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Trout Fishing In The West - A Natives Inside Scoop-Part 6
Fish In My Blood
My family has a long history in Nevada and with fishing the west including commercial fishing. At one time Pyramid Lake was commercially fished by members of my family for the purpose of supplying food for the numerous mines. It was reported that ten to fifteen tons of fish were harvest per week for this purpose. Also, the registered state record for a Cutthroat Trout is 41 lbs but, it was reported (unofficially) that a Native American working for my family had caught a 62 lb trout back in the early 1900's, that is a huge trout! For more information follow this link to wikipedia:
I grew up fishing all the aforementioned waters and many more. I fell in love with these waters as a kid and it continues and only grows stronger with time.
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Installment six of the Western Trout series is all about fishing spots. Everyone wants to know where they are biting and where the big ones are, I will tell what I know. I have heard of many fishing spots in the west that people rave about, but I have not been to these areas. I will still mention what I have been told as I'm sure they weren't lying and the great fish story is part of fishing.
Pictured is the Truckee River which flows from Lake Tahoe, Nevada one hundred miles to Pyramid Lake, Nevada. Pyramid Lake is no secret to trout fishermen as it is one of best trout lakes in the world with huge Lahontan Cutthroat Trout. The Cutthroat used to spawn upstream to Lake Tahoe yearly and catching 25 pound fish from the river was very common. Sadly the spawn doesn't occur anymore due to diversion dams, but the Cutthroat is alive and well in Pyramid Lake and recently Cutthroat have been replanted in Lake Tahoe.
I am biased and I admit that, but I am not closed minded about fishing spots. I am a Native Nevadan so I know water on my side of the Sierras the best, but I regularly venture into California and will mention many places over the border. I started fishing at the ripe old age of four at a small stream that I don't know the name of. I caught two very small brook trout and was hooked on fishing for life.
I ran the river and diversion ditches with my best friend every summer growing up and enjoy the label river rats. Its amazing how far a couple of boys on a free summer day can travel and how much stuff they can do, a lot safer when we were kids. Regular fishing was a summer staple with rafting, swimming, ditch running, and awesome rope swings. We had the best time everyday, just a massive overdose of summer fun everyday. My best friend and I are forty-somethings now, but remember our good times like they were yesterday and both agree that kids today are missing out. The kids look at me and asked what video games I played as a kid and I just laugh and say I didn't have time for video games between fishing, swimming, and biking everywhere, and I do mean everywhere.
I really started exploring deeper and farther once I was behind the wheel of a car and started making trips into the Sierras for fishing. I can't tell anyone what it is like and it can only be experienced first hand. Just beautiful, like most nature is, but special when you are working your way down to a fishing hole and not just looking it over from a vista. I always feel like I am the only person on earth when I am deep in a canyon and all I hear is the water and animals.
I regularly fish the Truckee River both in Nevada and California as well as the Little Truckee, a tributary that fills Stampede Reservoir. The only problem is that these are not secret to anyone and the fishing pressure is pretty high, especially on the Little Truckee. I keep going deeper and higher to find an empty area I can fish in solitude. I have a harder and harder time getting to the river due to development and highway blockage, this really pisses me off. In a way this annoying inconvenience has served a purpose as I must go elsewhere to find clear fishing bringing me to places I might not have ever been.
I really enjoy the areas north of Truckee, California up highway 89, 49, and 20. There is a whole slough of beautiful lakes up in that area that are just breathtaking, also not a secret. I also fished areas in northern Nevada that were pretty amazing like the Quinn River and Onion Reservoir. I have never been, but I hear from many people that Hat Creek and Hot Creek are a fisherman's dream come true with tons of fish to catch. At the other end you have Yosemite and a lot of great trout lakes and streams. Many people I know make a trip to Yosemite to be there for opening day every year and have been doing so for over twenty years.
There is an endless supply of fishing streams in Sierras and I will not live long enough to fish them all, but I wish I could. The Yuba River is great, the Feather River is great, Lake Crowley is great, and Lake Tahoe is the King. I fished Lake Tahoe as a kid with my Grandfather which makes it my most special memory of fishing bar none.
I fished Lake Tahoe as a kid with my Grandfather which makes it my most special memory of fishing bar none. My Grandpa took me out with little hope of catching anything, but just to be with me and to make me happy (this always make me cry, its a good cry though). The old cantankerous starcraft circa 1965 boat just did not want to troll, but he fought the grumpy boat for me to have a chance to fish.
The boat acted up as expected and would loaded up when trolling and have to be rev'd up periodically to blow out the rich fuel and get the old two stroke leaned out. This became a little monotonous and boring for a eight year old kid who is just sitting there holding a pole and dragging some shiny stuff behind a struggling boat. I had nothing better to do, so I kept opening the bail until I had almost spent the whole spool. I got nervous about being so close to the end of the spool so I started to reel up some line, but the line got real heavy. I called to my Grandfather that I thought I had one and it just bounced off of him, either because his hearing aid hadn't picked up what I said or he didn't expect those words to air on this trip. I didn't try to get his attention again as I had work to do and began the very long retrieve from the depths.
