other Ditch reports that say dropping scuds and midges off indicators doesn’t work here because of the crystal clear, glass-like water… they are correct. The trout were visible from the east bank with the morning sun at our backs, and cruising fish, often in spawning pairs this time of spring, were in plain sight. I was able to connect with three trout, one of which approached 24 inches and 5 lbs. Another memorable moment was two trout circulating through an area where one of the finger springs joined the main current. Bergan described it as being similar to bonefish fishing. After numerous failed attempts I was finally able to place the fly in the path of one of the trout whereupon it gave chase and took the fly. All this was visible from the elevated bank, and certainly the visual stimulation created excitement and anticipation that will be responsible for this angler’s daydreams for years to come.


Here's Bergan playing a nice trout in the Ditch.
This was my largest catch of the trip, a Ditch rainbow pushing 24 inches, maybe 5 lbs.
Note that she's dropping roe from her vent.
My second nice Ditch rainbow caught "bonefish" style, with a landing assist by Bill Gibson.
We took a break from the Ditch to visit the Ruby Crest Ranch cabin in the Shanty Town area. Gibson had to repair a faucet for a set of fly angling clients who travel up from Bakersfield, CA every year. While he toiled away, Bergan and I chatted with the guys from Bakersfield, exchanging stories, reports, and flies of particular note.

Once tasks were completed we set out for the Main Boat Launch, where we found ourselves fishing in aloneness once again. The Marshes can be thought of as a maze. This time of year the pathways through the Marsh are more obvious (although there are miles and miles of them to navigate), but once the bulrush gets taller and thicker they are not so obvious. Gibson reports that anglers inexperienced with the Marshes often cannot find their way back and spend the night in the marsh waiting to be rescued. Best to explore the deep marsh area with an experienced guide like Gibson.


A small section of the "marsh maze" that defines the Ruby Lakes NWR.
Bergan and I did not need to venture too far into the Marsh before we hooked up with beautiful trout. The first boat channel marker proved to be fruitful. We observed several large fish working a stretch of it that were difficult to hook, and even harder to land. I hooked two large rainbows that tugged with me for about 30 to 60 seconds only to ultimately dislodge the hook or snap a blood knot. I learned my lesson here that 3x or 4x tippets are best, and that blood knots can result in lost fish, so entirely new leaders are best when tippets get shortened or broke off.


This was the only Marsh trout I landed on Tuesday.
I lost two like this one within 40 feet of each other, likely due to leader mismanagement.
This rainbow would easily have been 4 pounds.
In discussing Wednesday’s plans, we were torn between returning to the Marshes and visiting Wild Horse Reservoir. It was hard to fight against revisiting the Marshes, but I’ve always wanted to see Wild Horse Reservoir. Wild Horse is about 60 miles directly north of Elko, which means about an hour-and-a-half drive from the Ruby Crest Ranch. From Las Vegas, it’s not a body of water you'd designate for a weekend angling trip, so I wanted to take advantage of being near Elko. Although the reservoir was way down, it was still a significant body of water. Gibson was hoping we’d land wiper (white bass / striped bass hybrid); not only do they fight really hard, they are one of the best tasting freshwater fish. If we could land a decent one Gibson directed us to keep it for our Wednesday night supper. Unfortunately, the wipers didn't cooperate. I was fortunate to connect and land three nice rainbows in the 18 to 19 inch range. The most memorable fish was the one I brought to the net eight times, and each time it immediately recognized it and dove straight down stripping line of my Galvin reel. As Bergan will be my witness, at one point it had my Outlaw Escape doing 360º turns right on the spot. I suppose, just like human beings, some fish are better athletes than others, and this one fought way longer and tougher than his 19 inches would have predicted.

Bergan floating Wild Horse Reservoir in search of fish.
Our Scadden NFO tubes on the beach at Wild Horse Reservoir.
FisherDad fighting a tug of war with a Wild Horse rainbow.
On Wednesday afternoon, Bergan and I fished the South Fork boat launch for the crazy spawners that appeared so eager to be hooked on Monday evening. Gibson stayed behind at the ranch which gave Bergan and me more time to privately catch-up on the happenings in our lives. The fishing was fun, and Bergan even wet-waded a submerged little peninsula that, despite my hope, did not give up any fish.  Regrettably, scrambling down the rip-rap caused Bergan to tweak his knee, so we both agreed to head home early Thursday morning.


Bergan wet-wading South Fork Reservoir in the waning light.

My 21-inch South Fork rainbow caught right at sunset.  This fish fought very hard.
Before I forget, here’s a little more about the Ruby Crest Ranch & Elko Guide Service. Bill Gibson is a licensed master guide and fly angler who can put you into a variety of fish and waters. For hunters, he can set you up for antelope, elk, big horn sheep, mountain goat, and lion, not to mention upland game bird and waterfowl hunting. Gibson also holds a BLM Special Use Permit, a USFS Special Use Permit on the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, and a US Fish & Wildlife Special Use Permit for Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge, in addition to access on choice private lands. And for the do-it-yourselfers, he rents out his two cabins as well as rooms at the ranch. In addition to the hunting and fishing, Bill and Betty offer family adventures including horseback adventures. Bill even has the patience to teach fly fishing to children. He knows his wildlife, and more importantly he knows the area. Despite his vast knowledge, Bill is low key and patient; it is a relaxed experience where his goal is for you to come as a guest and leave as a friend.


Main Boat Launch, Ruby Lakes NWR, with no one in sight Thursday morning.
Final trout of the trip, right at 20 inches. 
Sort of made up for the two I lost on Tuesday... but no.
As I had planned, I stopped at the Marsh on the way home. I did not fish the Ditch, but rather fished the Main Boat Launch based on advice from Gibson. The hatchery planted small stockers there that disrupted his fishing Tuesday afternoon, but he surmised they would have disbursed by Thursday leaving the larger trout still attempting to spawn. He was correct. I again hooked into four large trout, but all except the last one were adept at throwing the hook. When that last one, approaching 20 inches, was brought to shore I noted that he was hooked in the corner of his jaw and that his maxilla was stretched pretty well. That caused me to ponder how often these larger trout were caught and released thereby creating mouth damage that resulted in more hook pull-out in subsequent battles (maybe that was why they were so hard to land?). I don’t know that answer, but that last fish was a wonderful conclusion to an awesome fishing trip with my good friend, Bill Bergan. May we have many more trips to come.


The infamous bar in Jiggs. Jiggs has a colorful past; it's even been in the movies.  It claims a rich mining and 
ranching history that produced two NV governors (Edward "Ted" Carville and Lewis Rice "Old Broadhorns"
Bradley), and was used by Zane Grey as the stomping grounds for his fictional western outlaw, King Fisher. 
Jiggs is reportedly named after a portly top hat-wearing cartoon character in the popular 1900s comic strip  
"Bringing up Father." Supposedly the children of a saloon owner suggested the name during World War I 
because they were amused by the fictional exploits of the henpecked husband.
I believe Gibson told me this was the old post office for Jiggs.
Wildlife is everywhere in the Rubies, but I was especially taken aback by the numerous herds of
pronghorn antelope I witnessed every day. This lone buck was up about 6,500 feet in
the pinyon and juniper trees. I think I saw over 50 antelope.