November 14, 2008

Tom Vincent, Best in Show!

Tom clutching Best in Show award 
My son, Tom Vincent, wins yet another art award!

Pardon my pride, but Tom was awarded “Best in Show” for his oil-on-wood-panel work titled “Ashton Taylor”. This was a juried art show for students of the College of Southern Nevada (CSN), and it included a $250 prize… wow!

Tom with "Ashton Taylor", the Best in Show
Some of you know that there is a vein of artistic talent running through the Vincent family. As a young child in New Hampshire I discovered a couple of pencil drawings created by my father, Raymond Vincent, who had died when I was just three years old. Later, after the family relocated to Las Vegas, I would doodle in spiral notebooks as a way of amusing myself to pass the time. One day my mother's friend challenged me to draw, or copy, a line drawing. I was able to do that fairly easily, and that small event spurred the cultivation of my father's artistic heritage. 
FisherDad's own Cave Lake brown trout pen & ink
Nick was the first to display advanced artistic talent in elementary school which he cultivated through his high school years. That artistic ability coupled with his musical accomplishments (7 Foot Midget years) earned him the “Most Talented Senior” honors at Cimarron-Memorial High School (CMHS). He now plies his creative talents as interactive web designer for EatDrinkMedia in Las Vegas. His job requires him to merge his artistic side with his logical technology side to create some truly imaginative but useful websites.
Tom, a friend, FisherDad, and Nick at CSN Student Art Show

Nick's colored pencil of Boba Fett from junior high
Doug was the next to enjoy the hand-eye coordination of an artist. He attended art classes in high school and was recognized for his early work by his teacher, Ms. Lisa (Lyle) Hinricksen. I recall one evening before Doug was to leave town for a while that he brought out an uncompleted work from high school; a portrait of the Spanish artist Salvador Dali. Using Tom's supplies, the entire family seemed to thrust themselves into the project as Doug completed the work as a way preparing himself for the journey ahead. Perhaps he will find his way back to that creative energy in the future. 
Doug's painting of Salvador Dali
As a middle-schooler, Tom showed interest in architectural drawings, and I thought I might have a budding architect in the family (possibly still do…). Like Doug, Tom also studied under Ms. Hinricksen. Tom took four years of high school art, earning himself the first ever “Senior Artist of the Year” award at CMHS, and like Nick was voted "Most Talented" by his classmates. Tom’s talent has really matured as he continues to pursue the arts in college. He has already been recognized several times by his CSN instructors, and the art show he organized for himself and another student achieved one of the highest ever attendance figures according to the gallery curator. Since this is a fishing blog, however, I do have to say that my favorite work by Tom is the portrait of me and the seven-pound Henderson Springs rainbow trout.
Tom's entry in a previous juried high school art show
Tom's painting of FisherDad with trout

Tom receiving award from CSN Instructor
I see the family talent in Brian and Evan, too. They just haven’t cultivated it the way their older brothers have. Perhaps it is brotherly competition, or the will to create their own identity, but they have chosen other endeavors to excel in which are uniquely their own. Maybe later they will seek out the talent that came from the grandfather they never knew.

But, for today, it is Tom’s limelight as he basks in the glow of his CSN Student Art Show award.


October 27, 2008

Cold Springs & Haymeadow Reservoirs - Wayne Kirch WMA

Haymeadow boat launch area
I so enjoy the fall weather. It may be the anticipation of getting past the dreadfully hot Las Vegas summers. It may be the colorful reds, yellows, and oranges that decorate the deciduous trees that typically line bodies of water. Or, it could be the urgent activity that the birds and wildlife seem to exhibit as they prepare for winter. Maybe that’s it. Perhaps it is the renewed energy the trout display as they press through fall obsessively feeding to prepare for winter. Whatever it is, it also compels me to fish one last time before the freeze sets in. October 27 seemed like a good day to take one last sip from the 2008 fishing chalice.

Olive-colored 13-inch rainbow
It has been a long time since I was able to schedule an overnight trip. This outing was not able to break that drought, and so I was limited to fishing within 200 miles of home, which targets Wayne Kirch, Eagle Valley, Pine Valley, Baker, or possibly KolobI picked Wayne Kirch because the action is usually brisk and the trout can reach eighteen inches or better. The other intriguing thought was that there are reservoirs at Wayne Kirch that I haven’t fished, and I was contemplating trying Haymeadow if Cold Springs turned slow.

