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 it’s 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.)

Author: FisherDad

I am a Christian who has been married to my wife for over four decades, with six children and four grandchildren so far. I have retired from a string of successful occupations as a certified public accountant, a chief financial officer, and a registered municipal advisor. I have been a fly angler for almost five decades. My one and only article submission was published by Southwest Fly Fishing magazine (now American Fly Fishing). You can learn more about me by clicking on “About” on the top of my blog page.

14 thoughts on “Cold Creek, Nevada”

  1. I really enjoy reading your blog. I like to fish but have not tried fly fishing yet. I am going to try this summer. Also, How do you get to Cold Creek?

  2. David —

    Take U.S.95 north and between Lee Canyon and Indian Springs you'll see the High Desert State Prison facilities to the southwest of the highway. That road leads past the prisons to Cold Creek at the foothills of the Spring Mountains. Good luck.

    — Mark

  3. Your blog has opened my eyes about fishing in NV. I have lived here for most of my life but I do most of my fishing in northeastern UT. So I don't go as often as I would like to.

    Anyway, I really appreciate the time you take to post your experiences. Thank you for the directions.

  4. Hello Fisher Dad,I like the blog. I'm new to Nevada and an avid fly fisher. I went up to Cold Creek a couple weeks ago. I saw the fish ponds at the entry and then went on to the creek in the canyon. I walked up stream and saw some small Rainbows here and there. The creek was 2-4 feet wide up this section, houses left and right (one house on left created an aqueduct from the stream to the property). Is there a larger part of the creek I missed that holds larger trout?Also, is there streams to fish in the southern Nevada area?Thanks for the info.Cheers,-Bill

  5. Bill —

    Cold Creek, as you saw it, is as good as it gets in Clark County. The better small streams (we call them creeks) are two to three hours from Las Vegas. Use the search engine at the top of this blog to find previous stories on Beaver Dam Creek, Mammoth Creek, Santa Clara Creek, Sevier River, and Beaver River.

    Although I’ve never fished them, there are other very productive rivers farther away such as Fremont River (Teasdale, UT) and Lee’s Ferry (Page, AZ) which are reachable by vehicle from Las Vegas. There are other nice rivers farther north in Nevada like the Truckee, Carson, Mary’s, and Reese rivers, but these are more than weekend trip unless you fly into Reno. Unfortunately, I have no blogs on those waters.

    The reality is, for those of us in southern Nevada short fishing trips are mostly confined to still waters, especially if you want high numbers of trout exceeding twelve inches. If you are partial to streams because of the strategy and finesse involved, head into southern Utah and try Mammoth Creek and Sevier River… a good four to five hour drive from Las Vegas.

    All the best.

    — Mark

  6. You have quite the blog here. Every time I search for "Fly Fishing Southern Nevada" I end up stumbling across you!

    I am curious, how late into spring/early summer can you typically fish Cold Creek. I am actually considering heading up there tomorrow morning and was curious if you knew if there would still be fish.

    Thanks in advance for any info and I look forward to your blogs.


  7. Jared —

    I've never fished the Cold Creek pond this late in the spring/summer; April 24 is the latest I've ever gone up. But having said that, the elevation is high enough that it is possible trout are still thriving (perhaps that pond is deep enough for trout to escape the higher temps). The weather has cooled down considerably, also a good sign. Still, I'd plan to fish the pond deep.

    If you go, please post a comment on what you find. And note that the Cold Creek pond is not one of the two small ponds you see next to the Fire Station, but rather back down the dirt road toward Idian Springs (drive between the two small ponds),

    — Mark

  8. Mark,

    Visited Cold Creek this morning and got on the water around 8 or so. Pond seemed rather shallow/low but it's hard to say having never been there before… water was barely making it into the drain tubes on the north shore. With that said though, quite a few small trout could be seen cruising the banks above the weed beds along with several small carp in various colors.

    I started with a small zebra midge in both red and olive with no luck. Tried a few different nymphs and even wooly buggers… Still nothing. I observed a couple of the trout rising just below the surface so I went to the emergers. First one I presented drew a lot of interest but no strikes. I then switched to a flashback and put it right in front of one of the larger bank runner's face. He ate it instantly and ended up being nearly 12". Not bad for such small water. Ended up catching one more (half the size of the first) before the wind kicked up and the rain started.

    All and all, great success, especially since it was only a 30 minute drive from my house. I appreciate you and your blog for sharing such a gem.


  9. Jared —

    Way cool! Clark County trout in the middle of June. Who would have ever thought it. Thanks for letting us know.

    BTW, the water conditions you described sound normal. It's not much of a pond, really. Also, was anyone else there fishing? Probably several ATV or horse trailers around I'd imagine.

    Well, tomorrow I'm heading to Carson City. I have business there on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday, but the plan is to fish the East Carson River near Markleeville, CA, for the first time ever. Very anxious; I've read much about the river and know it produces good trout. Just not sure I'm up to the task, but we'll see. Look for a bolg on that trip next week.

