May 10, 2019

White Pine's Comins and Illipah Reservoirs

Chan fishing Comins in the sunlight while rain storms threaten over the Egan Range on
the western edge of Steptoe Valley.
My son Nick got me started on this blogging journey in June 2007. He created the blog from Adobe PDF files I emailed to family and a couple fishing buddies. The original PDF essays were almost completely about my fishing experience at select destinations with pretty pictures. The blog was created as a Father’s Day gift, and Nick aptly named it FisherDad by securing the website URL To make up for lost time, I started posting blogs recreated from fishing, climbing, and skiing adventures reaching way back to the late 1970s.  
One of my first rainbows of Thursday morning, a nice Comins rainbow over 16 inches.
I actually inaugurated my fly angling hobby on Cold Creek in the late 1970s, but as my angling skills improved I abandoned tiny Cold Creek for larger streams like Beaver Dam, Santa Clara, and Mammoth as well as stillwaters such as Pine Valley, Cave Lake, Comins, and Illipah. Then, in the early 2000s, I watched an Outdoor Nevada episode on a local PBS station about a small pond that was created as a resource to fight wildfires threatening private property in the Cold Creek development (yes, that private property through which the fishable section of the creek now resides). The show’s host, Brian Wignall at that time, was fishing the pond with a Nevada Department of Wildlife officer. Neither caught a trout… but that didn’t matter. I decided that the little pond of less than one acre could become my local, winter-season fishing hole. For about five years I hardly ever encountered another angler fishing the pond. I posted my first Cold Creek blog, back dated to 2006, documenting my trespass of the private property and discovery that trout were still reproducing in the Cold Creek headwaters. That post, and those that followed about the Cold Creek pond, seemed to help popularized it, which I foolishly fueled by including maps and directions in my blog (the popularity would have happened anyway).  
My friend Chan, suited up for a hard day's work on Comins. I believe the snow-capped peak on the right
edge of the photo is 10,079 foot Camel Peak. Duck Creek Valley lies just over the other mountain directly
over the cab of the red truck.  
I'm reminiscing about those blog beginnings because one of the my early followers was Chan, and one of his very first blog comments was on the 2006 Cold Creek blog. Over the years he’s posted numerous comments, and I knew he was falling heavy into the sport of fly angling. He asked many questions, seeking to understand the craft as well as discover new streams, or what backcountry types call “blue lines on a map.” I don’t hold myself in high regard as fly fishing goes; it’s just that I’ve been doing it so long it seems to become second nature. I try to keep things simple and not overthink techniques and situations. I’m sure there are things that I am unaware of doing when I fish, and those are the most difficult to teach others. They are the types of things you learn by observing someone who is successful. 
This trout slopes away from the camera, so it's a
difficult angle to measure her length (that's t
he hen
fish's roe spilled on the apron). In the flat dimension
of the photo she's a little shy of 17 inches based
on my hand. I'm guessing her actual size was over
18 inches. 
Chan had a fishing buddy in Las Vegas, and they seemed to focus on Utah waters where they had very good success.  A year or so ago his buddy moved to Carson City, which was a great move for him as the east slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains has many wonderful “blue lines.” For Chan, not so much because he lost a local angling partner (of course he’ll find excuses to visit Carson City as often as he can). Last October Chan posted a comment about missing his fishing partner and how that was impacting his outings. Although I really didn’t know a lot about Chan, we’ve had a “social media” relationship for over 8 years. Through the blog I learned he was married with young children, started his public service career as an auditor for the State of Nevada where he now serves as a hearings officer while running a small law practice on the side. Those facts were interesting, but it was his deep, sincere affection for fly angling that poured out of his blog comments that revealed his character to me; I’ve never heard of a fly fishing serial killer, although there might well be one or two. Regardless of the risks, Chan and I decided to take a trip to White Pine County together. He wanted to learn more about stillwater fly fishing, and I saw a potential local fishing partner who enjoys it as much as I do. 
Up close and personal with a Comins rainbow.
Chan wanted to learn more about fishing lakes and reservoirs. I knew he had fished the Wayne Kirch reservoirs with some self-described mixed results, and I suspected there were other stillwaters as well. However, he’d never been to Ely, NV or fished the surrounding White Pine Co. reservoirs, so we decided that was to be our destination. The soft plan was to leave early Thursday and try Comins Reservoir until the sun set. Friday we’d drive US Highway 50 over to Illipah Reservoir and give it a go. I knew Comins would fish better than Illipah, but sometimes Illipah can surprise you. I was hoping we’d find numerous Illipah trout in the range of 13 to 15 inches, but my real desire was for Chan to land one or two strong Tasmanian rainbows of 20 inches or better from Comins. We didn’t accomplish either of those goals, but that’s not to say the trip was disappointing.