Fifteen incher from Cold Springs

Small, but richly colored Cold Spring rainbow
I arrived at Cold Springs at around 9:30 am. Since the day was to be short I was hurrying to assemble my gear and get into my waders when a young game warden drove up. He looked to be a young man of thirty-ish (plus or minus five years), from Kansas I believe he said. He asked if I had fished there before, and I said that I had several times with usually great success. He asked what I used, and I told him I normally start my fishing with a green wooly-bugger with flashy tinsel in the tail. He told me that the only trout he ever caught fly fishing was on just such a fly. He then asked if there was any such thing as a fly tied to resemble a blood worm, as he had recently turned over a rock to discover all sorts of blood worms. I told him there was indeed such a fly pattern, and one in particular called the San Juan Worm for its success on the San Juan River in northern New Mexico. I told him I routinely fish various waters in central and eastern Nevada. I mentioned that I hadn’t returned to Cumins Reservoir since the pike obliterated the trout population. Then he asked, “Did you hear the news”, as if I was privy to the State Game Warden’s inner rumor mill. Not wishing to sound foolish by blurting out a wild guess, I simply said, “No”. He informed me that they had found a dead pike on the banks of Cold Springs. Pike are not indigenous to the area, and are known for their love of small trout which they can quickly decimate as they grow quickly to twenty-five or even thirty inches in length. This fact is critical to reservoirs that don’t have stream inlets adequate for spawning trout because it means that to sustain the trout population the reservoir must be routinely stocked, usually with nine-inch trout that fit nicely into the jaws of adult pike. The illegal introduction of pike into the Cumins Reservoir has single handedly destroyed that trophy trout water, and they could easily do the same at Wayne Kirch… an extremely serious and sad situation. He said they did not know if someone was playing a gag by planting the dead pike on the bank to make it appear as if they had illegally introduced the predator into the water, of if any were actually introduced into the water. He said they may get a shock-boat to see if any come up (a shock-boat uses an electroshocking device to stun fish so they can examine them and determine the numbers and species of fish present in the water; it does not harm the fish).

Haymeadow rainbow
Anyway, the conversation with the young warden caused me to forget to put sunscreen on my hands, face, and neck. The weather was sunny and warm, about 78 degrees, and I did get a little reddish even under my felt fishin’ hat.

I fished Cold Springs from 10:00 am to about 1:00 pm, and it was slower than usual. I was the only one fishing the water, and most trout were in the nine to eleven inch range. I did land one of about fifteen inches. The weed growth was starting its fall die-off, but it was still plentiful and close to the surface. I didn’t have trouble navigating on my float tube, but I think the abundance of weeds interfered with the trout’s ability to see the fly in the water (although the water was clear). Most of the strikes came well under the surface, about three to four feet down.

Slightly bored, I decided to try Haymeadow for an hour or so. I had never fished it before; heck, I had never driven down to look at it before. I decided the relocation would address my boredom and perhaps change my luck. Upon arrival it appeared as though Haymeadow was larger than Cold Springs, but that was just an optical illusion as Cold Springs swings back and to the right as you enter the water from the east, giving the appearance that it is narrower.

As soon as I entered the water at 1:30 pm I noted that Haymeadow appeared deeper, or at least the weeds did not rise as close to the surface, which I took as a very encouraging sign. Right off the bat I hooked into three nice fish of fourteen to sixteen inches; which cured any tedium I suffered on Cold Springs. Because of the short time remaining in my visit (I promised Denise I would be home by 6:00 pm to help prepare for our small group church meeting, so I needed to be on the highway by 3:30 pm), I did not explore much else of the reservoir, preferring to stay closer to the boat launch area. I did observe a couple of guys fishing from a boat on the upper northwest end of the reservoir. After a while I got the sense that they were fishing around a natural spring. All the reservoirs in Wayne Kirch are fed by natural springs, and I suspected these guys had found such a spot to be productive as their boat was anchored there for over an hour.

