PBD Fish Reports
Trout Fishing in the Middle of Nevada
Location: The lakes and streams are around Ely, Nevada. Ely is in the middle of the state on Hwy 50. It is a few hours north of Las Vegas and south of Reno.
Regulations: All these waters are covered by the State's general regulations. All legal fishing techniques are allowed. Check the current regs for limits.
Driving over the dusty road, I approached a lake surrounded by sage brush. As I parked on a gravel spit, I was greeted by an amazing sight. The lake was glassy smooth and absolutely covered in rising trout. This wasn’t what I had expected. After all, I was in the middle of Nevada surrounded by high desert. Not exactly what one would think of as trout country. But in the next couple of days I learned that the waters near Ely, Nevada are, indeed, trout waters…quality trout waters at that.
This was our first stop and it proved to be a great one. The water we were staring at in astonishment as we scrambled to put our equipment together was Illipah Reservoir. It is about thirty miles west of Ely on Highway 50. My fishing partner Marc Peterson suggested I use an olive woolly bugger with a red marabou tail he ties. Quickly into his first fish, Marc hooked a fat 12-inch rainbow. Shortly I followed suit. It was a great morning of fish-after-fish. We tried other flies with success, even taking a few on dries, but these fish loved that red tail. Averaging 12 inches with some in the 16- to 18-inch range, they were mostly rainbows with the occasional wild brown. That great mourning of fishing suddenly stopped. The trout disappeared and would not take any fly we offered. Time to head for another spot.
Cave Lake is a few miles east of Ely on Hwy 50 and up in higher country. Unlike the desert lakes of the area, Cave Lake State Park is surrounded with beautiful bluffs. Aqua-colored water, ruddy ducks and shoreline junipers and pines create a very scenic environment. The lake itself is full of stocker rainbows with a few larger holdover fish. The park ranger told me of large wild browns he catches regularly. Two huge browns were caught in 2014. On April 13 a 14 pound brown was landed and May 13 a 15 pound 30 inch brown was captured. I never have found any browns there but clearly there is a good opportunity to get a monster.
The fly combination that worked best was an olive mohair
leach followed by a fly called the Cave Lake Special. This fly, tied by a local fly fisher, Bob Marcum, is simplicity itself. Tied on a weighted #10 hook, it has a tail of black marabou with a little red Krystal Flash and a body of fine olive pearl chenille. That’s it. But does it work! I kept loosing mine as fish hit it with such abandon that they broke me off. Other flies that worked well were a green weenie and a red worm
I tie for the San Juan River. This lake was another great treat to fish.
I have never fished them but Cave Creek above the lake and Steptoe Creek below the dam are reported to be populated with wild brown trout.
Over an hour’s drive (80 miles) south of Ely on Hwy 6 then Hwy 318, near a place called Sunnyside, is the Kirch Wildlife Management Area. Here the White River is dammed at several locations to produce reservoirs that provide great fishing. The two best are Cold Springs Reservoir and Hay Meadow Reservoir. These reservoirs, surrounded by tulles, have heavy weed growth. When Marc and I
arrived at Cold Springs, the rainbows were actively feeding on something subsurface. I tried a black woolly bugger and was immediately into a nice 15-inch rainbow that jumped and ran, taking me to my backing. The fish seemed to be moving in packs. We would see a couple of bulges on the surface, quickly move and cast to the area. Often as not a trout would smash the fly. A fat broad
shouldered 17-incher was the best of the morning. As the sun rose the trout action slowed.
The good news was that the bass started biting on the same flies. These two reservoirs, only a couple of hours north of Las Vegas, provide truly great fly fishing. A couple of years ago I met a guide on a river in California. He told me about Hay Meadow, claiming it was the best fishing he had ever had. Having fished it, my skepticism has been erased. Spring and fall are best for trout while bass fishing is great from May through October.
Local expert Bob Marcum's list of recommended flies for the area is extensive but mostly straight forward. He says that green is the best color; light olive to chartreuse. Hatches include midges, mayflies, damsels and caddis. There are also scuds and snails in the lakes. He suggests using a #18 beadhead pheasant tail, prince or damsel nymph under a strike indicator. Fished next to the tulles, it has
worked very well. To fish effectively you will want a belly boat.
The open water season runs from March to November. The best time to fish is late spring (May-June) but the fishing remains good all season. In the hot summer months fish in early morning or evening for best success. These lakes freeze over in winter and there is ice fishing, especially at Cave Lake.
For some great fishing in an unexpected place, try Ely.
Paul B Downing, 2014