Gone Fishin’: Catch-and-release fishing in Nevada
Several weeks ago a group of my friends and I took our annual trip to fish the private catch-and-release waters of Smith Creek Ranch east of Fallon.
Smith Creek Ranch lies at the base of the Desatoya Mountain Range at an elevation of 6,600 feet between Fallon and Austin, Nev. It is actually situated on the eastern slope of Desatoya Peak, which has an elevation of 9,973 feet.
We had been the past two years, once in the fall and last year in the latter part of May. This year we decided to try to go a little earlier due to the concern over the light amount of precipitation that we received this year.
Located off Highway 722, Smith Creek Ranch is a 2,800-acre working cattle ranch that offers a great fly fishing opportunity. In driving distance it is approximately two and a half hours from Reno.
At first appearance, an angler might wonder about the fishing. A 6-acre man-made lake is the main attraction. The owners, the Hendrix family, have put a lot of hard work into this operation. Fish are raised from fingerlings in a series of sections within a stream. As they mature they are transferred from one area to another to insure their survival. Both rainbow and brown trout are raised in this fashion, and the fish are of an extremely high quality.
This year the fishing was no less than spectacular. We caught and released so many fish that we were simply amazed. Not only did we catch quantities of fish, but the quality was terrific as well. The fish were in terrific shape and they were large as well.
In fact, it prompted a rather funny response from me. After playing a fish that fought remarkably well, I netted it and promptly readied it for release on the apron of my float-tube. I commented to my fishing partners that “the fish fought pretty well for only an 18-incher.” That brought quite a bit of laughter from my partners as you could imagine.
Both the rainbow and brown trout were in terrific shape. Last year we had been at the ranch and the fish were in very poor condition. Much of it had to do with the very high water temperatures. Last year around the end of May, water temperatures were in the mid-60s. Most fish did not fight very well and they were very slender.
This year the water was much cooler, the fish were in terrific shape and they fought very well. In talking with the owner, they indicated that the warm water temperatures were certainly a concern to them. They may consider closing the water during the summer months so as not to stress out the fish.
While it is certainly a long day trip for someone from our area, the fishing can be worth it. The other alternative is to take advantage of one of the package deals that are offered at the ranch. Lodging and meals can be included along with the fishing privileges.
The accommodations are bed-and-breakfast style in the Smith Creek Ranch House, a nice comfortable place to stay. For a half-day’s fishing expect to pay $100 and $125 for a full day. These rates include lunch. Lodging will run you in the neighborhood of $60 per person plus applicable tax if you are fishing, and about $75 per person for a non-fishing guest. Meals are included with these rates. There are also a number of packages available for four to six persons. If you are interested in fishing Smith Creek Ranch, call them at (800) 330-2248 or (775) 423-4254. You can also FAX them at (775) 423-0458.
I would recommend a 5- or 6-weight rod for the large fish and some occasional wind with a selection of several lines. A floating line, intermediate sink, and either a full sinking type I or II line or a sink-tip line should be taken. Even though this is a private lake, the fish can be very selective at times. When they are on the bite, you can have one of the days such as the one we had there several weeks ago.
This trip is always a great one due to the fact that I always have great company. I am already looking forward to the next trip.
Boca – (13,460) ac. ft.) Boca has been fishing fair. Anglers fishing from shore near the inlet are having some success. Anglers near the dam are still catching fish. Most anglers use nightcrawlers or Powerbait. Boaters are having some success. Most were using a combination of flashers and a nightcrawler or minnow imitating lure. Kokanee fishing should be improving. Fly fishermen near the inlet have experienced slow action. Very small midge patterns or streamers have accounted for most of the fish caught recently.
Donner Lake – Fishing has been slow. Anglers fishing for rainbows on the west end and near the launch ramp have had limited success. The water is still very cold. Nightcrawlers and Powerbait seem to be the main bait. Trollers using minnow imitating lures have had limited success.
Lake Tahoe – (Elevation 6226.25) Fishing has been good for mackinaw. Most fish are in the 5- to 7-pound range. A guide is highly recommended if you are fishing for mackinaw for the first time. Toplining and shore fishing is slow overall. Remember tributaries to Tahoe are closed to all fishing until July 1 and closes again on Sept. 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) The lake is presently at its normal level. Fishing has been fair. Most use 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 Quigley Cripple, Martis Midge, Parachute Adams and Griffith’s Gnat are good choices.
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) – (150 cubic feet per second) Fishing here was fair for the opener. Fishing has been slow near the inlet area of the Little Truckee into Boca reservoir. Fly fishermen fishing this stretch between Stampede and Boca concentrate on nymphs and streamers with occasional hatches where a dry fly can work.
Prosser – (10,857 ac. ft.) Prosser has been fishing fair. Fishing here is mostly with nightcrawlers or Powerbait. Fly fishermen near the inlets have taken a few fish mostly on nymphs and streamers.
Stampede – (189,436 ac. ft.) Stampede is fair. Shore anglers are taking a few fish, some very nice size ones. Most use the typical baits, nightcrawlers or Powerbait. Topliners have fair to 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. Look for improvement as the weather warms. Fly fishermen have had it tough during the early season near Stampede’s inlets. It has been hit or miss with a variety of nymphs, streamers and emergers.
Truckee River – The release from the dam at Tahoe City is presently at 74 cubic feet per second. In the Truckee area it is running at 241 cubic feet per second. The river is in good shape. Fishing is fair in the Truckee area with most success in the lower river. Fly fishermen seem to have some success with stonefly nymph imitations and streamers. Bird’s nests and pheasant tail nymphs have also produced some fish.
Other Waters – Davis and Frenchman lakes are fishing fair to good this past week. Reports indicate that fishing has been spotty. Pyramid Lake is just beginning to see an improvement of the fishing. Look for steady improvement through May.
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