Last of the day in Haymeadow: fourteen inch rainbow
Aerial map of Wayne Kirch Wildlife Management Area
Dusty road headed to Highway 318
Great fishing on Haymeadow!
It was fun to try a new body of water; fishing it instilled a sense of exploration in me. New exploration awakens my senses to hear and see new things. For example, on the far west shore I saw a horse. I don’t know if it was wild, but it was alone and not bridled or saddled; I prefer to think of it as a wild mustang… who knows for sure. I also noted several flocks of snow geese flying very high overhead; they were not stopping at Wayne Kirch on this journey. I was amused to watch the white dots in the blue sky as each seemed to jockey for position in the slipstream of its neighbor.

Unfortunately I had to extract myself from the water by 3:00 pm so I could tear down and pack up for the drive home. But I’ll be back again to fish Haymeadow reservoir and explore more of its secret offerings.

September 25, 2008

Smith Creek Ranch - Lander County, Nevada

Entering Smith Creek Ranch with the Desatoya Mountains
as a backdrop.
After my 2003 visit to Henderson Springs, I gained an appreciation for the fruits of fishing private water (see Henderson Springs blog). Curiosity spurred me to search the Internet for other private fishing water in Nevada and southern Utah, and that’s how I discovered Smith Creek Ranch.

Although I am exclusively a fly fisherman, I never considered myself to be a snobbish fisherman. I don’t dislike or disapprove of other types of fishing, it’s just that I’ve spent over thirty years fly fishing; I know it pretty well and can cast a decent fly. I can only tell you that I enjoy doing it so much that it seems to exclude other fishing possibilities (kind of like a marriage, but my wife Denise would claim fly fishing is my first love… but we all know you can’t “love” a recreation sport, can you?). Anyway, my disdain for being labeled an arrogant fly fisherman seems to have repelled me from fishing private waters for about thirty years, preferring other remote, but public venues. Henderson Springs cured me of that contempt. And so, I’ve been dreaming of fishing Smith Creek for about five years.

I had the ranch's "Fish House" all to myself.

A cowgirl is working her barrel horse at end of day while a dog waters
my truck tire.
Smith Creek has a rich history worth telling. It is located about forty minutes southwest of Austin, Nevada (Austin appears as the geographic center of the state of Nevada). Today it is a working cattle ranch, but its earliest records date back to the 1860s when it started as a Pony Express station and then became a big part of the Overland Stage route. Subsequently, it became home to many Basque sheepherders who roamed the Desatoya Mountains. There appear to be several historic structures on the ranch, including a one-room schoolhouse dating back to the early 1900s.

The ranch is currently owned by the Hendrix Family who purchased it in 1994. At first they only ran a couple hundred head of cattle, but they soon began making plans to add a pond that was exclusively for fishing. By 1995 they had a beautiful six-acre reservoir that they call the Trophy Trout Fly Fishing pond. They now run about 870 head of mother cows, primarily Black Angus with some Hereford influence. The ranch also has two wild horse herds that live on it.

About two weeks ago I called the Reno Fly Shop, the exclusive booking agent for Smith Creek Ranch, and discovered that the ranch was empty on September 25 and 26… I could have it all to myself. I checked my work schedule, the weather forecast, and my wife, all in ascending order of importance. The moon and stars aligned and I was cleared to go.

I was getting pretty excited about the trip. It had been about ten years since I visited the Kingston Canyon area of the nearby Toiyabe Range. In fact, Groves Reservoir in Kingston Canyon was where I caught my first trout. It was a brown trout, one I will never forget. It was my very first camping trip with my brother Neal; I was probably in my early teen years, say around thirteen or so. It was a wonderful place to camp back in the late 1960s… hardly anyone was around back then.
I'm getting organized for my first attempt on the Trout Farm pond.

Looking west while tubing on the Trout Farm pond.

This is the one-room historic Smith Creek School House
built circa 1908.
I had seen all the pictures of monstrous trout of six, seven, maybe eight pounds, both on the Reno Fly Shop and Smith Creek Ranch web sites. I was hoping to hook up with at least a four or five pound rainbow, but it was not to be. Upon arrival I couldn’t find anybody on the ranch to check-in with, so I drove to the Trophy Trout Farm Pond and proceeded to fish. I was able to fish about five hours on Thursday. The Trophy Pond yielded seventeen trout, three of which were brown trout (the rest were rainbows, although some had the faint markings of the orange cutthroat slash under their jaws indicating hybrids). Nothing was over seventeen inches, but nothing was less than fourteen inches, either.

