Nevada Native Trout Hunt

Back in 2018, I completed my Nevada Native Fish Slam by planning and executing a solo fly fishing expedition to remote parts of Elko and White Pine counties in Nevada. This article recounts this adventure based on my contemporaneous writings.

PRELUDE

After months of planning, today I'm packing my FJ Cruiser up in preparation for a solo trout hunt across northeastern Nevada. I'll be heading out early tomorrow morning... by 4am i hope. I'll be hunting the:

As I have previously caught Lahontan cutthroat trout and mountain whitefish in Nevada, if I catch these four trout species, I will complete my Nevada Native Fish Slam.

My hope is to catch them in three and half days of fishing, covering most of the highway miles at night, sleeping whereever/whenever on a cot next to my cruiser. No tent, no stove... just a couple of ice chests: one for drinks, one for food. Mostly snacks though, I plan stop at diners and taco trucks along the way. The basic driving loop is 1250 miles, taking me into Utah and Idaho at times. I expect I'll do 1300-1400 miles in the end.

I've done a lot of research on fishing locations... including chatting with local NDOW biologists and other local experts. So I got high probability primary and secondary fishing location pre-planned, as well as a few fall-back locations. I plan on mostly fishing with my 7.5' 1wt full-flex dry fly rod but will bring my 3wt dry fly rod along in case of wind. I, of course, stocked my fly boxes with a good selection of dry flies.

I'll be using Garmin Earthmate and Motion-X-GPS for off-highway mapping chores, and Google Maps for on-highway. All are setup with offline maps. [Note: Motion-X-GPS is now defunct. I now use GAIA GPS.]

For communication, I'll be relying on my satellite messenger, a Garmin InReach Mini, paired with my iPhone for easy texting. It is unlikely that I'd be able to raise a HAM radio repeater of the off-highway portions.

Bonneville Cutthroat Trout

Got on the road a bit later than planned... but the drive out on US 50 to the Utah border was uneventful... hot with clouds building in. After a quick stop at the Border Inn for six pack of beer, I hit the dirt for the first time. Just 12 miles or so into the Hendry's Creek trailhead. 30 minutes after parking, I had already caught two Bonneville cutthroats.

It was getting quite hot so I decided best to move on next target, the Yellowstone Cutthrout. I drove into Ely, got a burritto to-go, and go I went.

Yellowstone CuTthroat Trout

I was fortunate that I got to Wells on US 93... apparently it was closed for a bit due to the Echo wildfire. At 4:30, I was back on dirt for the 45 miles up to Little Goose Creek crossing. Got there around 6pm. After scouting out the area mostly on foot, I decided that much bush whacking would be required to get to where I really needed to be to fish. And I'd have to cross posted land. I decided to head to my secondary fishing spot while I had some light left. It was now 7:30pm. I hit ran into a locked gate 30 minutes later. Fortunately I had anticipated this... and headed off to my fallback fishing spot. By 8:30, I was welcomed onto Trout Creek by a sign that said something like "Private Property, Sportmens Welcomed, Environmentalists not". There was even a nice camping spot with a picnic table for my use. That night was HOT... and buggy. I could have used some bug netting... but a shirt over the head kept me from getting eaten alive.

I was up at 4am or so... heading up the creek, fishing as I went. By 6am, having not seen any signs of trout, I decided I needed to gain some altitude quickly. So I went back to the camp, jumped in the cruiser and drove up about 4 miles... and then again started heading upstream, fishing as I went. A mile up, at 9am, I caught my first Yellowstone cutthroat. I fished for another hour or so, catching a few more. I was less than a mile from the Idaho border when I turned back to the cruiser.

A little after 10am, I was my way out. I ran into the rancher whose property I was fishing on. Really nice guy. I thanked him for welcoming sportmens onto his ranch. He ragged on his new neighbors who weren't. I also ran into a group of fly fishers from Reno also chasing the Nevada slam. I showed off my photos and instructed them on how to get theirs. I was back on pavement just after noon, just south of Jackpot, Nevada. I stopped at the Rag Time Café in Jackpot for a well-deserved hot breakfast. I then headed into Idaho to drop into Jarbidge, NV from above.

