White Pine’s Comins and Illipah Reservoirs

Chan fishing Comins in the sunlight while rain storms threaten over the Egan Range on the western edge of Steptoe Valley.

My son Nick got me started on this blogging journey in June 2007. He created the blog from Adobe PDF files I emailed to family and a couple fishing buddies. The original PDF essays were almost completely about my fishing experience at select destinations with pretty pictures. The blog was created as a Father’s Day gift, and Nick aptly named it FisherDad by securing the website URL www.fisherdad.com. To make up for lost time, I started posting blogs recreated from fishing, climbing, and skiing adventures reaching way back to the late 1970s.  

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Illipah Reservoir, White Pine County

Launching the Water Master Grizzly on Illipah Reservoir, leaving the Trout Truck to bask in the shoreline grasses.  It started as a very tranquil day. 

I took a long day-trip to Illipah Reservoir in White Pine County.  It has been four years since I last fished Illipah, and it has always intrigued me as a fishing destination.  I don’t exactly recall how I came to learn about Illipah.  It may have been my brother Neal who first told me about it, or I could have seen it in the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) brochure and website. I do know that former Las Vegas City Manager, Larry Barton, fished it frequently in the late 1990s.  Several times I heard him describe the Illipah fishing with great enthusiasm.  Larry was a fly fisherman as well, so his commentary seemed to have more significance for me.

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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).

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Northeastern Nevada – Ruby Lakes, Lamoille Creek, & Illipah Reservoir

Ruby Mountain Range, Elko County, Nevada Robinson, Soldier, and Hidden lakes over ridge right of center

I may have seen more of the state of Nevada than most, but I certainly have not seen all of it. Nevada is such a vast state, over 110 thousand square miles ranking it the seventh largest state. Two New York states could fit into Nevada, or three Indiana states. One part of the state I have not visited is the lonesome northwest. I would love to see the Charles Sheldon Antelope Refuge or fish Knott Creek Reservoir, but they are 600 miles away… one way.

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Cave Lake & Illipah Reservoir, White Pine County

Moon rising over Cave Lake about 8:30 pm

I don’t usually look forward to trout fishing in mid-summer. Trout can be lethargic as temperatures rise, and when algae grows in lower elevation reservoirs it can diminish the oxygen levels which can lead to increased mortality even when practicing catch and release. The warm weather also drops water levels causing them to be skittish. Moving up to the alpine levels can solve those issues as summer comes late at 9,000 feet and higher. But other than very few exceptions like Kolob Reservoir, large fish aren’t often found in the creeks and reservoirs of the high mountains in central Nevada and southern Utah. And then there’s the general unpleasantness of traveling across the desert in 110 degrees or more in order to reach cooler climates; even in a relatively new car the excessive heat can cause one to pause about faulty thermostats and split hoses. Still, the Las Vegas mid-summer heat was getting the best of me. Escaping to higher, cooler ground was appealing even if the fishing might be slower and the trout smaller.

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Illipah Reservoir & Cave Lake, White Pine County

Clouds over the Moorman Ridge to the east of Illipah Reservoir.

The summer heat was starting to wane and I was yearning to return to Cave Lake to work on the brown trout that inhabit the inlet waters of the lake. I enjoy a challenge, and when Brian and I visited Cave Lake four weeks ago I wasn’t able to give the task my full attention. I was coaching Brian through his first fly fishing trip but found the slurping brown trout inhabiting the shallows to be a nagging distraction. I caught a few browns that day, one reaching about thirteen inches. I saw larger trout, but I either put them down with sloppy casting or didn’t offer a fly they wanted. Even though it wasn’t quite fall weather yet, I wanted to return and try for a few of the larger brown trout.

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Illipah Reservoir – Cave Lake State Park

Leaving Cave Lake State Park driving south toward the Ward Mountain Range in the background.

Right as school let out for summer break, Denise and I received our first foster home placement. Although we were licensed since last October, we had only provided a few respite periods for another foster couple we know. This placement was the real deal, a sibling pair: a 21/2 year old girl and a 14 month old boy. Ironically, we know their biological family indirectly, which creates some complications. The little girl has severe emotional disabilities, reactive attachment disorder they label it. Needless to say, this was a long, exhausting summer. I had not been fishing since Cold Springs at Wayne Kirch in early May. I had wanted to go in June before the summer heat reached its apex, but I just couldn’t bring myself to leave Denise with these two children, both still in diapers and devoid of any appreciation and respect for boundaries. By the time September arrived I could not contain myself any longer, and so I planned a two-day overnight trip.

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Ely, NV – Illipah & Cave Lakes

Sixteen-inch Illipah rainbow

I had been awaiting the arrival of spring weather, and for that lull in the budget season between the March Budget Workshop and the May Budget Hearing, to set up the first fishing trip of the year. I decided to avoid Cumins at this time since the big ‘bows are in spawning mode and not actively feeding. Rather, I decided to return to Illipah Reservoir just off Highway 50 (known as the Loneliest Highway). I got on the road about 10:30 am and arrived at Illipah about 2:30 pm.

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Illipah Reservoir, White Pine County

Illipah Reservoir from the hilltop campground (note farmers’ truck near shoreline)

This was my second Illipah trip, having quickly fished this reservoir four years ago with sons Doug and Tom, at which time I landed one single rainbow through the thick weeds of the warm summer. On this 2004 trip the late spring weather found the trout feeding in much sparser weeds along the banks. The high temperatures were around seventy, and the lows were in mid thirties, although I lodged overnight at the Best Western in Ely. Although Illipah Reservoir is 6,700 feet in elevation, I found the sparse high-desert flora too monotonous for camping, especially since Ely was just forty miles to the east.

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