Dacey Reservoir: A Return to the Scene of the “Incident”

On Dacey Reservoir, looking back toward primitive boat launch with the Trout Truck, Hot Creek Butte, and snow-capped Grant Range in the background.  The Water Master Grizzly scooted nicely over the 40-yard long mass of dead bulrush that blocked access to the open water.

On October 22, 2015, I suffered a heart attack while fishing Dacey Reservoir. Although I’ve made a few trips to Cold Creek since my heart attack (about 40 miles northwest of my home), this trip to Wayne Kirch Wildlife Management Area (Kirch WMA) was my first substantial fishing trip, a 360 mile round trip consisting of six hours of driving.  Truthfully, I was glad to make the trip and I felt no anxiety about returning to the scene of the incident. Putting aside the three stents that opened my blocked heart arteries, I really believe my conversion to a full vegan diet has made a significant improvement in my health, and I’m confident I’m getting a handle on preventing any future incidents.

The fishing was good, although not up to my expectations.  I suspect a contributor to my feeling of underachievement was the rush to get in and out of the reservoir. I promised my wife that I would be home by 3:30 PM, so my itinerary called for leaving the house at 5:00 AM and returning by 3:30 PM. After accounting for six hours of round-trip driving, plus set-up and take-down time, I had less than five hours of fishing time.  The other psychological factor was the knowledge that I was to be back to work the next day; I think you relax more when you have the whole weekend ahead of you upon returning home. These factors contributed to a sense of hurry; I never really got into a rhythm. 

Despite the anxiousness over the timing limitation, twelve-plus hookups wasn’t bad for less than five hours of angling. Although I wasn’t overtly counting, I believe six or seven nice trout were landed, but at least an equal number were hooked but eventually lost, which I often refer to as long-distance releases, or LDRs for short. Over half of the fish landed were 15 – 17 inches, and at least two of the LDRs seemed larger and more experienced, using vicious head shakes to dislodge my size 10 damsel fly. I felt as though they had experienced the steel before and didn’t panic, but used a tried and true method to get free, unlike others that run and jump, wearing themselves out before getting off the hook.

First trout of the morning: note the Trout Truck on the far right of the shoreline.

The larger trout were already in spawning mode, as evidenced by the females depositing their eggs on my stripping apron. What I witnessed upon returning to the boat launch area that I failed to notice when I first arrived was that many trout were pooling around the backed-up bulrush.  Usually in the spring you see trout trying to spawn in the boat launch areas. In this case the stacked up and rotting bulrush screened all that activity from me. When I concluded my fishing and headed for the boat launch area I instinctively cast towards the mass of floating vegetation before I proceeded to skim the Water Master Grizzly over it again. I had several hookups with large trout, but only scooped one of them into my Fishpond landing net. In fact, I felt several nips at my fly that cold have been more like spawning aggression than hungry strikes. It was a mental lesson I will recall next spring if I encounter this bulrush setup again.  

My first trout was a beautiful 16-17 inch male sporting a kyped jaw. 
A close up of the lower jaw kype. 

At first I was the lone angler on the reservoir.  But as soon as I navigated my Water Master Grizzly to the open water another angler drove by over the reservoir dam. I waived a “hello” as he drove over to the eastern side where he launched his Fish Cat pontoon boat. We exchanged more formal “hello’s” when we got within talking distance on the water.  He said he was from Hawthorne, CA on a week-long solo fishing trip (two days of travel reduced the his angling days to just five). He had already experienced the harsh weekend winds, the same winds that I was monitoring on weather forecasts. The high wind weekend forecast ultimately led me to take Monday off for a day trip.  Successful day-trips to Kirch WMA require a watchful eye toward the weather, even to the point of viewing hourly forecasts to better predict when the wind will be too powerful for human powered watercraft.  Fishing from the earthen dam can be productive at times, but it is highly limiting because you cannot reach any other part of shoreline on account of the heavy bulrush (great for nesting waterfowl, bad for shore anglers). No one wants to invest six-hours of driving time only to be restricted to fishing from the dam after being blown blown off the water.