About this time my Grandfather had the boat back in running order and turned to check on me. He said "Hey you need to leave that bait out there if you want to catch any fish" and I replied "Not if you're already catching a fish". He said with a little stutter " you-you have one on?" I said "Yeah I have been reeling him in for five minutes". He said "Holy Mackerel" and laughed his special specific western laugh, I remember this like it was yesterday.
Finally got this behemoth to the boat and then in and I had successfully caught an eight pound Mackinaw from about 200 ft or so. My Grandfather was thrilled and started trying to stun this fish by hitting it in the head with a pair of lineman's pliers, the only thing he could find. He lay the stunned fish on the floor and secured the boat for an all out run back to the cabin to fire up the barbecue and get a big old fish cleaned. We did an about face and headed to our cove at full throttle, boat ran great wide open by the way. I couldn't take my eyes off of my victory fish and also could not wipe the smile off of my face. The story goes that these fish come up from such deep depths that they get the bends, bloat, and are finished....wrong. This fish wakes up and starts flopping all over the boat and almost out. If it weren't for a diving slimy tackle by me that crafty trout would have escaped over the side.
My Grandfather slowed the boat and helped me man handle this monster. He proceeded to grip the fish and whack its hard head on the edge rail of the boat until he was satisfied the poor thing had serious brain damage. Fish back on the floor, throttle back to full, and we were making progress again, except that the fish just wouldn't quit and tried for the open water once again. We slowed again and my Grandfather was shaking his head at this incredible fish while trying to figure out what to do. He decided that this fish would be easier to handle if we just kept it alive, so he put it on a metal stringer and we kept him along side our little boat while we putted miles back to the pier.
We reached the pier and had to moor behind another boat, a really nice fishing boat. The seaman on the other boat were very sunburnt and tired as they unloaded a lot of top of the line fishing gear onto the dock. My Grandfather asked how they did and they didn't have the energy to speak so they just nodded in the negative. This is the exact point at which my Grandpa handed me my massive catch up to the dock, the look on their bacon sizzled faces was priceless. Just some looks exchanged and my Grandpa said "The boy caught it". I carried my fish down the pier, tail dragging behind me, while my Grandfather grabbed the gear.
He hurried me to the cabin chuckling and laughing all the way there, he said go show that fish to your Grandma. Grandpa went right, around the house, and I went straight in to find my Grandma....small pause...and there it is...my Grandma shrieked and put her hands to her face with her special smile across her face. I think they heard her scream of shock and laughter on the other side of the lake. She took the fish from me and wasted no time in getting to work on it, I went to find my idol. He had already fired up the barbecue and had a ravenous look in his eye in anticipation of the trout feast to come, I got a congratulatory pat on the back and one more "Holy Mackerel"! I highly recommend Lake Tahoe, but it ain't easy.
That was the happy story and now for a sad one that really bugs me. Like I mentioned before, Pyramid Lake is renown for its trout, but so was another lake, Walker Lake. Walker Lake is a true desert lake and really a carbon copy of Pyramid with the same parent. The difference is that poor Walker Lake has been allowed to die and the fish are gone. This lake regularly produced big healthy cutthroat, but the level of the lake has gotten so low due to diversion that the waters are too high in minerals to support fish life. This is sad as it could have and should have been avoided. I believe in compromise where all interest get served and this was not the case here, the lake was sacrificed for farming interest. I definitely support the farmer wholeheartedly and believe they should get all the help they need, but I don't think this lake needed to be sacrificed. This article is way too little too late as the fish service tested the waters and all the test fish died.
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Go Find 'em
There is plenty of fishing information on places, species, and tactics on web fishing magazines and fish and game documents and I recommend checking this material. Better than following my or others recommendation on a great fishing area you should plot a trip to a remote waterway and go find it. This approach is by far the most rewarding and gives an extra pinch of satisfaction. Worst case scenario is that you spend a whole day in nature and relaxing whether you catch a fish or not.
It is really hard to go wrong in the Sierras when it comes to fishing, but always go prepared and always inform others of EXACTLY where you are going. If you don't know what it means to be prepared in the mountains you should definitely do some reading and learn from the experts. You do not want to get stranded in the mountains and not have a clue what to do. Survival manual, first aid supplies, water, food, clothes, knife, waterproof matches, map, compass (even if you have a gps and extra batteries, drop it, lose it, break it...then what) and most important stay put and don't ever go alone and study survival techniques.
I do have a request and that is to take a look at some of the items that I have chosen to list below. I do not choose all the advertising on my blog but anything listed as "Authors pick" are quality items that I recommend. I'm not pushing sales just asking that you take a look and if you enjoyed this article please let me know by using the "like" buttons at the top and comment section at the bottom, I would appreciate it.