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Smith Creek Ranch good destination for long drive

Staff Reports

A couple of weeks ago I made a trek out to the center of Nevada to do some fishing. Several friends and I were invited to fish a private ranch, Smith Creek Ranch, just south of Austin, NV.

Driving through the early morning hours we traveled east from Truckee along Interstate 80 until we got to Fernley and then turned on to Highway 50 toward Fallon. After a quick stop for breakfast in Fallon, we continued east on Highway 50. A sign along the way reminded us that we were on a little traveled roadway, “America’s lonlonliest highway.” While I’m not sure if it referred to Highway 50 or one of the side roads, I don’t think it mattered.

Continuing east, we came upon a real interesting sight – a shoe tree. While shoes do not grow on trees, they are hung in trees. Apparently, this was originally started by someone hanging a deceased friend’s shoes from the tree. Now there are quite a number hanging from all parts of the tree. We all got a good chuckle out of this sight.

Past the tree, we took Highway 722 over Caroll Summit in the Desatoya Mountains. The summit is at 7,425 feet. After driving through the desert, even these mountains seemed less than the elevation indicated. Upon getting off the summit and onto the valley floor, we saw the sign for Smith Creek Ranch. We turned onto the county maintained dirt road and traveled about another 14 miles into the ranch itself.

Smith Creek Ranch is a 2,800 acre ranch nestled below the east side of the 9,973-foot Desatoya Peak. It is a working cattle ranch. The ranch and the pond are located at an elevation of around 6,500 feet, higher than Lake Tahoe. I found that to be a surprising fact considering the desert like surroundings.

We got to the ranch and took short walk to look at the lake we’d be fishing.

It was a small 6-acre lake that was created by the owner, Bruce Hendrix. The pond is fed from a reservoir above that is used for agricultural purposes, and a natural spring. Several years ago, he opened this lake to catch and release fishing. There are rainbow, a few brown, and some brook trout in the lake.

Upon getting back to the car and getting on our gear, we were joined by Hendrix and his dad. We took a quick look at their fish rearing operation in the spring. Fish are raised through a series of three separate holding areas in the spring in which different age classes of fish are kept. The last had fish that were about two-and-one-half-years old and would be released into the lake next year.

We took another tour around the lake with Hendrix and he showed us several access jetties they put in while they built the lake. These are firm gravel based areas that afford the shore angler an area from which to cast his or her fly.

Knowing where these areas are is good for both shore fishing and fishing from a tube. Fish cruise around these jetties so the tuber can work these areas from his or her float tube.

According to Hendrix, in May and June there are prolific hatches of damselflies. Callibaetis also hatch in great numbers along with hordes of midges.

Looking in the water, I saw a very large number of water boatmen and snails. From what I could gather there was the typical type of still water aquatic life available to the fish and they appeared to be there in good numbers.

As a result, we expected some good fishing. We were not disappointed although Hendrix had indicated that the fishing had been slow over the past weekend. Several of us were still getting into the water when one of the guys in our party landed a nice 22-inch rainbow.

The fish are extremely acrobatic when hooked. Fish in the 3- to 10- pound range are advertised. While we did not catch anything over 22 inches, the fishing in the 14-to 18- inch range was good.

All of us caught fish and had a great time.

The water is cold, and being in a float tube all day will certainly drain the heat out of you. Therefore, dress in layers, and wear a pair of thermals under your waders, a good pair of socks and something with a hood for your head. We were all very cold at the end of the day.

If you are going to go, I would recommend an intermediate sink fly line and floating line for the two most used ones. A type two sinking line could also come in handy when the fish are a little deeper.

While not easily accessible, Smith Creek Ranch is a great place for someone to go who wants to catch trophy size fish for an entry fee.

These “pay for play” lakes are becoming very popular destinations with the influx of new fly fishermen. Hendrix says his place is booked on the weekends, but can easily be fished on the weekdays, particularly this time of year.

In addition to the pond, bed and breakfast style accommodations are located in the country living atmosphere of the Smith Creek Ranch House. Individual rates are $100 per half day of fishing, or $125 per full day of fishing. Bed and Breakfast accommodations are $60 per night for a fishing person, or $75 per night for a non-fishing person which includes meals.

There are also many group rate packages available at discounted rates. Since it is quite a drive to get out there I would highly recommend taking advantage of the accommodations and spending one or more nights.

These prices are not bad for this type of an operation. The remoteness of the location is certain to have an effect on the prices, though.

Personalized casting instruction is available when requested in advance. In addition, Fishing equipment, exclusive of flies, will be furnished upon request, at no extra charge.

For more information or reservations call from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at (800) 330-2248. Ask for Diane.

While it was at least a four-hour trip for us with a stop for breakfast from Truckee and a similar amount of time on the trip back with a stop for dinner, it was a terrific outing. The good news is that the ranch is open right up until it freezes over. The way the weather this fall has been, that could be through the end of the year.

So when our regular season ends, those who would like a chance to catch and release some large fish can head out to Smith Creek Ranch.


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