Despite the winds, my new friend from Hawthorne had already experienced good success.  I could tell from our conversation we was obviously pleased with the fishing, and that made me happy for him and hopeful for me. I asked him how he discovered the Kirch WMA (my experience with Ron from Santa Barbara on my article photo shoot reminded me to expect surprises from the anglers at Kirch).  He said he came upon it from an article he read several years ago. I asked him if it was an article in Southwest Fly Fishing, and amazingly he said it was. Trying to control my pride from bubbling over and making me look foolish, I told him that was my article that educated him about the Kirch reservoirs. Pride aside, it was cool to learn that someone actually read my article and put it to the test, and even more remarkable to run into them on Dacey Reservoir.

My sole fishing partner, all the way from Hawthorne, CA, rowing his Fish Cat pontoon boat (along shoreline on right side of picture). Said he discovered Kirch WMA by reading my November 2014 article in Southwest Fly Fishing.
This 17-inch specimen displayed what appeared to be scars from a heron or osprey attack. 

There were several heron stalking around the reservoir, and I saw two ospreys overhead as well. I mention them because two of the fish I landed exhibited wounds that I believe were delivered by one of these birds. One trout had an open wound that looked pretty fresh. Despite that wound, the fish fought stronger than any other I had landed. It is impressive how nature works that way sometimes, much like how The Lord makes us strong in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Although this trout had an open wound, likely from a heron or osprey as well, it was far and away the strongest fighting fish I landed this day.

Despite failing to land anything close to 20 inches, it was a good trip in my book (who lands such trout every time out anyway?).  Maybe if I had more patience with some of those LDR fish I might have netted larger trout. Who knows… those are the mysteries that drive me to keep going back.

This being my second Water Master Grizzly trip, I should report that it performed just as was advertised to me. I am very pleased to have made the transition from the North Fork Outdoors Escape to the Water Master Grizzly, and I expect to put the Grizzly through more fishing tests in the months and years to come. 

Another fine 16-17 inch female specimen.
Reviving a smaller 15-inch specimen before release.
It was another one-fly day on Dacey; the Whitlock damsel fly nymph carried the day again.
A happy FisherDad before the long drive home.

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.

3 thoughts on “Dacey Reservoir: A Return to the Scene of the “Incident””

  1. Hello Fisherdad.

    It is great to see you out there again. I went about 3 weeks ago and had decent success (maybe 7 or 8 in about 5 hours) with most being 14 inchers and one being 18 inches. I caught most just trolling along but hope to learn from you the real techniques of lake fishing one day.


  2. Chan –

    That’s pretty good fishing. They’re getting more active in their spawning mode right now, so that can be good. You were on Dacey, correct?

    I was never too much into the still water trolling, mostly because my experience is that the trout have a tendency to school in areas; where you catch one you can usually catch another one or two. Of course, larger fish tend to run off the more recently planted and smaller trout, but when on the “spawn” they pair up and even aggressively fight for partners and positions. If you’re trolling around on big water like Kirch you can lose your point of reference (unless using a GPS device to mark and return to the location). Once I hook one trout I tend to stay in the same location to explore for others in the area… it seems to pay off more than not.

    The other issue with trolling on Kirch waters is the channels and pools dredged into the bottom. This is what Ron from Santa Barbara was telling me about Adams McGill. If you Google Earth the Kirch reservoirs you can see them as darker water in geometric sizes (try zooming in on 38° 23’ 26.73” N 115° 06’ 53.95” W for Dacey Reservoir). On Adams McGill you can zoom into the channels and actually see boats anchored strategically alongside them (38° 22’ 09.52” N 115° 06’ 41.93” W). The boats are there for a reason, and trolling around isn’t a good way to locate them to find out why, know what I mean.

    Anyway, good to hear from you, and thanks for your comments. Always love hearing about your experiences. For example, I believe this is your first post that implied you bought a float tube or pontoon. If so, what is it and are you satisfied with it?

    All the best to you and your family!

    – Mark

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