August 27, 2018

Comins Reservoir in White Pine County

Not much of a blog for this trip.  Mostly a pictorial essay.
Hope you enjoy the pictures and accompanying notes.

The moon over Ely, NV.  This photo looks west down E. Aultman Street,
aka U.S. Highway 50 and Lincoln Highway. The Silver State Restaurant
has been an Ely landmark for me since the 1970s, but is under new
ownership who will be changing the sign to read Nardi's Family
Restaurant. The Magnuson Hotel (yes, they named it a hotel) is down
and across the street where you see the red sign sporting a white star.
This is where I rest my body when it desires a bed over a sleeping bag,
mostly because it was across the street from the Silver State
My first trout of Monday's late afternoon session. It was a handsome
specimen of 13+ inches and a great start.
This rainbow was caught four minutes after the first, and was an inch
or two longer than the first.
A pretty rainbow trout of almost 17 inches. I caught many juvenile
largemouth bass, the largest being maybe 10 or 11 inches. In fact, 
I suspect I caught nearly as many bass as trout over the two days 
of fishing.
This perspective is from the northern end of Comins looking towards the
Schell Creek mountain range. The highest peaks are 7 to 10 miles
away.  Starting from the left, the humpback-looking mountain ridge
is unnamed in Google Earth, but its highest point is about 10,190 feet
as it separates the Steptoe Valley from Duck Creek basin. The obvious
peak in the middle is Camel Peak slightly lower at 10,078 feet (it's
actually closer to the camera than the humpback ridge). It's hard to tell
from this distance and angle, but I believe the highest point on the right
 side of the horizon is Cave Peak at 10,744 feel.

Another rainbow close to 17 inches. I noted its
darker coloring, which always makes me wonder
about the brood stock used in northern Nevada
reservoirs. I've written many times before that
Nevada seems to favor brood stock from Tasmania
in the southern hemisphere, which seems to
produce rainbows that still want to spawn in the
fall rather than their indigenous springtime in the
northern hemisphere. Note the very dark trout
below as additional evidence of fall-spawning attire.  
Around 6:15 PM on Monday a noticeable hatch of mayflies occurred.
The larger trout, in slightly deeper water than I was presently fishing,
began rolling with the hatch in what I describe as pods. I had been
casting larger versions of woolly buggers with my new 5-weight
using a sinking line. I didn't want to change lines, so I snipped off my
fly and tied on a size 14 gray/yellow nymph that had some mottled
grizzly hackle. That did the trick; keeping up with the pod movement
I caught 4 large trout in the span of 15 minutes. I would cast the fly
into the pod and was getting strikes before it sank but a few inches.
That was as close to dry fly fishing as I've come for several years.     
Here's a fine "pod" trout with the grizzly-hackled fly in the corner of his
jaw. I can attest to the sharp set of teeth in his mouth. Note the thick 4x
tippet (i.e., 6 lbs. test) I was using. This time of late summer the
aquatic weeds can be thick. These fish know how to use them to rub
off flies and break tippets. I can't do much about the thrown flies
because with catch & release comes barbless hooks, but I'll be
damned if I was going to lose a fish in the weeds with a 6x tippet (i.e.,
3 lbs. test). Seems most of the trout weren't spooked by the 4x size.
Another good trout that was rolling on the hatching mayflies.  He had
a dark golden-green color that in my mind somewhat resembled
pictures that I had seen of South America's golden dorado. 
My June 1st blog told about how I lost my 8-foot, 5-weight rod at Wayne
Kirch.  Earlier this month I built its replacement, and I used it exclusively
on this trip. I enjoyed its moderate-fast action. It had a little trouble
with the larger flies, but I believe it cast slightly better than its predecessor...
or maybe that's just what I want to believe. 
Getting prepared for Tuesday morning's session.  I do like the Water
Master Grizzly. I suppose many would say it's overdoing it for stillwater
fishing.  But at age 62 I feel very comfortable with the water craft,
maybe even safer than the small and nimbler Fish Cats, but it's not that
bulky that I have any trouble handling it in or out of the water. My only
complaint is that netting 20-inch or larger trout over the side of the
bladders with my 5-foot, 5-inch frame is a little cumbersome for me
verses the open design of a Fish Cat or NFO Escape (... nothing is
ever perfect). The folding stool with my name embroidered on it was a
gift from my previous executive assistant. It works well for me when
getting in/out of waders and boots. I take it everywhere I fish.
A sleek rainbow of 15 inches, perhaps longer.

