Exploring New Angling Opportunities

My sons, Douglas and Thomas, getting prepared to walk down to angle Cave Lake for trout (Rainbow and Brown) in June 2000.

Some of you know that a medical recovery period can cause you to reflect on your life events. If you were disabled by an accident or medical event, long periods of inactivity bring forward memories of past family events. The good ones can bring a smile to your face, warm your heart, or make you laugh aloud. The bad ones can bring a tear to your eye and make you wish you had handled it better. If you have cherished hobbies, like fly angling, you conjure up your past adventures and wonder how future ones will be achieved. Pondering your ability to fully participate in future events usually fosters self-pity.

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A Pause in the Life…

Most of us experience health events as we age that give us pause. My first such experience as an adult was my October 22, 2015 heart attack while float-tubing Dacey Reservoir on a solo trip. My most recent medical episode occurred after a Father’s Day dinner at home. I apparently experienced a thrombosis in my lower aorta, below my renal arteries but above my iliac arteries. That resulted in diminished blood flow to my legs which were already suffering from twenty years of peripheral artery disease. Surgeons performed an Axillo-Bifemoral bypass which successfully restored adequate blood flow to my legs, but the time lapse between Father’s Day and surgery was too long for my right leg and so it suffered some nerve and muscle damage.

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A Boo Rod

My Sweetgrass fly rod – serial no. 2450, 7′ 9″, 4/5 weight – accompanied by my Hardy L.R.H. Lightweight reel spooled with a #5 sink-tip line. I am old enough to pre-date graphite rods, and I admit that I have longed to own a quality bamboo fly rod since the age of 21. I can finally check that off my list.

Most every serious trout angler has heard or read about the history of bamboo fly rods. Split cane rods replaced wooden poles or bamboo poles for fishing in the early 1800s. Apparently there is some confusion about where split cane rods were invented (France, England, China, or USA), but as for America it is said that Samuel Phillipe of Easton, Pennsylvania, was the first American to experiment with making multisided rods with strips of bamboo glued together. No doubt the industrial age advanced the craft of rod making in the late 1800s.

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An Easter Season trip to Dacey Reservoir

I struggled with the wind gusts a little bit, but I still held my own at age 65. My oared Savage Gear float tube continues to be my favorite watercraft for trout reservoirs. The Grant Range in the far distance had the least amount of snow that I recall for the end of March.

I recently retired from from the bank where I worked as an SEC registered municipal bond advisor. It was a great job that came along at the perfect time, and it allowed me to retire from my stressful municipal Chief Financial Officer position at age 60, about one year after I suffered a heart attack on this very reservoir (see Maiden Voyage of Water Master Grizzly Interrupted by Heart Attack). While these past five years with the bank have been enjoyable and rewarding, when I reached 65 I was psychologically prepared for full retirement (two COVID years of working from home also helped). This adventure to Dacey Reservoir was my first angling trip under full retirement status. It was a satisfying way to acknowledge never having to work for a paycheck again.

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Spring Mountains Getaway

Looking south from Cold Creek Road toward the northern edge of the Spring Mountains Range. On the far left is Mummy Mountain at about 11,500 feet in elevation. The next peak(s) is actually the Sisters Peaks (South at 10,000 feet and North at 9,800 feet). The Sisters block out the view of Mount Charleston which tops out at 11,918 feet about 4 miles behind them in this camera lens line of sight. The next peak is Macks Peak at about 9,800 feet, followed by McFarland Peak to its right at about 10,700 feet. The next subtle peak, preceding the snow-covered burned slopes to the right of the photo, is Bonanza Peak at about 10,400 feet. Finally, the highest peak on the snow-covered ridge is Willow Peak (just under 10,000 feet). Each of these peaks are at different distances from the camera, explaining why their outline along the horizon does not match perfectly with their true elevations.

As a way of saying “Goodbye” to our southern Nevada winter, this morning I took a leisurely drive to the less traveled portion of the Spring Mountains west of the Las Vegas Valley, a trip that also moderated my adjustment to a valley temperature of just under 80 degrees. The Spring Mountains Range is about 60 miles long, and most of it angles off in a northwest direction from Las Vegas. Its most obvious view from the city is that of the prominent red rock bluffs on the west edge of the valley. Of course I took along a fly rod and a few flies just in case I decided to fish the pond at Cold Creek (I doubt you are holding your breath on that one).

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Cold Creek, My Old Friend

On the road to the high-desert Cold Creek pond, looking north past the pond towards the Desert National Wildlife Refuge (Fish and Wildlife Service) that overlaps with the Nevada Test and Training Range (Dept. of Defense) and the Nevada National Security Site (Dept. of Energy). Per Google Earth, the pond measures 308 feet by 122 feet at its widest points, which calculates to 0.86 of an acre, but the pond resembles a chicken fillet, not a rectangle. My best guess is the pond surface area is closer to two-thirds of an acre, and about a third of that is shallow and not suitable trout habitat. It is a tiny body of water.