The weather forecast was a little worrisome 10-days out. Rain and possible thunder was originally predicted for both days. As the trip came closer the storm pattern seemed to be weakening and/or sliding a little south of Ely. Thursday was the tougher of the two days, although upon arrival there was a broad patch of sunlight that highlighted Comins and seemed to make it feel unusually warm. That didn’t last. After an hour or so the clouds converged and blotted out the sun. Luckily we only received a light shower and heard distant thunder but saw no lightening. The wind, on the other hand, often gusted well beyond 15 mph for short periods. By the end of the evening we were both pretty tired from the kick-paddling. Friday started out sunny with a slight wind. After breakfast we headed for Illipah which lies between Ely and Eureka on US 50. The Illipah road was muddy as expected, and in the early morning it was deceivingly slick, but the Tacoma’s four wheel drive got us in and out without much difficulty. I will say, when an Ely local claims you can drive a passenger car in and out of Illipah Reservoir, what he’s omitting is the phrase “if the road hasn’t received snow or rain for three days or so.” Two-by-four pickup trucks have needed a tow assist to get out of situations even in warm, clear conditions due to the gumbo-like clay's water retention. I know this because I was the stuck truck on one occasion. 
Here's one of the "spawning" rainbows that were paired up along Comins' shallow and rocky western
shoreline. The inlet isn't sufficient for the trout to run up into for spawning, so they pair up and attempt to
in the shallows anyway. I've seen this in the Wayne Kirch reservoirs as well; the spawn instinct is strong.
I believe this one was caught on a Denny Rickards callibaetis nymph, but I did catch some on a black streamer
with flashabou in its tail.  He was about 15 inches, maybe slightly longer.
One of the delightful surprises on this trip was how much Chan and I are alike. Besides our conservative accounting and fiscal backgrounds as well as public service careers, our sense of responsibility and work ethic, both with respect to family and career, are very similar. We seem to share a sense of fairness and appreciation for life’s special offerings like families and nature. We’re both easy going, able to take things in stride, and we appreciate every moment we are given to pursue trout in the wonderful waters they inhabit. Given a choice and our health cooperating, we’d both prefer stalking trout in cold water mountain streams. There’s something chess-like about reading stream water for feeding trout and then accurately throwing a fly, especially a dry fly, into their feeding zone and waiting upon their exhilarating strike. In some ways it can be addicting this sport of fly angling. 