I didn't fish-count, but there was plenty of action both on Monday
evening and Tuesday morning. It would not be an exaggeration to say
I landed close to 40 fish (plus/minus 5 fish for memory nuances).  As
mentioned above, it seemed like half of the fish caught were young
largemouth bass.  As I was packing up to head home later Tuesday
morning, I spoke with a man from Oregon who was visiting his brother
who lives in Ely.  He said they had caught many larger trout in the
upper, marshier end of the reservoir, and that one measured 23 inches.
I also chatted with another angler who mentioned that someone recently
caught and killed two small pike, which means that it might be a matter
of time before the Comins trout fishery is ruined once again. Maybe the
Nevada Wildlife folks will continue killing the pike discovered during
routine electrofishing. Time will tell. 
Yet another slender rainbow trout.  This one was at least 17 inches.
It was a good looking fish.
This was my last fish of the trip. It may have been 14 inches. I was
happy to let it go so that l could get back on the road home.
Truthfully, my arm was getting a little tired.

August 3, 2018

Cave Lake State Park, outside the City of Ely, White Pine County, Nevada

A hawk (I believe a red-tailed hawk) perches on rabbitbrush to survey
his domain. This picture was taken near Cave Creek, the southeastern
inlet of Cave Lake that gives Cave Lake State Park its name. 
My daughter was promised a camping trip before she returned for her school's fall semester. As the Dog Days of summer began to sap everyone's energy, I was reminded that "back to school" was but two weeks away. I quickly began planning a short, overnight camping trip.

Since it was to be her first camping trip I wanted to keep it simple, but interesting. A short-as-possible drive would be best, especially if she awoke in the middle of the night frightened and crying to go home immediately. You never know for sure about a child's first time, and in the back on my mind I was recalling the "Skunk Camp" event with my two middle sons back in 2000 (you'll find those details in the 2003 post about Cave Lake).

The weather forecast was reflective of the southwest "monsoon season" when the hot land masses create upward thermal air flow which then produce low-pressure areas that in turn suck in moisture from the south. This mostly results in southwest humidity triple the normal levels, but in the higher mountains of the southwest it brings thunderstorms.

My preferred destination was Pine Valley, UT, but camp sites were already reserved. Other nearby destinations in southern Utah and Nevada also forecast thundershowers, but Cave Lake State Park was going to have scattered thundershowers in the early evening with 35-40 percent probability. Thus, although the drive would be at least one hour longer, Cave Lake was selected.

The southwest view, from Cave Lake State Park campsite number 25,
displaying Ward Mountain in the Egan Range far across the
Steptoe Valley. 
Upon arrival at campsite #25 we set up the tent and unloaded the truck. My daughter wanted to see the lake and watch if I could catch a fish. She remembered that there were two types of trout in the lake: rainbows and browns. Before heading to the lake I asked her again, "Do you prefer sleeping in the tent or the truck shell?" She said she wanted to sleep in the shell so that's where I left the sleeping bags.

Down at the inlet we flushed a red-tailed hawk from the aspen grove but its flight was short and it alighted on a rabbitbrush near the trail we were walking on. We were able to get remarkably close which enabled me to take a few photos.

Cave Lake State Park campsite #25 in the middle of the 132-mile-long
Schell Creek Range. The northern section of this mountain range is
When we arrived at the shoreline I had targeted, after two casts the winds came, skies darkened, and it began to sprinkle with a smattering of large droplets. We hustled back to the Fish Taco and drove up to our campsite. Since the sleeping bags were in the shell, that's where we took shelter. That's when the volume increased, trapping us in the shell. That was about 6:00 PM. It didn't stop until 9:05 PM which was a blessing since she had to use the restroom since 8:30 PM. 

The dilemma then became whether to walk through the mud to the tent wherein the porta-potty awaited (what to do about the muddy boots entering the tent, do we leave sleeping bags in the shell or just wholesale move into the tent, etc.???), or do I drive her down to the full service toilets and park right outside the bathroom door? One of the creature comforts of this Nevada state park is that it has a bathroom facility with four separate flushing toilets with hot/cold sinks plus two full service showers. Because of her urgency I opted to drive the truck down to the bathrooms with her nestled in the shell. Once relieved we drove back up to the camp to sleep. But she still had a hard time sleeping. I know that because I had a hard time sleeping. A shortcoming of the Fish Taco is the 41 x 60 inch bed dimension. I'm short, but even I had to sleep with my knees bent all night which created all types of new pressure points and joint pains. That was a lesson that wont be repeated.

One of the gravel beaches on Comins Reservoir in Steptoe Valley. My
daughter said she wanted to see me "catch a fish," and this was the
most likely spot to accomplish that from shore. In the distance are the
northern peaks of the Schell Creek Range that approach 12,000 feet. 
We awoke to a clear sky and a rising sun. After a light breakfast we broke camp, packed up the truck, and headed to Comins Reservoir down in Steptoe Valley to try a few minutes of fishing. Fortunately we arrived as a car filled with children was leaving the very beach I had in mind. I brought my 9-foot 5-weight fly rod, some rubber boots, and one small box of flies that were tied by my good friend Bill Bergan. I wanted my daughter to experience fishing first hand. Although I have actually started her practicing fly casting in our backyard, she wasn't ready for fly fishing. But I reasoned that if I hooked something from shore I could get the fish on the reel and hand it over to her to reel in herself (you fisherman know of the electrifying experience of a decent fish head shaking underwater or the leaping of a rainbow trout). Anyway, I just couldn't resist a few casts (could you have resisted?).