Inland Redband Trout

A little after 3pm I arrived at the Jarbidge Wilderness trailhead south of the Pine Creek campground. I set up camp at the trailhead and at 4pm or so, head up to do a bit of fishing. Will I caught many redbands, I saw no bull trout. I knew they would generally be up a lot higher. I went back to camp where I prepared for an early morning hike up high into the wilderness and then hit the sack early.

Bull Trout

At 4am, I was up and moving... getting into decent fishing area at 5am. I fished upstream until nearly 8am without even seeing a bull trout... but landed many more redbands. I decided I better go even higher while it was still cool. So I hoofed it up the trail all the up to 8,000ft and then started looking for fish.

I started seeing bulls almost immediately... and landed a small one fairly quickly. Getting in and out of the fishing holes was difficult in this area due to steep terrain, lots of fallen trees, and thick brush. So I decided to just fish just the holes which I could fairly easily get in and out of.

At 7600ft, I spotted a large hole. I set down and watched it for a bit while eating an energy bar. There were a few bull trout hanging out in the back end of this hole, including one really nice one. I decided that I needed to cross the river where I could drop into at the top of this hole. So I made my way a bit upstream and then started to slowly move into position. A good 10 minutes later, I was there.

Taking my time, I worked out how to mend the line so I could get the fly down where it needed to be. I was fearing that one of the two small bulls would go after the fly first, spooking of the big bull... but the big guy decided it wanted the meal, swam up between the two small ones to grab my fly first. To myself, I said, wait for the fish to turn, wait some more, now set. And I had it well hooked... and quickly in the net!

It was a really nice looking Bull. I took a few photos, given the fish as wet as I could. It recovered well and I releasing it back into the stream. I cracked open a celebration beer and drank while keeping an eye on my fish to make sure it was fine.

It was 1pm now and getting warm... and I had not much left to drink in my pack. So time to head down the hill. I ran into the Reno fly fishers again on the way down, near where I had caught redbands the evening before. To my surprise, they said they had caught a bull trout. But when they showed me the photo I had to dash their tales... it was a nice redband trout. I explained to them how to tell them apart... and gave them advice on find and catch bull trout. I hope they all got theirs.

I made it back to camp at 2pm and was heading down the hill by 30 minutes later to the town of Jarbidge where I got myself an ice cream bar at The Trading Post. I probably should have fished some on the lower Jarbidge River while I was there, but I thought I'd do some exploring. I drove out via Charleston to Mountain City Highway, which I got onto at 5pm. I was able to pick up cell coverage soon there after and called a buddy of mine who lives in Elko. He suggested a few places where I might be able to find Lahontan cutthroat trout (LCT) in stream form (as opposed to the lake form I've previously caught in Nevada on Pyramid Lake). But I was hungry... and so was the cruiser. So I went into Elko for food and gas. By the time I was back up the mountain city highway it was too late to try to make it into the LCT fishing locations. So I decided to head up to Wildhorse Reservoir to grab a campsite under the stars. I camped just off Good Creek Road in the first reasonably flat spot I could find.

BonUS FIshing

At 4:30am, I was up and heading off to try to get an LCT or two. I did manage to hook a few, but none to the net. But then I broke my 1wt in the heavy brush. Damn. While I could have continued on with my 3wt, I decided to head back into Elko for breakfast, a early check-in to a hotel, and a shower.

I had a nice time visiting friends at the Elko Fly Shop and at the Ruby Mountain Fly Fishers club meeting before heading home the next day.

Final Thoughts

This was an awesome adventure! I enjoyed not only few days I spent chasing these natives but all the time I spent planning the expedition. In the end, I put approximately 1400 miles on my FJ Cruiser, broke one fly rod, and managed to complete my Nevada Native Trout Slam!

This article was authored by Kurt Zeilenga, a member of the High Sierra Fly Casters.

The High Sierra Fly Casters offers free mentoring to club members to help them complete challenges such as this.