We caught our share of trout both days, but nothing over 19 inches. We fished long hours, and except for a number of Comins shore anglers we pretty much had our way on both reservoirs. Although we caught lots of trout on Illipah, they were all nondescript planted rainbows of 10 to 11 inches, some smaller. I was pleased to land a wild brown trout in the shallows of the shoreline on a size 14 olive bead head nymph, but even that was only 11 inches or so.  Illipah is about 6,800 feet in elevation, and it seemed to me we might have caught it too early after ice out, but to be honest I did see two guys filleting a nice rainbow of at least 15 inches for a noon fish-fry right on the shore. Maybe we didn't give Illipah our best, maybe we should have attacked the inlet more earnestly. 
This little brown trout was caught on an olive bead head nymph (still in his nose) in about one foot of
water right off the western shoreline of Illipah Reservoir. I hope he's there next year with 4 or 5 more inches.
We lost many fish in Comins, but a few 19-inchers did come to net. I lost one near the bulrush on the reservoir’s north end. I thought I hooked it well, but the brute stayed down and proceeded to make strong, vigorous head shakes of the type that signal trouble. He did indeed manage to get that hook out of his mouth, and looking back I wonder if I kept the 4x tippet too tight. Fortunately, that disappointment was vanquished by a gorgeous 18-inch brown trout I landed in the shallows near the boat launch area. It was my last trout of Thursday evening, and it was the first brown trout I ever caught at Comins. Initially it leapt twice, clearing the water by one-to-two feet just like a rainbow, but its buttery color betrayed its behavior. It fought extremely hard and didn’t come to net very quick so I rushed to release it before it exhausted itself beyond recovery. Consequently I didn’t get the photos I wanted… but I do have Chan as my witness, although his Carson City buddy claims Chan has “fisherman’s eyes.” 
This fine brown trout exactly filled the long opening of my Fishpond Nomad net which puts him right at
18 inches. I caught him on a Whitlock damsel nymph in about three feet of water. Last trout of the day
on Thursday, and my first ever Comins salmo trutta.  
The long view of Mr. Salmo Trutta, which unfortunately excludes his
anal fin, adipose fin, peduncle, and caudal fin. Surprisingly he was
a leaper, probably with a little Salmo Salar in his blood.
We talked to quite a few folks along the way; some shared photos on their phones and the stories that went along with them. One told us of large 26 to 30 inch pike being caught in Comins, which means the trout fishery will eventually collapse again. If you’ve never experienced Comins, you better try it within the next few years. 
Rainbows were paired up in the shallows trying to spawn because the Steptoe Creek diversion channel feeding
the reservoir cascades in like a waterfall negating any possible stream spawning. Still, the trout have the natural
urge to spawn albeit unsuccessfully. Chan was trying to take advantage of their shoreline activity from his red
float tube. I believe the large peak on the right side of the photo is 10,936-foot Ward Mountain.
Another man, an airplane mechanic who was on call for the Ely air-ambulance providers, showed us photos of huge Wild Horse Reservoir trout of 24 inches, a legitimate 24 inches. He caught them on the southern end where the Owyhee River enters the reservoir. Since I’m planning a July adventure in northern Elko County, I was very happy to hear his stories, making note of where he found early spring success. I also thanked him for doing a great job servicing the planes, because I rode one of those air-ambulances from Ely to Las Vegas back in October 2015
Chan preparing to launch his float tube on Illipah Reservoir, half-way between Ely and Eureka nestled
between the Mokomoke and Moorman mountains
Traveling in the cab of a truck with someone you’ve never met or actually talked with can be a risky proposition. In this case I wasn’t worried for any safety reasons, but what if we turned out to be boring to each other, or even worse obnoxious in a way unapparent in well-manicured written words? I’m sure we were both relieved to find we shared a propensity to tell stories recalled from lives well lived. It made the time pass quickly while driving those Nevada highways. 
Fish Taco waiting for our return from Illipah Reservoir. The muddy road was deceptively slick.
Back dropped by the 9,000 foot, snow-capped Mokemoke Mountains, Chan is working his way up the
western edge of Illipah Reservoir. I think we should have spent more time fishing the southern inlet.
Speaking of which, while driving on US Highway 50 from Ely to Illipah, Chan asked me, “Is this the loneliest road in America?” I smiled. Originally labeled the Lincoln Highway, it was one of the first transcontinental highways in the USA. It ran from New York City’s Times Square to San Francisco’s Lincoln Park, passing through Ely and other Nevada cities along its way. In July 1986, Life Magazine declared the 286-mile stretch from Ely to Fernley, NV to be “The Loneliest Road in America.” I can tell you it wasn’t so lonely traveling with Chan.