On about my fifth cast I hooked an eleven-inch rainbow. My daughter expressed her excitement with an "Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, he's got a fish!" The cast after that I caught a small black bass. A few minutes later I hooked what I suspect was a decent sized rainbow, but as I started collecting the slack line on the reel so I could hand her the rod with the trout "on the reel" the hook came out (I use barbless hooks because I release all fish I catch, so this is a common result). I hooked and landed two more trout and two more bass. The thirteen-inch trout fought nicely, and once more I tried to hand
 the rod to my daughter after I got the fish on the reel, but she didn't want it.  She said she was too busy filming a video of my fishing exploits with the iPad as she has aspirations of being a vlogger... like her mom and dad will let that happen anytime soon. Although she didn't experience the thrill of reeling in a fish, she very much enjoyed it vicariously through me. Of course I was pleased to have hooked seven fish over the 40 minutes, achieving hook-up about every six minutes or so. The seed is planted.

A fine rainbow trout of about 13 inches. Even I was surprised that a late
morning in August gave up three trout and three black bass (i.e.,
largemouth bass), and one LDR that fought like a 14-inch rainbow
before it spit the hook as I frantically reeled the slack line in to let my
daughter "real in" her inaugural fish. Six fish landed in about 40
minutes was a nice closing to our first-ever camping trip. 

All seven fish (including the one LDR) were hooked by this fine fly tied
by my friend and supreme pescador, Bill Bergan. 
As mentioned, one beneficial aspect of Cave Lake is its proximity to one of Nevada's larger rural cities and the amenities it offers. In the case of Ely, there are two museums that will peak the interest of children and adults.

The White Pine Public Museum, started in August 1959, is much larger than the small storefront on Ely's main road would imply. My daughter particularly enjoyed the doll artifacts, the Cherry Creek train depot, and the one-room school house from Baker, NV. A family could easily spend most of the day exploring this wonderful museum.

Back in August of 2006 I had fished Cave Lake and Comins Reservoir with my son Brian. We visited the Nevada Northern Railway Museum gift shop on that trip, but we failed to explore the rail yard to appreciate what it offered. If you or someone you love has an itch for trains, you need to check out the link embedded above. This is a significant opportunity to immerse yourself into the world of trains, both steam and diesel. Here's a quote from that website:
We have heard the question many times. People come to the ticket desk and ask "Where's the museum?" The truth is, this is a very large museum. It's the original Nevada Northern Railway, complete with its original depot, engine house, freight house, and administrative building, all built in the 1910's. It's the original Nevada Northern mainline track. We still own all 147 miles of it. It's several of the original Nevada Northern Railway locomotives, still in operation today. Come, explore history with us!
Travelling down E. 11th Street to the Nevada Northern Railway Museum,
which is more than a museum but rather a working train depot that is
also a National Historic Landmark. This is a "must see" for train
For about $800 you can be an engineer and actually drive a steam or
diesel locomotive on a 14-mile trip. For a few hundred more you can
work in the rail yard as part of the crew. It's called Railroad Reality

A view of the Engine House and Restoration buildings in the photo's
center, and other buildings on the periphery. 
So, my daughter was reluctant to leave Ely, trying all sorts of ploys to stall our departure. One that I succumbed to was a playground visit. I knew where a public playground was in the residential area on the way out to Highway 6, so there we went. When we got out of the truck I noticed a preponderance of slow flying yellow-black bugs. At first I thought they were small bees, but in fact they turned out to be beetles, and they were all over the playground equipment, picnic tables, and awnings. They didn't bite, but they were a nuisance, especially the three that hitched a ride in the truck cab all the way to Alamo.

Up close and personal with one of the thousands of 7mm beetles that
were all over an Ely, NV playground, three of which hitched a ride to
Alamo, NV in the cab of the Fish Taco. 
But of course, more than the camping, fishing or museum visits, spending time alone with my daughter was the best part of all. I endured the KidsBop music channel on SiriusXM and the l-o-n-g game of "Name your three Favorites" because it made her happy. But there were also meaningful talks about God, the significance of Jesus' death on the cross, and why a little nine-year-old girl doesn't have to worry that she'll not get to heaven because she "can't be good" all the time. I was most pleased to see the relief on her face as she realized we all try to be good because it's pleasing to Him and good for us and our friends, but when we fail there is always His grace to forgive us.  We don't need to be good to get to heaven, but because of Jesus we want to be good.  With that I leave you to meditate on these verses, because even adults wonder at times how they can get to heaven with so much sin on their hands:
Ephesians 2:4-5    But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved.
Romans 3:22-24    Even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ unto all them that believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19    But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses, and having committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
John 3:16    For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
My daughter's iPad contribution to the blog post: