April 24, 2010

Cold Creek, Nevada

Cold Creek rainbow in his spring "apparel."  These stocked fish were amazingly colorful, a
testimony to the methods used at the Nevada Department of Wildlife's fish hatchery in
Mason Valley.
I often wonder how many folks are aware of the elk herds in the Spring Mountains west of Las Vegas. I’ve known about them since I was a teenager, but I have never seen elk in the more than thirty-five years I’ve been tramping through those mountains. That is, until this morning.

The continuing weather schizophrenia we were experiencing this spring was flip-flopping from a wet sixty degrees to a warm and sunny eighty. Yesterday it rained on the way to work, and today was forecast to be glorious. I couldn’t help but set the alarm for 5:20 am and try one more Cold Creek trip before the oppressive heat of southern Nevada begins to set in.

Feral Cold Creek stallion nipping the grass right down to the roots.
Today's forecast predicted temperatures in the seventies at Cold Creek, so I left the house with only a t-shirt and long-sleeve shirt. On the way up the Cold Creek road my outside temperature gauge indicated thirty-eight degrees... yikes! I tried to convinced myself that as soon as the sun cleared the easterly edge of the Spring Mountain Range it would warm up, and fortunately it did. 

As I drove up the Cold Creek Road in the twilight of day break I was unaware of the surprise awaiting me. Within a quarter-mile of the little Cold Creek enclave I came across my first Spring Mountain elk sighting. Another hundred yards put me into a small herd of five, right next to the Bureau of Land Management sign. I couldn’t believe my good fortune after all these years! None were sporting spikes in velvet, so I assume all were cows. Like all members of the deer family, bull elk shed antlers annually, and I am not certain when they start growing so while I think all six were cows there might have been a young bull in their midst... who knows?

An elk on the flats of Cold Creek's high desert in the
northwest section of the Spring Mountain Range.
This cow elk, trotting away with its head raised, seemingly to display an attitude that says,
"Your presence here insults me."
I never knew elk will roam the high desert among the Joshua Trees, well below
the timber. I assume its a migratory passage of sorts.
I was the first angler to arrive at the pond, which hadn't happened in a while. I brought my six-foot, four weight rod with me. I had so much fun fishing it at Cold Creek a couple of weeks ago I just had to run up there again. I started out with my full sinking line and managed to catch quite a few. Then a gentleman named Chad showed up, a fellow fly fisherman. He had started out with dry flies, and I decided to switch over, too. There was more surface activity than usual due to the warming temperatures. I caught several on a small Adams dry fly, about size eighteen. Soon another fly fisherman arrived, and the three of us had the pond to ourselves, casting away and releasing all we caught.

A nice trout for Cold Creek, deceived by an Adams dry fly stuck into his snout.
A close up of the Adams firmly attached to corner of another trout's mouth.
Eventually I removed the dry fly and tied on a nymph again, but this time with the floating line. This technique prevents the fly from getting down deep, which is usually where I want it on a pond. But the surface activity was continuing and I thought a sub-surface fly would get a little more action than the dry, which it did.

A healthy trout taken on a nymph... a slightly used and ragged nymph.
One nice aspect of writing a blog is that some anglers recognize me from reading it. Most folks, and especially men, are quiet and aloof in the outdoors. When we run across strangers we’ll exchange a pleasant “hello,” but rarely stop to engage in conversation. I've learned that this blog can serve as an ice-breaker. If someone thinks they recognize me they sometimes ask is I am FisherDad. I guess it’s an effective way to disarm those social defenses. Once I confirm my identity, the conversation opens up because they feel as though they know me, or at least something about me. 

That was the case today as both fly anglers, Chad and Nick, had read my blog and identified me from the stories and pictures. Both had started fly fishing about a year ago, and from what I could tell they were getting reasonably proficient in their casting, each catching numerous trout. One of the things I enjoy about fly fishing is that no matter how long you’ve been doing it, your "on the water experiences" always seem to reveal new things, teach you new lessons, if you are observant and patient (which most fly anglers are by nature). It could be learning the single or double-haul cast, or how to fish a nymph with strike indicators or droppers. Even new discoveries about the nuances of still water vs. stream fishing will occasionally occur. And then, after you think you have mastered trout angling there are bass, pan fish, steelhead, and salmon. Or how about bonefish and tarpon? It is as if the learning is never ending. It’s like a perpetual adventure laced with challenges and surprises.

A more typical stocked trout, but yet handsomely jeweled in color... a 9.5 inch rainbow.

No matter how I slice it, today was a true gift from the Lord, a little jewel of an adventure. I savor days like today because we do not know the day or the hour.

(Read other interesting Cold Creek blogs at November 2006, October 2009, February 2010.)

