April 3, 2019

Early Spring on Dacey Reservoir

Here's a typically handsome Dacey spring rainbow trout of about 16 inches.
Early spring always brings hope.  For those of us with a keen eye for the outdoors, it can be overwhelming when it floods our senses with new growth.  Maybe it’s the contrast to the gloomy drabness of winter that gives spring all the attention; it seems everyone welcomes its emergence from the fingers of winter.  The flowering and budding of trees give promise of things to come.  Even the floor of the Mojave Desert turns remarkably green in the early spring, followed by its own unique color bouquet.  Songbirds, found even in our most urban environs, start whistling and tweeting before the sunrise, and sometimes throughout the night, perhaps as part of their intense mating and nesting ritual.  All sorts of new life begins to pop.  I have even noticed a bumper crop of baby fence lizards sunning themselves on my backyard stone planter, while butterflies and bees flit about overhead.  And of course, there are those spring-spawning rainbow trout, hungry from the cold of winter and in need of beefing up for their own mating ceremonies.  There’s an energy in springtime, a natural force that can’t be denied and is the fuel that feeds our belief that all things old, or even seemingly dead, can be renewed again.
The size of this trout appears smaller than reality.  The Fishpond Nomad
mid-length net is large and deep. The 15-inch rainbow is burrowing into
the bottom which is 12 inches below my hand. The other net dimension
is 13 inches wide by 18 inches long. 
Once our unusually wet Clark County, NV winter subsided, my angling plans began to coalesce around making Dacey Reservoir my first spring angling venture.  Dacey is located in the Wayne Kirch Wildlife Management Area (Kirch) on Nevada Highway 318, about halfway between Alamo and Ely.
Although not the largest, this 13-inch rainbow was deeper into his
spawning wardrobe than any of the other trout.
Dacey is an interesting body of water to fish just after ice-out.  The trout are indeed plumping up with their springtime appetite, but there’s often a mat of dead vegetation floating on the surface.  There is an abundance of open water, unfettered by the coming summer crop of weeds, but the challenge is getting through the nasty entanglement at the launching site.  Of all the fishable reservoirs within Kirch, Dacey has the most north-south alignment.  Its surface length runs about 2,200 yards north/south with an average east/west width of about 400 yards.  The primitive launch area is at the southwest corner of the impoundment, right up against the riprap reinforced dam.  Imagine a persistent northern wind pushing the dead weeds across Dacey’s 1.25-mile longitudinal length into the 700 square yard corner pocket where the boat launch resides.  Add to that the prohibition of motorized watercraft from ice-out through August 15th due to waterfowl nesting and you lose the benefit of larger boats with outboard motors plowing a path for those of us fishing from tubes, pontoons, and kayak personal fishing vessels.
My Toyota Fish Taco got me to Dacey quickly and safely.  Note to the
right of the truck bed, between the tail light and the riprap, lies the
loathsome mass of dead vegetation I had to plow through to reach the
fishable water.
When I arrived there was a fly angler in a kayak on the reservoir, which gave me hope that I could also pass over the mass of weeds in the Water Master.  He turned out to be a fisheries biologist for the Nevada Dept. of Wildlife (NDOW).  Before I got setup to launch my Water Master fishing craft he extracted himself for a lunchbreak.  He had been on the water about one hour, catching a nice sixteen-inch rainbow.  When I first saw the NDOW truck I assumed he was a warden, but when I voluntarily proffered my fishing license he said he wasn’t a warden, but rather a biologist.  