April 3, 2019

Early Spring on Dacey Reservoir

Here's a typically handsome Dacey spring rainbow trout of about 16 inches.
Early spring always brings hope.  For those of us with a keen eye for the outdoors, it can be overwhelming when it floods our senses with new growth.  Maybe it’s the contrast to the gloomy drabness of winter that gives spring all the attention; it seems everyone welcomes its emergence from the fingers of winter.  The flowering and budding of trees give promise of things to come.  Even the floor of the Mojave Desert turns remarkably green in the early spring, followed by its own unique color bouquet.  Songbirds, found even in our most urban environs, start whistling and tweeting before the sunrise, and sometimes throughout the night, perhaps as part of their intense mating and nesting ritual.  All sorts of new life begins to pop.  I have even noticed a bumper crop of baby fence lizards sunning themselves on my backyard stone planter, while butterflies and bees flit about overhead.  And of course, there are those spring-spawning rainbow trout, hungry from the cold of winter and in need of beefing up for their own mating ceremonies.  There’s an energy in springtime, a natural force that can’t be denied and is the fuel that feeds our belief that all things old, or even seemingly dead, can be renewed again.
The size of this trout appears smaller than reality.  The Fishpond Nomad mid-length net is large and
deep. The 15-inch rainbow is burrowing into the bottom which is 12 inches below my hand.
The other net dimension is 13 inches wide by 18 inches long. 
Once our unusually wet Clark County, NV winter subsided, my angling plans began to coalesce around making Dacey Reservoir my first spring angling venture.  Dacey is located in the Wayne Kirch Wildlife Management Area (Kirch) on Nevada Highway 318, about halfway between Alamo and Ely.
Although not the largest, this 13-inch rainbow was deeper into his spawning wardrobe than any
of the other trout.
Dacey is an interesting body of water to fish just after ice-out.  The trout are indeed plumping up with their springtime appetite, but there’s often a mat of dead vegetation floating on the surface.  There is an abundance of open water, unfettered by the coming summer crop of weeds, but the challenge is getting through the nasty entanglement at the launching site.  Of all the fishable reservoirs within Kirch, Dacey has the most north-south alignment.  Its surface length runs about 2,200 yards north/south with an average east/west width of about 400 yards.  The primitive launch area is at the southwest corner of the impoundment, right up against the riprap reinforced dam.  Imagine a persistent northern wind pushing the dead weeds across Dacey’s 1.25-mile longitudinal length into the 700 square yard corner pocket where the boat launch resides.  Add to that the prohibition of motorized watercraft from ice-out through August 15th due to waterfowl nesting and you lose the benefit of larger boats with outboard motors plowing a path for those of us fishing from tubes, pontoons, and kayak personal fishing vessels.
My Toyota Fish Taco got me to Dacey quickly and safely.  Note to the right of the truck bed, between
the tail light and the riprap, lies the loathsome mass of dead vegetation I had to plow through to
reach the fishable water.
When I arrived there was a fly angler in a kayak on the reservoir, which gave me hope that I could also pass over the mass of weeds in the Water Master.  He turned out to be a fisheries biologist for the Nevada Dept. of Wildlife (NDOW).  Before I got setup to launch my Water Master fishing craft he extracted himself for a lunchbreak.  He had been on the water about one hour, catching a nice sixteen-inch rainbow.  When I first saw the NDOW truck I assumed he was a warden, but when I voluntarily proffered my fishing license he said he wasn’t a warden, but rather a biologist.  

