Illipah Reservoir & Cave Lake – White Pine Co.

 A fine 16-inch Illipah rainbow trout.

To those of you who read my blog for the fishing, my apologies for my slight diversion today.  But I have to say that God knew what he was doing when he gave man a helper (Genesis 2:18).

My wife does not fish.  In fact, as we enter into senior citizenship her idea of camping has morphed into staying at a spa resort in the mountains.  Which is not bad, by the way, but is a far cry from “suffering” the elements while bushwhacking a stream or rocking in a float tube all day, rain or shine.

Our four-year-old daughter fuels our very busy household, not to mention the two youngest boys still at home requiring some, albeit minimal care and feeding.  Our daughter is extremely verbal, even for a female, and demands attention from someone almost continually for the thirteen to fourteen hours she’s awake each day.  And she’s quite imaginative, innovative, and persistent in how she goes about capturing her audience.

The point of all that is during my workweek I’m only home for three to four of those waking hours and so the largest burden falls solely upon my wife. When our weekend comes around she’s in need of relief, and our daughter is looking for a fresh body to engage. To get away on a two-day overnight without my wife and daughter so I can spend serious time fishing is a “big ask.”  I try to mitigate the absence by taking vacation time so that it overlaps with the days I’d be at work anyway, but it’s still a lot to ask my wife to shoulder alone.

FisherDad playing an Illipah rainbow from the Outlaw Escape.

Apostle Peter instructs husbands to “live with your wives in an understanding way” (1 Peter 3:7, ESV version).  The NIV version says to be “considerate” with your wives.  Peter goes on to say we need to honor and respect them.  And lest you think these are merely suggestions, like “happy wife, happy life,” Peter finishes this verse with the warning that failure to do so will hinder your prayers. To think that failing to honor and respect my wife could cause The Lord to refuse my prayers is a sobering thought.

The balance between honoring my awesome wife and exercising my valued hobby is excruciatingly painful at times. Although there are my bad days when she would challenge it, I’d clearly give up the hobby to serve her needs. So far it’s not come to that, but it could in the future. Meanwhile, I have learned the hard way that honoring her by being attentive to her needs and sensitive to the timing of my trips helps quite a bit. And of course, our sacrificial love for each other helps immensely (1 Corinthians 13).  Staying connected in the sense that we anticipate and feel each other’s moods and cycles means that I will not even ask for permission to fish when it’s clearly bad timing, and conversely that she will OK a trip here and there because she knows its importance to me. Obviously, she approved of this overnight trip to Ely, Nevada.

A wild Illipah brown, approaching thirteen inches.

Although this sounds self-serving, my fishing has nothing to do with running away from my daughter, wife, or responsibility in general. I do have a passion for fly fishing that I was never able to transfer to my family members.  I share it with brothers Bruce and Neal, but Neal has passed on and Bruce lives 350 miles away. I very much enjoyed the adventures I had with my buddy Bill, which included fly fishing, so it was never about going solo in the beginning. (Bill moved to Sacramento over thirty years ago and since then we only have been fishing twice…).  But I do confess that after many years of fishing alone it has evolved that my excursions provide a special quiet time for me. For instance, for the three and one-half hours it took to drive to Ely the truck was quiet (no radio or music) except for the conversation I had with God in my head. I confess that making quiet time at home to read the Bible, pray, or simply meditate is an area of my life in need of improvement. Consequently, the quiet time in the cab of my truck is cherished time devoted to my relationship with Jesus.  I’d like to say that spills over into my time fishing, and it sometimes does, but honestly when fishing I’m mostly concentrating on the task at hand.

OK, speaking of fishing this was my first real trip of 2013. It was extremely late into spring, the day before the northern solstice.  I was anticipating warm weather and weedy conditions, but was surprised to find it better than I thought.  (See, I can sacrifice my fishing cravings during the best seasonal opportunity.)

Here’s a handsome Illipah rainbow hooked on a Callibaetis nymph.

By the time I reached Alamo I needed a pit stop to unload the coffee, so I topped off the Trout Truck’s tank.  I didn’t want any question in my mind about reaching Illipah in the morning, and then driving back to Ely without refueling. I got on the water sometime after 8:30 am, and although it was still cool in the fifties I started out in a t-shirt. There was only one raft on the water, and several shore anglers who were camping at the reservoir. As is common, I was the only angler concentrating on the shallower inlet side of the reservoir.

Illipah gave up over fifteen trout, two of which were brown trout with the rest being rainbows.  There was quite a bit of surface action throughout my time on the water (about 8:30 am to 1:00 pm), with some large fish showing their bodies as they porpoised for the hatching insects.  In short, the fishing was awesome as over half the fish were in the twelve to sixteen inch class.  The larger of the two browns was over twelve inches and in good health. Since they don’t stock Illipah with brown trout I’d like to believe they were both wild trout (i.e., not born in a hatchery).  The larger wily trout hung close to the weed beds, sometimes even rising in the pockets between adjacent beds. All manner of small to medium nymphs worked very well, as did the ubiquitous green woolly bugger.  I did not fish a dry fly, but thought it could do very well during the evening hatch.

As the heat of mid-day arrived I decided to visit Eureka for lunch and a respite from the sun, thinking I’d return to Illipah for the evening dry fly fishing. Illipah is just off U.S. 50, about forty miles west of Ely, thirty-five miles east of Eureka.  It might amuse you (it does me) that the stretch of U.S. 50 lying in the heart of the Great Basin was dubbed “the loneliest road in America” by Life magazine in 1986 because of the scarcity of people found on the highway.  Ironically, the designation seems to have attracted all sorts of travelers thirty years later, but I digress.  For reasons I won’t go into, after ten minutes toward Eureka I turned around and headed for Ely.  I wasn’t sure if I’d return to Illipah that afternoon, so I ate lunch and took a nap (I had arisen at 3:30 am to reach Illipah by 8:00 am).

A tired Illipah rainbow ready to be revived and released.

By 4:00 pm I decided to try the evening hatch on Cave Lake, mostly because I was still tired but also because I calculated a Thursday evening would see light fishing pressure.  I miscalculated the “light fishing pressure” prediction, as the lake was very busy.  There was a banner advertising an upcoming bathtub race, and I noted a new swimming platform in the small bay on the north by northeast portion of the lake.  I wanted to fish the tall bulrushes near the boat dock (often browns are feeding near them in positions impossible to reach from shore), but opted to fish the bulrushes at the inlet.  There were several families with young kids fishing the upper end of the lake, and there were two boats that were more or less trolling the entire lake that would pass by.  A little disappointed but undaunted, I put in the Outlaw Escape and fished until about an hour after sunset.  I caught a mess of stocked trout, upwards of twenty I should think, but not one brown trout.  I did fish a black gnat dry fly on the little four-weight and that was fun, making up for any disappointment I may have had in comparison to Illipah.

Tools of the trade: (1) custom built 9′ – #5 on left,  (2) custom 7.5′ – #4 on right 

I have a sentimental connection to Cave Lake that I can’t seem to shake.  It’s a wonderful place to car camp with family, and the fishing is fun for the youngsters, but I enjoy it less and less despite knowing of the brown trout that occasion the creel censuses.  It is simply too close to the city of Ely whose residents continue to give it the look and feel of an urban pond.

The Cave Lake inlet with two herons stalking the edge of bulrushes.

That night I decided to set my alarm for 6:00 am to head for the Wayne Kirch Wildlife Management Area.   I reasoned that the weather would still be cool in the early morning and I could fish for a few hours on the way down Highway 318 to Las Vegas.  Upon arriving at Cold Springs Reservoir I noted several bass boats already on the water, which I took as a good sign.  However, other boaters said the winds showed up with my arrival, seemingly gusting to twenty mph or higher.  I decided to launch the Escape anyway, daring to test the oars against the wind.  The wind won, but not because the Escape failed me but rather because I had lost my mental toughness to fight the wind.  At Kirch the wind always seems to howl down the White River Valley with nothing to break it.  As it slips over the water’s upper end by the time it reaches the lower end, where the boat launches reside, it can raise some serious whitecaps.  This day the swells approached two feet at times.  The Escape handled them fine, but I never got into any fishing rhythm.  Maybe I made five or so casts, but the rest of the time I was rowing to stay in visual contact with the boat launch.  That’s what I mean about mental toughness; I should have rowed out, let the tube drift with the wind while I fished, and then row back to the starting position.  I just didn’t have it in me, and I decided getting home earlier would be a good thing.

Watching the whitecaps on Cold Springs Reservoir Wayne Kirch Wildlife Management Area

You see, it was a good thing to get home early because I had spent Tuesday and Wednesday in the Reno area on business, so fishing on Thursday and Friday was more impactful on my family than usual.  That’s why my wife’s permission for an overnight fishing trip was so significant.  She is an awesome wife. 

A contented FisherDad at Cave Lake.

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.

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