After putting away my gear I visited with a ranch hand and his wife. They were from Fallon, Nevada. They were very friendly folk, and they directed me to the ranch manager, Mr. Combs. He was busy “burnin’ some meat” on the barbeque, but he took the time to greet me with a handshake and offer to help with anything I needed. His wife was busy working her horse for the upcoming barrel races in Winnemucca, about two-hours north from Smith Creek.

Their working dogs, about four or five of them if I counted correctly as they scurried around each other, were just as friendly as the ranch hands. After dinner I took a short walk up to the large reservoir. Mr. Combs told me they had given up trying to maintain stocking the reservoir due to poaching problems, likely from the backside of the old Overland Stage road. Regardless, I needed a walk and was curious. As I proceeded up the historic road one of the dogs came with me, keeping about twenty yards behind. When I’d look back towards her, she’d look back towards the ranch, as if to see if her friends were coming along with us. This occurred several times until I got to the edge of the reservoir, and then she came to me for some petting after I called to her. But as soon as I said, “Ok, lets go home,” off she went down the road, never looking back once.

Thursday morning I fished the Trophy Pond for about an hour. I felt more comfortable having gotten the “lay of the water”, so to speak. There was a decent hatch of Callibaetis mayflies that morning, and I was able to catch a couple of nice rainbows on dry flies in the shallow water. I caught six trout in an hour, three browns and three rainbows. One of the browns was a sleek seventeen inches, but the last fish of the day succumbed to a green wooly bugger with sparkly tinsel, a nice nineteen-inch rainbow trout of three pounds or so. Satisfied, I packed up and headed for the other irrigation pond downstream.

A fine looking seventeen inch rainbow from Trout Farm pond.

Plump sixteen inch Trout Farm rainbow.
Mr. Combs told me there were lots of brown trout in the lower irrigation pond, and so I thought I’d try it on the way out. The lower pond was much sparser, clearly a “working” pond. I managed to portage my float tube and gear over the fence rail and irrigation ditch, and up the embankment. The sight of me approaching with the float tube over my head frightened even the most curious of cattle, which was just as well as they were taking turns messing into the pond. This little pond yielded sixteen trout in three hours, six of which were brown trout. Most were in the twelve to thirteen inch range, but a couple approached fifteen inches. I quit about 1:00 pm and decided to head home. 

Although I didn’t land any monstrous trout, catching 39 fish in nine hours of fishing is good in anybody’s fishing journal, especially with many being sixteen to nineteen inches.
Sleek seventeen inch male brown trout.
Note Callabaetis mayfly on rim of hat, reflected in sunglasses.
Overland Stage road headed toward Smith Creek Station.
Ranch sunrise from "Trout" house porch.
Typical thirteen inch rainbow from the 
Irrigation Pond.
Irrigation Pond looking west towards Desatoya Range.
Trout Truck parked under crabapple tree at Trout House.
Note rows of teeth just behind lower jaw kype.
Sixteen-inch rainbow caught on Caddis dry fly
near western bank of Trout Farm pond.
Ninteen-inch rainbow from Trout Farm, last of the day.
Up close and personal with Trout Farm rainbow.
The drive was long, about five hours straight through. The ten miles or so between the ranch and State Highway 722 was on the Overland Stage route across the dry lake dessert of Smith Creek Valley. Signage was limited, but even from afar while driving in one can see the green of the ranch nestled in the nape of the Desatoya Mountains. Going home wasn’t so easy, as dirt roads go off in all directions and the one or two signs are facing the other direction. I took several wrong turns, ending up at the Old Hay Ranch. Backtracking, and a timely passer-by ranch hand got me headed in the right direction. The five hours driving home provided ample time to ponder if another trip in the future will produce the large trout of my fantasies.

Dreams, we always have our dreams...

August 20, 2008

Hermosa Beach & Anaheim, California

Ashton, Tom, Evan, Brian, Denise, me, and
foster children awaiting table at Blue Bayou
Those of you who know Denise and me also know that we were fostering two small children. For the sake of anonymity I will refrain from using names, but our friends and relatives know of whom I speak.