April 9, 2010

Haymeadow Reservoir – Wayne Kirch Wildlife Management Area

Classic coloring on sixteen-inch Wayne Kirch rainbow
I made several visits to Cold Creek through the winter, more than usual. Looking back, those “urban” pond visits were not so much winter depravation fishing as much as I really enjoyed the new seven-and-one-half foot four weight rod I built last winter. It can cast delicately as well as forcefully, and it is light enough that freshly stocked trout put a respectable bend in it, but it also has enough backbone to handle large trout. Put simply, it’s just fun to fish with. Even when I am tubing on large reservoirs, fishing that calls for nine foot rods, five weight or heavier to cast big bugs and mid-size streamers, I’m finding myself grabbing for the new rod to take as a backup. At least that was the case on this trip.
Blogger fishing Cold Creek with 7.5 foot rod,
photo courtesy of fishin' buddy Mitch Kolber
When I took three days off for the Easter Triduum my plan was to fish on Wednesday, but the weather was much too windy for tubing reservoirs. Weather has been unusually erratic this year, and trying to find predictable fishing weather has been frustrating. But this past Friday made up for it. Trying to decide where to go for the day was the difficult part.
11,000 foot Grant Range is actually 20 miles west-by-southwest of Kirch
I was thinking of Baker Reservoir near Veyo, Utah, or even Pine Valley or Enterprise reservoirs nearby Baker. I also thought about Eagle Valley near Panaca, Nevada. I’ve never fished Enterprise, but fished Eagle Valley once in late October 2004 (nearly froze my legs off in four short hours, catching four fourteen-inch rainbows that seemed all but identical). But Wayne Kirch has so much more to offer with four fishable reservoirs that consistently give up rainbows in the fifteen to eighteen inch range. The other compelling reason to select Kirch for this trip was that it usually has stiff breezes around fifteen miles-per-hour or more that make fishing seem like work, so when the weather forecast predicts breezes from five to ten miles-per-hours one has to strike while the iron is hot. And so, that’s how I ended up at Wayne Kirch Wildlife Management Area near Sunnyside, about twenty-five miles south of Lund, Nevada, on State Highway 318.
Nice rainbow on an orange wooly bugger
And that turned out to be a very good choice. I’ve had a few twenty-fish days in my lifetime, and one two-day fifty-plus adventure in Fish Lake National Forest near Beaver, Utah. I used to regularly catch twenty trout out of Beaver Dam Creek near Caliente, Nevada, but while they were wild they were rarely over twelve inches in length. But this trip to Kirch was especially blessed as I landed thirty-eight rainbows, and lost another thirteen after they threw the hook while fighting on the line. Fifty-one hook ups in six hours of fishing calculates to one every seven minutes, which is pretty amazing for six straight hours. And these weren’t all twelve-inchers. I’d say that at least fifteen of the thirty-eight were in the fourteen to eighteen inch range, which went a long way to prevent boredom from setting in. The reasonable probability of connecting with a three-pound trout, or larger, on the very next cast can keep a fisherman going for a while.
Another seventeen inch male, spawned out

Sixteen inch male, caught late in afternoon, still in spawning colors

Thirteen inch rainbow on hares ear nymph, barely hanging on

There were three boats already on the water when I arrived at Haymeadow, the most southern of the four fishable reservoirs, at about 10:45 am. There were another couple of fishermen on the dam. I thought I would arrive at 10:00 am, but the State was performing “shoulder work” on Highway 318, about ten miles south of the Kirch turn-off. I was a little perturbed by the construction, partly because I was so close to the turn off, but mostly because it was one of the longest delays I’ve ever experienced on a highway maintenance project (these are common on Nevada’s two-lane highways, but usually it’s slurry seal, oil and gravel, or repaving that you run across; this work was simply laying new gravel on the road shoulders). One has to have patience to drive Nevada’s lonely two-lane highways, and this was just another lesson on that subject.
Another view of Grant Range from delay point on Highway 318
The fishing preoccupied most of my thoughts, but I was aware that the waterfowl were abundant. The large birds I noticed were four white pelicans and two great blue herons (at least they looked like herons from afar as they don’t light on the reservoir like the pelicans but rather hide in the mash weeds; you can’t miss them when they take flight along the mashes). Several of the trout I caught seemed to have scars on their sides, and they well could have been escapees from the beaks of these great birds. I didn’t notice other wildlife, and the boaters left the reservoir around 1:00 pm leaving it to me until I exited the water at 5:00 pm. I was so intent on the fishing that I really lost track of everything else. What I did notice the next day were my shore shoulders from fly casting six straight hours.
Two rainbows (above & below) with what appear to be beak scars...
heron or pelican??

Ironically, I never used the little seven-and-one-half footer. I fished my latest creation, a nine foot, five-weight fast action rod. I fished it once before but never got used to its rhythm. I left the little rod in its tube so I’d be forced to get more familiar with the big nine-footer. Although not as delicate and fun as the little rod, it could cast quite a distance. The problem with distance is that sometimes it’s harder to set the hook. All that line distance creates opportunities for slack in the line, and that might have been a contributor to the thirteen lost fish. But to tell the truth, when I had those sixteen and seventeen inch trout on the line down deep I was grateful for the extra leverage.

Rainbow, indeed!
Seventeen inch male
Now that I have that fish carnage out of my system, I’d like to get back to some stream fishing, maybe Mammoth or Beaver Dam creek, somewhere I can take my time, observe my surroundings, and fish at a leisurely pace. I should think early May would be a good time for that.
Happy angler, weary and satiated