    — Mark

  10. Fantastic information. My name is Todd Herman. My boy and I will be staying the night at Kirch on our way from Sedona to Quincy the second wee of August. The fishing report currently says emergers. We will only be bank fly fishing. Any specific suggestions on type of flys ect? We will catch the evening bite and morning bite before hitting the road. Thanks Todd Herman

  11. Todd —

    Traveling to Quincy, as in Quincy, CA, between Reno, NV and Redding, CA? Quincy is near all sorts of wonderful fishing. If that’s home for you, I should think Wayne Kirch will disappoint you in mid-August. Kirch will be warm and heavily weeded. Shore fishing will be impossible except on the dams, and the dams will be problematic due to lack of depth and weed growth.

    If you are driving from Sedona, AZ to Quincy, CA, Kirch would seem well out of your way; wouldn’t you take US93 to Vegas, then US95 to Reno? If you’re taking US93 from Vegas to Ely, then US50 west to Reno, I’d recommend stopping over at Illipah Reservoir right off US50 just 30 miles west of Ely. That’s about 100 miles north of Wayne Kirch, but if you can make it you’ll be camping 1,700 feet higher in cooler weather and much, much better shore fishing. Illipah is about 6,800 feet elevation in mountain foothills whereas Kirch is about 5,100 feet out in the middle of a windswept fluvial desert.

    OK, you didn’t ask for travel directions. As to dry fly fishing one of the Kirch reservoirs from the shore, in the early morning or late evening I’d focus on size 14 or 16 Midge, Callibaetis, and PMD patterns, or you could try the ubiquitous Adams in the same size.

    In case you missed them, here are some of my blogs regarding these waters:

    Wayne Kirch


    Best of luck, and safe travels.

  12. Hello FisherDad,

    I've been recommended by a friend to read your blog. I just started fly fishing this year and have had success on only dry flies.The cast is serviceable but not pretty.

    Anyway, a buddy and I (we both work for the state also) tried going to Cold Creek on Oct. 9th around 9 am to noon and didn't have any luck. I'd like to preface the trip by saying that we both (especially I) have very little experience or success with wet flies and nymphs. However, we tried fishing with a sinking line and a few different types of nymphs. I'm not good with the types of nymphs but they typically looked like the nymph you described above.

    I know the pond hadn't been stocked for a while, but I figured there were still some trout in there (especially because I saw that you had moderate success around September at Cold Creek before in a previous post). Anyway, could you give us some pointers on which types of nymphs you prefer there and also what kind of retrieve you use when fishing with a sinking line (e.g. slow but long retrieves, small quick retrieves with pauses, etc.).

    Sorry for the long post, but I would appreciate any help or tips. Also, I've been reading your blog from the most recent posts through 2009 and I really enjoy them.



  13. Chan —

    Ah, the lure of fly fishing (pardon the pun) is to learn by doing. You are on the right track. On any water the more you fish it the more you learn what works for that water. Cold Creek is a good place to start, but realize that few, if any of the stocked trout survive through the summer. These are fish that for the most part will eat almost anything that they can get into their mouths if you can present it to them properly. Part of that learning is the exploration of different patterns, depths, retrieve speeds, and structure location. Generally for the Cold Creek pond, short jerky retrieves, sometimes with longer pauses, while fishing nymphs produce the best results. Any number of nymph imitations work, including hares ear, prince, copper Johns, and even scud patterns. Using these patterns with bead heads will get them a little deeper (a way to achieve varying depths). Concentrate on the gray, green, brown, and black color schemes.

    I’ve written several blogs on Cold Creek and have dealt with several questions about useful flies/techniques on the Cold Creek pond in the comment section of those blogs. The trout are stocked semi-annually, and the pond is so small and shallow that I’m not sure it matters what you present to them. They usually stock trout in the 9 to 10 inch range, so small flies are best. I rarely use anything over size 14 on Cold Creek. There are no 18-inch “lunkers” in there; the largest I’ve ever seen is maybe 12 to 13 inches. Furthermore, the pond doesn’t support large aquatic insects like stoneflies, damsels, or dragonflies, but mostly small gnats and maybe some caddis flies. Read some of the comments (especially to “Jared” and “Rob”) on this list of Cold Creek blogs and you’ll get a more complete picture of Cold Creek:

    Finally, my best advice is to continue to explore, learn by doing, and over time you’ll unlock the secrets that work for you, and that’ll give you a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Maybe some day I’ll run into you on the pond (they’ll be stocking it very soon for the winter season) and I can show you the contents of my fly boxes and some of the techniques that I found work for me… sometimes (smile).

    All the best!

    — Mark

  14. Fisherdad,

    Thanks for the great info. I went to Cold Creek mostly to see where it was but also because I saw that in 2009 or 2008 you went October 30th. However, after re-reading the post, I noticed that NDOW stocked the pond earlier that year. Looks like mid-November will be when it gets stocked this year. It is very unfortunate that people don't catch and release to extend the season.

    Keep the posts coming, I really enjoy them (and for some reason re-read the same ones quite often). I think I have the urge for a Southern Utah trip coming up before it gets too cold. I went in September and fished about 8 different creeks and 2 days and had a blast with dry flies (Adams, Yellow Humpy).

    Hopefully, I will see you out there one of these days.

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