A few weeks ago during a monthly Child-Family Team (CFT) meeting it became clear that Denise and I were fighting a losing battle to adopt our foster children. I won’t go into the details and complexities of the situation, but suffice it to say that while the legal and child protection systems are designed to protect children from abuse and neglect, they nonetheless favor the birth parents and the related blood lines over unrelated foster parents. None of us could bear having our own children removed from our homes over false accusations of abuse or neglect, and so the thought that the systems would favor us is comforting. However, when we factor our “quality of life” perceptions into the equation it is easier to favor terminating the rights of birth parents and relatives that we perceive as inadequate parents. And so, with the news that the birth mother and a paternal aunt are interested in retaining the children, it was obvious that at worst we would lose the children and at best we would suffer through six to twelve months of transitional work towards reunification with the families.

So, with a very heavy heart and great concern for their safety, we decided to return the kids to the County Department of Family Services (DFS) for placement with the paternal aunt. Honestly, there were lots of mixed emotions from every member of our nuclear family. But I can unequivocally say that we are all heartbroken over the loss of these two children of God. Tears have been shed daily over these little angels; yes, even from our boys. We believe God moved us toward this decision to compel the birth families to “put up, or shut up” so to speak, but it is quite possible it was our own selfish voices we were hearing. If they work the DFS program and comply with the law and regulations, so be it. If they falter then we will be there to pick up the pieces. It sounds harsh, but it seemed like the best chance for the kids to make a clean break and for the birth relatives to prove their mettle.

I personally entered into fostering with a dose of disinterest. I wanted to be of service to children in need, but I was concerned of the impact to our family from every aspect. We still have Tom (20), Brian (17) and Evan (12) at home, and I didn’t want any of them to feel displaced. I personally enjoy the older children more (or at age fifty-two have developed a slight aversion to the physical and emotional toll of raising very young children) and wasn’t looking forward to the intrusion on my comfortable life style. But God often has a way of knocking us out of our comfort zones; He created us for His purpose and has no interest in seeing us get comfortable within our own desires.

The very nature of foster parenting requires copious amounts of time to nurture, care for, redirect, and instruct young children who enter your home as strangers. Naturally, the brunt of this burden fell upon Denise, but she was up to the task, dragging her lagging family along with her. But as weeks flowed into months, and months into a year things became easier (or at least routine). The children are no longer strangers, but became part of a more complex family, each of us being enriched by the touch of new individuals that truly reflect God here on earth. Before I knew it, as only God can do, these little “foster” children became “our” children. We all know kids are work, but I am astounded that spending fifteen months with these two children connected me to them just as if they were my own blood. They have wonderful qualities and personalities, but the real clincher is that they were created by God, and He placed them in our care for a reason. They need parents who will raise them in the way of the Lord, as well as prepare them for the realities of this world. So much progress has been made that the thought of them in the care of others who don’t know Jesus Christ or have the breath of knowledge and experience that we have… well it simply gnaws at you. It just does not seem fair. Ultimately, we know it is in God’s hands. Prayers are needed, not for our family’s needs and wishes, but for the foster children so that they will be kept safe and secure in this sinful world.

With all that sad news, I wanted to share happy pictures of our recent vacation to southern California. We were due a family vacation, and we thought it would be a happy way to send off the foster kids to their birth relatives. We spent the first three days in Hermosa Beach, and then relocated to Anaheim for the mandatory Disneyland vacation finale.

Again, prayers for the children are needed. No mater what, we are thankful God placed them in our home for as long as He did; God used them as a change agent for our own nuclear family in ways that we all will benefit.

Foster children with Denise and Brian on Hermosa Beach pier

Foster children on Hermosa Beach pier

Denise with foster children

Evan and Brian building sand castles with foster children

Denise trying to get foster son used to the surf (he never did)

Foster daughter experiencing Pacific Ocean for very first time

Piggy toes in the surf

Foster son awaiting turn at Peter Pan ride

Denise coloring with foster daughter at Rocky Cola Cafe

What will our foster son look like with a handle-bar mustache?
Foster son awaiting Main Street parade

Foster daughter focusing on tasty ice cream

Foster daughter turning the charm on Belle

Belle remarks, "She could be my sister!"

Belle, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Snow White with foster daughter

Belle and foster daughter blow kisses