I recalled running running into a fisheries biologist named "Mark" on my second trip to Dacey on October 23, 2013. In fact, I snapped a far-off photograph of him playing a large rainbow trout and posted it on that blog.  The fishing was marvelous that day, and Mark and I hollered to each other across the water to celebrate our joy.  I never got a close enough look to recognize Mark on the street, but I could never forget his first name, of course.  So, I asked this guy if his name was “Mark,” and he said “Yes.”  We had a nice conversation about Dacey and other waters in the area he covers (essentially, waters in Lincoln, Nye, and Esmeralda Counties).  He provided some updates about Beaver Dam Creek which will encourage me to make a return visit over the next month or so, possibly with my son, grandson, and daughter.
The temperature was moderate, but the clouds hid the sun from time to time.  Mark, the NDOW
fisheries biologist, can be seen in he distance paddling his kayak.
After our talk I took on the task of rowing the watercraft over the floating morass of dead vegetation.  It took a long time to cross the flotsam of weeds to reach open water, but I did persevere.  Once clear I began casting my 9-foot, 5-weight rod with a full-sink line, a 5x tippet, and a Whitlock damsel nymph.  In that first hour I landed five very nice trout, all in the range of thirteen to sixteen inches (although the second trout might have been close to seventeen inches, but I don’t want to overstate the case).  Biologist Mark had returned to the water by then and noted my luck.  He asked what I was fishing.  I told him, and eventually I paddled over and gave him one of my Whitlock damsel nymphs.  I don’t know how it worked out for him, but I can report that the fishing slowed for me after that first hour causing me to swap out fly patterns several times over the next few hours.  Despite trying a variety if flies, I only caught two more trout over the next two hours.  

Mark finished angling around 1:30 PM, I think.  As an unexpected thank you, he left the damsel nymph fly on the lip of my tailgate... it was the kind of gesture you come to expect from fellow outdoorsmen who cherish and respect their hobbies and the special places they are allowed to practice them

Here's a partial photo, looking north from the dam, of the massive vegetation debris blocking access
from the boat launch area located off the left side of the photo (see next photo).
This is the rest of the blockage.  Note my truck door on the left edge of the photo, which gives perspective
to the size of the riprap rocks (actually, they are more like boulders).  Just to the right of the door,
above the green sage, you can see the other truck parked next to the launch area, about 100 yards away.
About 2:00 PM another couple of kayak anglers navigated through the crud into open water.  I heard one of them tell his partner, “It would’ve been much easier launching from the riprap dam.”  Although I would readily agree that almost all the weed bed was pushed into the launching area, the problem with the riprap dam is the damage to your watercraft by dragging it over the large and sharply-fractured rocks and/or the damage to your body if you fall upon them while stepping up/down with your watercraft overhead.  At age 62 my strength, agility, and balance are nothing like when I was 40, so caution prescribed getting out the conventional way.

Shortly after 3:00 PM, after the fishing action cooled off, I began the battle of plowing through the weed bed blocking my access to the launch ramp.  I noticed that the journey back seemed to require much more effort with much less progress.  I also noticed that the Water Master’s left oar’s rack-and-pinion joint appeared to be getting stressed and that my collapsible aluminum oars were flexing under the weight of the weeds.  I decided to attempt a riprap dam extraction.  It all worked out fine, and it certainly saved me 20-30 minutes, but I wasn’t comfortable going up and down that riprap.  I made several trips in order to remove everything from the Water Master (fly rod, landing net, kick-fins, oars, stripping net, snacks, and fly boxes) before moving the bare raft up the dam’s riprap to the road, whereupon I could walk over to get my Fish Taco truck.  I was very thankful that with everything removed it only weighed about 30 pounds, although it's eight-foot by five-foot dimension was still awkward under my old 5-foot, 5-inch body frame.   

One of the other kayakers who forged through the weeds to fish.  After I got out and was packing the
truck to head home, he also exited over the dam riprap.  When he walked by to get his truck I
told him, "You made the right decision"
Maybe some of the floating debris will decay and fall to the bottom of the reservoir, I don’t know.  I do know that if some pathways aren’t opened through the weeds I think I’ll not try to row through them again.  I’ll leave that to the thirty-somethings in kayaks.

That aside, the fishing was very good in my eyes.  Seven trout landed between 13 and 17 inches in about three hours is a nice afternoon in most everyone's book.  I’ll never get the October 2013 experience out of my mind, but I also realize that experience was an anomaly for Kirch.

