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Fishing the desert better in spring

Bruce Ajari

A few weeks ago I was fortunate to take a drive east into the desert, in what is becoming an annual trek, to a private ranch near Austin, Nev.

Smith Creek Ranch is a 2,800-acre ranch nestled below the Desatoya Mountain range.

While it is a working cattle ranch, we were not there to punch cattle. We were there to fish for trout at the invitation of the owner and his brother who would join us in wetting a line. Trout in the three to 12-pound range were the lure. A strict catch and release policy is in effect at Smith Creek Ranch.

We fished this 6-acre lake once in the fall and were extremely cold by the end of the day. Borderline hypothermic would be a better description, but we had fun nonetheless. While we enjoyed the fall, we all hoped to get a chance to fish this lake again in warmer weather.

The opportunity arose this spring, and we found ourselves on the water in late May. Warmer weather, you bet. I fished in a T-shirt and shorts all day under my waders and was extremely comfortable. A complete contrast to the fall experience. Water temperatures were in the low to mid 60s already,which should be a concern. Trout experience problems when the temperature exceeds 64 degrees.

This being our second trip to this water, we appeared to have a real routine down. Pick-up very early in the morning, a stop in the same place for breakfast in Fallon, a stop at the same gas station in Fallon, a stop at the same restaurant on the way back for dinner and gas at Gold Ranch. It is a routine that takes about four and a half hours, but the company is good and the fishing stories enough to pass the time on the road.

This year we had a new body along and some were telling him about the shoe tree that is off Highway 50 just prior to the turnoff that we take on Highway 722. Some were explaining that it was customary for new people to toss a pair of their shoes on the tree before we could go fishing. I was asked to confirm this custom. Of course I had to tell them that my recollection was a pair of waders. I don’t think that the lack of waders would have deterred this individual who happens to be a local Truckee guide.

Because of the timing, we expected to see damselflies, mayflies and midges. We saw all three, and as anticipated, damselflies appeared to be the best producer. Whether or not it was an exact imitation or a simple wooly bugger it worked well.

The best tactic appeared to be stripping the fly from shore with an intermediate sinking line. This is most effective due to the fact that damselflies migrate toward shore to emerge. They crawl out onto anything that is above water and escape from their nymphal shuck and turn into the slender blue flies that we see on lakes this time of year. Nearby Davis Lake has a legendary hatch of these insects and the big fish love them.

While this was the best tactic, we all caught fish whether from shore, float tubes or pontoon boats. It was quite a bit of fun. In fact one of the more seasoned anglers in our group was experimenting with different flies to see just what he could catch fish on.

While we caught no fish in the 12-pound range, we did manage some very nice fish over three pounds. On this trip we caught more browns that we had the previous trip as well. While only rainbows are managed in this lake, the owner did indicate that some browns had been moved into the lake from the feeder stream.

The ranch has great bed and breakfast accommodations in conjunction with the fishing opportunities. Cost for fishing privileges are $100 for a half-day, and $125 for a full-day of fishing with lunch included. The bed and breakfast accommodations are very nominal at $60 per person plus applicable tax per night for a person that is fishing and $75 plus applicable tax per night for a person that is not fishing. Meals are also included in this price. From what I hear, the meals are great too.

A Nevada fishing license is not required. Basic fishing equipment will be furnished upon request, at no extra charge. A $75 deposit is required per person.

If you are interested please call (702) 423-4254 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. They are very friendly people and can provide you with a fine outing.

On our way home that evening we saw an absolutely gorgeous sunset. I was lucky enough to do some “head bobbing” until we broke for dinner in Fallon. Have you ever seen one of those dolls with a head on a spring? They were great items at Giants baseball games when I was growing up. Those doll heads would bob around in the back window of the car, just as mine did as I was dreaming about great flies, great company, and great fishing. Until next time….

Fishing Report

Boca – (39,964 ac. ft.) Boca has been fishing fair to good. Most anglers fishing from shore near the inlet are having some success. The area near the dam is also fishing well. Most anglers use nightcrawlers or Powerbait. Some anglers throwing lures along the shoreline have been productive as well. Boaters are having fair to good success. Most were using a combination of flashers and a nightcrawler or minnow imitating lure. Kokanee fishing has been good. Flyfishermen near the inlet should have fair to good action using a variety of nymphs, streamers, and emergers. Boca is scheduled for a fish planting this week.

Donner – Fishing has been good. Most anglers fishing for rainbows on the west end and near the launch ramp have had fair to good success. A few large fish continue to be reported. Nightcrawlers and Powerbait seem to be the main bait. Trollers using minnow imitating lures have had fair to good success. A fish planting is scheduled again this week.

Lake Tahoe – (Elevation 6229.02) Fishing has been good for mackinaw. A guide is highly recommended if you are fishing for mackinaw for the first time. Toplining and shore fishing is fair. Remember tributaries to Tahoe are closed to all fishing until July 1 and closes again on September 30. No fishing is also allowed within 300 ft.of these tributaries.

Martis Lake – (Martis is restricted to artificial lures with barbless hooks. Zero fish may bagged or possessed) Fishing is improving. Blood midges, callibaetis and damselflies are showing. Try using nymphs such as the Hares Ear, Pheasant Tail, Damselfly imitations or the A.P. Streamers that imitate small fish, and woolly buggers are also good choices. For surface activity, patterns such as the Quiqley Cripple, Martis Midge, Parachute Adams, and Griffith’s Knat are good choices. An ant imitation has worked well on the recent windy days

Little Truckee River – (This area between Stampede Reservoir downstream to Boca Reservoir is now subject to artificial barbless lures with a two fish bag limit of fish 14 inches maximum) – The river flow has been cut to rate of 34 cubic feet per second. Fishing here had been fair to good. The reduced flow should hamper angler success. Flyfishermen fishing this

stretch between Stampede and Boca concentrate on nymphs and streamers with improved hatches where a dry fly will work.

Prosser – (29,468 ac. ft)Prosser fishing has been fishing fair to good. Fishing here is mostly with nightcrawlers or Powerbait. Flyfishermen near the inlets are fishing primarily with nymphs and streamers. Prosser is scheduled to receive a fish planting this week

Stampede – (220,952 ac.ft) Stampede is fair to good Most shore anglers are catching some very nice fish. Most use the typical baits, nightcrawlers or Powerbait. Topliners are having good success for kokanee salmon. Most used a flasher of some sort and a kokanee bug or wedding ring with a piece of white corn. Kokanee fishing should be best in the early low light hours or in the evening as the weather warms up.

Truckee River – The release has been reduced to 77 cubic feet per second from the dam at Tahoe City. In the Truckee area the river is running at around 236 cubic foot per second rate. Fishing should be better with these conditions from Truckee downstream. Seasoned anglers are doing well. Most fish being caught in the special regulation areas are being caught on large nymphs or streamers although more fish are beginning to show. The upper stretch of the river will be tougher now because of the low flows.

Other Waters – Jackson Meadows reservoir has been good. Davis and Frenchman lakes fished fair to good this past week.


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