I recalled running running into a fisheries biologist named "Mark" on my second trip to Dacey on October 23, 2013. In fact, I snapped a far-off photograph of him playing a large rainbow trout and posted it on that blog.  The fishing was marvelous that day, and Mark and I hollered to each other across the water to celebrate our joy.  I never got a close enough look to recognize Mark on the street, but I could never forget his first name, of course.  So, I asked this guy if his name was “Mark,” and he said “Yes.”  We had a nice conversation about Dacey and other waters in the area he covers (essentially, waters in Lincoln, Nye, and Esmeralda Counties).  He provided some updates about Beaver Dam Creek which will encourage me to make a return visit over the next month or so, possibly with my son, grandson, and daughter.
The temperature was moderate, but the clouds hid the sun from time to
time.  Mark, the NDOW fisheries biologist, can be seen in he distance
paddling his kayak.
After our talk I took on the task of rowing the watercraft over the floating morass of dead vegetation.  It took a long time to cross the flotsam of weeds to reach open water, but I did persevere.  Once clear I began casting my 9-foot, 5-weight rod with a full-sink line, a 5x tippet, and a Whitlock damsel nymph.  In that first hour I landed five very nice trout, all in the range of thirteen to sixteen inches (although the second trout might have been close to seventeen inches, but I don’t want to overstate the case).  Biologist Mark had returned to the water by then and noted my luck.  He asked what I was fishing.  I told him, and eventually I paddled over and gave him one of my Whitlock damsel nymphs.  I don’t know how it worked out for him, but I can report that the fishing slowed for me after that first hour causing me to swap out fly patterns several times over the next few hours.  Despite trying a variety if flies, I only caught two more trout over the next two hours.  

Mark finished angling around 1:30 PM, I think.  As an unexpected thank you, he left the damsel nymph fly on the lip of my tailgate... it was the kind of gesture you come to expect from fellow outdoorsmen who cherish and respect their hobbies and the special places they are allowed to practice them

Here's a partial photo, looking north from the dam, of the massive
vegetation debris blocking access from the boat launch area located off
the left side of the photo (see next photo).
This is the rest of the blockage.  Note my truck door on the left edge of
the photo, which gives perspective to the size of the riprap rocks
(actually, they are more like boulders).  Just to the right of the door,
above the green sage, you can see the other truck parked next to the
launch area, about 100 yards away.
About 2:00 PM another couple of kayak anglers navigated through the crud into open water.  I heard one of them tell his partner, “It would’ve been much easier launching from the riprap dam.”  Although I would readily agree that almost all the weed bed was pushed into the launching area, the problem with the riprap dam is the damage to your watercraft by dragging it over the large and sharply-fractured rocks and/or the damage to your body if you fall upon them while stepping up/down with your watercraft overhead.  At age 62 my strength, agility, and balance are nothing like when I was 40, so caution prescribed getting out the conventional way.

Shortly after 3:00 PM, after the fishing action cooled off, I began the battle of plowing through the weed bed blocking my access to the launch ramp.  I noticed that the journey back seemed to require much more effort with much less progress.  I also noticed that the Water Master’s left oar’s rack-and-pinion joint appeared to be getting stressed and that my collapsible aluminum oars were flexing under the weight of the weeds.  I decided to attempt a riprap dam extraction.  It all worked out fine, and it certainly saved me 20-30 minutes, but I wasn’t comfortable going up and down that riprap.  I made several trips in order to remove everything from the Water Master (fly rod, landing net, kick-fins, oars, stripping net, snacks, and fly boxes) before moving the bare raft up the dam’s riprap to the road, whereupon I could walk over to get my Fish Taco truck.  I was very thankful that with everything removed it only weighed about 30 pounds, although it's eight-foot by five-foot dimension was still awkward under my old 5-foot, 5-inch body frame.   

One of the other kayakers who forged through the weeds to fish.  After I
got out and was packing the truck to head home, he also exited over
the dam riprap.  When he walked by to get his truck I told him, "You
made the right decision"
Maybe some of the floating debris will decay and fall to the bottom of the reservoir, I don’t know.  I do know that if some pathways aren’t opened through the weeds I think I’ll not try to row through them again.  I’ll leave that to the thirty-somethings in kayaks.

That aside, the fishing was very good in my eyes.  Seven trout landed between 13 and 17 inches in about three hours is a nice afternoon in most everyone's book.  I’ll never get the October 2013 experience out of my mind, but I also realize that experience was an anomaly for Kirch.

Grant  Range touching the clouds.  The cottonwood trees rising above
the sage mark the Dave Deacon campground location.
I am thankful for the arrival of this year’s spring.  Life is good.  God has blessed me far beyond what I deserve, which is judgment for my sins.  But instead Jesus gives me grace, so I have faith in Him, the quintessential model of the promise of spring (after all, He created it).  And may your Easter Holiday be blessed as well.  
It was a satisfying trip.