Grant  Range touching the clouds.  The cottonwood trees rising above the sage mark the
Dave Deacon campground location.
I am thankful for the arrival of this year’s spring.  Life is good.  God has blessed me far beyond what I deserve, which is judgment for my sins.  But instead Jesus gives me grace, so I have faith in Him, the quintessential model of the promise of spring (after all, He created it).  And may your Easter Holiday be blessed as well.  
It was a satisfying trip.

December 13, 2018

Cold Creek in December

The northwest edge of the 10,000-foot Spring Mountains provides a contrast to the high desert flora
that is unique to the western states.

I seem to have this unfulfilled fantasy of fishing in the snow. There’s something magical about how snow blankets the trees, shrubs, and rocks, hiding their intimate details from our vision. I especially enjoy how it can muffle sound, especially during a calm snowfall. In late November 2013 I tried to fish the pond during an early season snowfall, but instead I became a participating witness to a coyote who was hunting a jackrabbit, a rabbit that seemed to use my truck as a defensive barrier. Of course, my fantasy conveniently ignores the effects cold snow has on my comfort, particularly toes and fingers… but that’s part of the effort-reward transaction that usually comes with any great outdoor adventure.

The Spring Mountains west of Las Vegas have gotten some decent snow these past few weeks, but other priorities like family, Christmas decorations, and work caused me to postpone my outdoor foray. By now I knew the snow had receded to the 8,000 foot elevation, but this Thursday seemed like a fine afternoon to visit my local pond in serenity even if it was without snow.

The first stocked rainbow of the afternoon, caught on my favorite four-weight fly rod.

Although I was the only one fishing the pond, I did have a couple of odd visitors. There was a woman driving a white Toyota 4Runner who came driving down the pond’s bumpy road. I thought she might stop at the pond, but instead she drove right past it and continued down the jeep trail that attaches to the paved Cold Creek Road a couple miles down. It seemed odd, but then she probably lives up in the town and just wanted a scenic bypass drive through the high desert.

The size 16 beaded nymph was able to get deep to where the trout were congregating.

Speaking of Jeeps, there was a guy who appeared in a brand new Jeep Wrangler with a suspension lift, 32-inch tires, and what appeared to be decorative wheels. It was what my daughter would call “fancy.” The guy barreled down the trail to the pond, cut sharply over to the diversion ditch inlet, and stopped. While the motor was still running he jumped out dressed in black clothing and tennis shoes, but unfortunately he miscalculated where the inlet water was flowing. He had a camera in hand and began snapping photos of his new Jeep with me casting in the background. After 60 seconds he hopped back in and tore up the trail from whence he came. In a minute or two I saw him driving back to Vegas on the Cold Creek Road.

The last trout I caught was slightly larger and stronger than the
first three. I was pleased to release it to the pond. 
The trout were small, as is always the case for the Cold Creek Pond, but it was nice to
spend a few hours in the outdoors. 

I also had a female mallard duck that kept me company. I came up for a non-fishing visit just before Thanksgiving at which time I observed a mated pair of mallard ducks, but on this visit the male was absent. These ducks were accustomed to people; they were not afraid. I suspect the Cold Creek residents might be feeding them. But the solo female seemed odd. I wondered if she was injured in some way. I did note a black fungus on her bill.

When I visited in November there appeared to be a mated pair of mallard ducks. This day I only saw
the female. Maybe a coyote got him, or maybe he abandoned the female. I did note the female had
a dark fungus growing on her beak.

I fished for about an hour. It took me a while to discover the recently stocked trout were on the bottom of the deepest part of this tiny pond. I managed to land four, and returned each to its watery world.

The Fish Taco has logged almost 8,000 miles. I very much enjoy driving this truck, on and off road.
(I couldn't let my Jeep Wrangler buddy "best me" on pics of our "rides.") 

