Ely, NV – Comins & Cave Lakes

Brian at Comins Reservoir

It has been a long summer, fishing-wise. I had planned earlier trips, but work and life in general got in the way. But a window of opportunity appeared at work, and Brian, armed with his new learners permit, was anxious to drive the highway (Nevada law requires him to log 50 hours of driving before he can get his permit, so that’s about 2 hours a week to be ready on his 16th birthday).

We left mid-afternoon on Wednesday, Brian driving the whole highway just a week after securing his permit… not bad. The traffic was light, so we didn’t have to pass too many slow moving trucks… whew. Upon arriving we discovered there was a car show in Ely.  The town was already crowded, so we couldn’t stay at my usual motel. After three tries we ended up at Motel “we’ll leave the light on for ya” 6. We slept in a little the next day, got breakfast around 7:30 am, then headed for Comins Reservoir which is just 10 miles outside Ely.

FisherDad with sixteen-inch Comins rainbow

I rigged up a six foot spinning outfit for Brian with a swivel about 2½ feet above the fly (the swivel keeps the fly from twirling as the spinning reel twirls the line around the spool), thus emulating what a fly fisherman would present to the fish with the added benefit of keeping the split shot from sliding down the line toward the fly. After setting up we got started around 8:30 am. I gave Brian a short lesson on float-tubing and he soon got the hang of it. He even created a method of “dolphin” kicking to propel faster. As I knew he would, he remarked how much more interesting it was to fish in a tube than from shore. You can cover more water, get a little leg exercise, and lean back in your seat and take a rest while enjoying the scenery.

Brian with twenty-inch rainbow on the line

We fished Comins until around 1:00 pm on Thursday. Both the weather and water were warm. Nonetheless, as often happens when I fish mid-week, we hooked up early. I was the first to hook into a Cumins’ rainbow, an eighteen incher. I wasn’t sure he was that large at first because he seemed more lethargic, less acrobatic than other Comins trout I have caught in the early spring or late fall. I suspected the warmed water was going to slow down these usually athletic trout. When I brought the trout to the tube I realized he was good size. I bought a landing net for Father’s Day, a special one designed for float tubes with a handle length mid-way between a regular net and a boat net. It has a special rubber net for releasing the trout without damaging their protective slime. I used it for the first time on this rainbow and was pleased at how easier it was to land and release the fish.

Soon after that, Brian hooked up to a large fish. I paddled over as fast as I could because I knew Brian had yet to master the art of popping the hook out to release the fish. As I approach his tube I realized it was a really large rainbow. I was awfully happy to have that landing net for that fish. When I raised it unto my lap I could see it was about two inches longer than my eighteen-inch lap ruler. I handed the net to Brian so I could take his picture with the beautiful rainbow trout, but as you can see in the picture he had a little trouble raising the three-pound fish out of the water.

Brian with twenty-inch rainbow in the net

We continued to hook up fairly frequently for this time of year, but had lots of trouble landing the fish. We both hooked into several good fish that would burrow deep into the weeds and rub off our hooks in the thick water vegetation. I always scrunch down the hook barbs to make it easier on the fish and to expedite popping out the hooks, but I was beginning to wish we had those barbs on so we could land more fish. Throughout the rest of the morning I landed two sixteen-inch and one fourteen-inch trout to go with our twenty-inch and eighteen-inch beauties. I would estimate that was nine pounds of trout… not bad on a warm August morning.

For the afternoon we headed to Cave Lake up in the Schell Creek Mountain Range. I was hoping the water would be cooler (it was a little). I was also hoping the stocked rainbows would provide a little more action for Brian as I sensed he was getting frustrated, bored, or both from losing so many good fish to the Comins weeds. Unfortunately, we didn’t see many fish. I got a few small “hits” on my fly, but landed just one ten-inch rainbow. Brian got no action. The winds started to kick up and I decided it was time to get out of the water and give the fishing a rest.

FisherDad landing an eighteen-inch rainbow

We headed back to Ely and checked out a few of the area’s “attractions”. We went north towards McGill to check out Basset Lake and Tailings Creek. I believe these two waters were products of the copper mines from the 1950’s and 1960’s. I remember a Jarbidge hunting trip with Neal in the early 1970’s when the smell of a sulfur-like substance was so great we had to roll up the Landcruiser windows and breath through our shirtsleeves. The smelters are gone now, and apparently so are the fishable waters. Then we checked out the Ely Train Museum. It was closed but the gift shop was open. While there is a lot of history there, it was simply a train depot. The buildings were a little interesting, though. You could sense the hustle and bustle that occurred there when the local mines were in their hey-day. Driving back to the motel room we drove through some of the older areas of Ely and discovered what Brian and I called, “Ely Graffiti”.

We decided to delay breakfast and hit Comins real early on Friday morning to see if the cooler temperatures would make the trout more active. We rolled out of bed shortly after 6:00 am and were on the water by 7:00 am. The fishing was disappointing, particularly after Thursday’s results. I had four fish hooked, but landed just one, a fourteen incher. One I had on the line for a while looked to be eighteen inches or so, but I tried to play him off my hand instead of my real. When I tried to muscle him from burrowing into the weeds I pulled the hook out. Unfortunately, Brian had no hook ups on Friday. I was really disappointed for him. I wanted him to land one or two more good sized trout. As I was departing the water around 9:30 am I chatted with a couple of guys in a boat. Seems it was slow for everyone. They had measured the water temperature at 68°, on the really warm side for rainbow trout; they prefer temperatures in the 55° to 60° range. Many other fishermen were skunked that morning, and I tried to use that to lift Brian’s spirits a little.

After a “McBreakfast” from McDonalds, we headed home. On the way up Wednesday we took Highway 318 through the White River Valley. It is shorter by about forty miles. For a change of pace we took “Scenic Highway” 93 along the Snake River Mountain Range (in the shadow of Mount Wheeler, our state’s second tallest mountain at 13,063 feet elevation). This took us through Pioche, Panaca, and Caliente before entering back into the Pahranagat Valley. The traffic was a little heavier, and although there was one or two “truck passings” that I would have done differently, Brian did a great job getting us home by 4:00 pm. Despite the slower action, it was a great opportunity to spend time with Brian talking about “stuff”, enjoying the outdoors, and just being a father and son. And despite the fishing not being up to par, Brian still caught the largest fish of the trip, a twenty-inch rainbow. It took me until age forty-seven before I landed a twenty-inch trout.

Brian “tubing” on Comins Reservoir
FisherDad releasing sixteen-inch Comins rainbow
Brian “tubing” on Cave Lake
Infamous “Ely Graffiti”
Ely train yard, Ely Railroad Museum
Brian outside Ely Railroad Museum Gift Shop
Ely train yard buildings

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