Angling at a private ranch
Smith Creek Ranch is a private water in Churchill County, Nev. that is managed by the Reno Fly Shop/Truckee River Outfitters stores in Reno and Truckee. It is about a two-and-a-half hour drive from Reno via Highway 50 and State Highway 722. The last 14 miles is a good gravel road into the ranch.
A couple of friends and I recently had the good fortune to spend several days fishing it. I had fished Smith Creek Ranch fairly regularly until several years ago. It was very nice to get the opportunity to get back there and do a little fishing.
Smith Creek is a 2,800-acre working cattle ranch owned by the Hendrix family. The father, Merle, takes care of the fishery operations, and the fishing is still as good as I remember from past trips. With Hendrix being somewhere in his mid-80s, I was surprised that he recognized me from my prior trips out to the ranch.
Fishing on the ranch is done on a six-acre pond that is used for catch-and-release barbless fly angling. The ranch is located at 6,600 feet in elevation on the eastern slope of the towering 9,973-foot Desatoya Peak in central Nevada. Rainbow and brown trout are both raised from eggs taken from stock and reintroduced into the lake. Fish in the 3- to 10-pound range are reportedly available.
Fish can be taken on a variety of tactics, including stripping streamers on an intermediate line, floating nymphs with or without an indicator or casting dries and emergers to rising fish.
We had success using all of these tactics. The fish were not large this trip ” mostly in the 16- to 18-inch range ” but they really fought hard. It honestly sounded as though someone was throwing rocks into the water when these fish were hooked. Many of the fish must have thought that they could fly judging from their aerial displays!
Speaking of aerial displays, now that Fallon boasts the Navy’s elite Top Gun school, we saw a number of planes during our trip practicing their dog fighting tactics. While this would be a noise nuisance to some, we found it fascinating to watch as we floated in our tubes and pontoon boats on the water. We witnessed some amazing maneuvers.
The Smith Creek Ranch House was a fully-equipped, three-bedroom house with amenities for the “do-it-yourself” anglers such as us. There are also guides and meal packages available if you would like some instruction or would like to relax after a long day of fishing and leave the cooking chores to someone else.
I made the mistake of leaving out my favorite pair of sandals to slip into after taking off our waders on the porch. The ranch has working dogs to aide with the cattle herding, and one of the dogs must have really liked one of my sandals. When we got home from fishing, only one remained. Anything small enough to be taken was moved inside from that point on!
One other interesting note was that we had a visitor each morning between 6 and 6:15: A woodpecker was burrowing a hole on the south side of the house off the master bedroom. We got a real chuckle out of this because we thought we were doing the individual a favor by giving him the master room. Woody visited us each morning and woke us up. On the last morning of our three-night stay, he decided to hit the north side of the house and woke up my other fishing partner!
Since we were there to fish, Woody’s visits did not cause us too much grief. We would have enjoyed a bit more sleep the first night, but we had a great stay and are ready to do it again.
Bruce Ajari is a Truckee resident and regular fishing columnist for the Sierra Sun and other area newspapers.
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