It was a pleasant way to spend three hours, including the round-trip drive in the Tacoma. As usual I was listening to Christian radio while driving. I don’t recall exactly what or who I was listening to, but my wandering thoughts began to examine obedience vs. trust, and how they are related or different. I clearly know when I don't follow God's direction, but I always seem to have excuses. I'm either stressed or tired, or the people I'm supposed to "love" seem unworthy, or maybe I just like my sins more than being "good." Of course, my Christian conscience eventually brings on guilt from which I can only find relief by confessing my sins to God and asking for the Holy Spirit's power to eradicate my deliberate and free acts of commission and omission.

Psalm 119 seems to begin with the sobering recognition that the righteous are to obey God’s commands, to essentially follow His divinely inspired words in the Scripture. But we know very well the numerous mortal sins that King David committed, the worst being murdering the husband of the woman he seduced. In light of those heinous sins, David’s opening verses 1 through 6 amazingly focus on his joyful obedience to God's law (NLT version):

Joyful are people of integrity, who follow the instructions of the LORD. Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts. They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths. You have charged us to keep your commandments carefully. Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees! Then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with your commands.
Being raised in the Catholic religion I can relate to the guilt that builds from disobeying the Lord’s commandments. As a youngster I likely misunderstood what I was taught, but I can tell you my sense was the Sacrament of Confession (now known as Reconciliation) was necessary in order to be absolved of sin and be acceptable to God in heaven. The timing of this Sacrament seemed critical, for if you died with unabsolved sin (mortal or venial) on your heart your eternal destiny seemed to be in question. And if you add to that timing God’s providential control over our lives (which doesn’t negate our free will of thought and action), the whole thing seemed like a crap shoot (pardon the Vegas vernacular).

The north side of the range behind the town of Cold Creek appears more white than the other nearby
slopes due to a forest fire that removed the conifer trees a few decades ago.
Looking towards the town of Indian Springs from the Cold Creek road. The sun setting behind the
Spring Mountains begins to grow its winter shadows towards the northeast side of the mountains. 

It wasn’t until I began to read and study the Bible myself that I began to understand that God loves me (i.e., all of us). The Creator of all loves me and wants what is best for me (1 John 4:7-21). His plans are perfect for me, after all he created me and knows me better than I know myself (Jeremiah 29:11-13, Psalm 139). He doesn’t want me to obey for obedience’s sake, but because I believe and trust in him (Hebrews 11:6). He wants me to obey because I love Him, and because I trust in his promises. I know he will be there protecting me from evil, always (Isaiah 41:10), and that salvation comes from faith in Him, a faith that trusts in His promises (Romans 10:9-10). In short, I want to be obedient to Him because of who He is and what He has done for me through His death and resurrection. I want to love and obey my loving Father in heaven. In my reading of the Gospels, this is the love and trust that Jesus’ disciples grew into during their three years living with and following Jesus. It was a love and trust that gave birth to a new and revolutionary understanding of God.

Some might joke about the “Catholic guilt” that I alluded to above. Today I find much relief 1 John 3:18-24 (NLT)

Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence. And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him. And this is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us. Those who obey God’s commandments remain in fellowship with him, and he with them. And we know he lives in us because the Spirit he gave us lives in us.
Returning to David's Psalm 119, after starting it with “obedience” he goes on to explain why he wants to obey God (Psalm 119:137-142):
O LORD, you are righteous, and your regulations are fair. Your laws are perfect and completely trustworthy. I am overwhelmed with indignation, for my enemies have disregarded your words. Your promises have been thoroughly tested; that is why I love them so much. I am insignificant and despised, but I don’t forget your commandments. Your justice is eternal, and your instructions are perfectly true.
As for me, I can’t imagine a world without God. As the creator of it all, how can I deny His existence and His call to me to believe in and love Him? But in my heart, if I don't trust and believe in Him, how can I consistently follow his Word (and of course, Jesus is the Word as so beautifully explained in John 1:1-5)? And that is where I left my thoughts about obedience vs. trust as I drove south on US Highway 95 towards home. Perhaps some day I'll weave my thoughts about God's unmerited grace into those on obedience and trust in Him alone.

May you all feel the love of Jesus this Christmas season!

A FisherDad selfie at Cold Creek Pond.