My early exploration of the Cold Creek area began when I was in college, around 1977, with my hiking buddy Kevin McGoohan. At that time there was no community development, no town of Cold Creek. It was as pristine as could be in the late 1970s. It is where I caught my first trout on a fly rod, so it has held extreme sentimental value to me these past 44 years (read my Cold Creek, Clark Co., NV post to learn more about my early exploration of Cold Creek).

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Exploring Carpenter Canyon from Pahrump, NV

This is the terminal end of the Carpenter Canyon jeep trail, which is about 300 yards beyond where the U.S. Forrest Service signage suggests you stop. I expected to see travelers today, especially since it was the Veterans Day holiday, but on the way up we only came upon a lone motorbike that was heading down the mountain. This group (an informal Razor Club) arrived at noon, but we did not hear or see them until we returned from our fishing exploration. Good people from Pahrump, several of whom where veterans.

In the 1970s I developed an interest in U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps (i.e., topo maps). Hunting and fishing with my brother Neal often involved these topo maps. While the first satellite global positioning system (GPS) had been created by the US military, civilian use did not materialize until 1993. Civilian access to the Internet also occurred around 1993, but cell phone GPS was not available until 1999. Until civilian GPS became available, topo maps were the best way to explore the outdoors.

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Desert National Wildlife Refuge – Mormon Well Road

From the Yucca Forrest, this view looks southwest back towards the Spring Mountains, with Mt. Potosi (about 8,500 feet elevation) being that faint shadow on the far left in the most distant background, and the Mt. Charleston peaks (over 11,000 feet) visible through the saddle in the center of the photo.

Most every adult in southern Nevada is knowledgeable of Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, and Mount Charleston (i.e., Spring Mountains National Recreation Area), and has likely visited at least one, and probably all of three within their lifetime. As a young adult in the 1970s and 1980s I could find solitude by hiking just a mile or two in all these national treasures, but not today. Today the Red Rock Canyon trails feel crowded no matter which trail you take, and at its southern end the mountain bike trails have all but decimated any semblance of adventure while hiking to the lesser known springs and petroglyphs of Red Rock. The youngsters of today have no knowledge of what it was like 45 years ago when the valley’s population was 300 thousand residents compared to the 2.3 million here today. Back then, if one-percent of the population visited these areas on a weekend that would be 3,000 adventurists scattered in the hills. Today that would be 23,000 people, or almost eight times as many people.

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Early Fall at Wayne Kirch WMA

The Fish Taco getting unloaded at Dacey Reservoir. The Savage Gear float tube is nearing its launch. The Egans Mountain Range in the background hides the Cave Valley that nestles in the Far South Egans Wilderness Area. This summer I had a Slimline Hybrid steel bumper with shackle mounts installed on the Tacoma as well as Bilstein shocks (5100s on the rear and 6112s on the front with coilover springs to raise and beef up the front end). Rogue Offroad did an awesome job; I highly recommend them.

It has been a long, hot summer in southern Nevada. June 9th was my last out-of-town adventure. Although not a fishing trip, it was quite memorable as my grandson’s first camping trip. It sustained me for about four months, but the cooler fall temperatures were beckoning once again. I chose to visit Wayne Kirch Wildlife Management Area for a day-trip getaway.

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Multi-Generational Camping

Uncle Brian and Pops taking Tom’s son on a short hike into the small aspen forest along Cave Creek, upstream from Cave Lake. It was breezy and the aspen leaves were performing their ceremonial twisting in the wind, which resulted in a rustling sound. My grandson asked, “Pops, what’s that sound?” I explained that aspen trees were referred to as “quaking” aspens because their flat, broad leaves are attached to long, narrow stems such that they twist in the wind making a quaking or cracking sound. Did you know that aspen stands like these are often created by stems arising from long lateral roots? The result is many genetically identical trees, which in aggregate are called a “clone.” There appears to be some disagreement over which state has the largest clone aspen stand, but one such clone in Utah’s Fishlake National Forrest covers 106 acres and contains an estimated 47,000 stems (see The Gazette article on Utah’s claim).

I know several grandparents who have experienced camping with their children and grandchildren. All of them expressed the joy of passing on the liberating experience of camping to their descendants, whose opportunities for learning appreciation and reverence for nature continue to diminish over time. Getting out of our urban cities to dwell in nature for a few days seems to free our souls. We leave behind our to-do lists and the technology that drives so much or our waking hours, replacing it with the freedom to soak in a deep, satisfying peace. We are released from our daily routines, free to explore and discover without restrictive agendas governing our daily lives.

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