Wall Canyon AREA Fly Fishing
The Wall Canyon area wilderness is classic high desert country centered by Boulder Mountain. The high desert sagebrush habitat is home to a diverse wildlife population including mule deer, pronghorn, pygmy rabbits, raptors, songbirds, sage grouse, and more.
Wall Creek, which runs through Wall Canyon, and its tributaries run down from springs on the southern slopes of Boulder Mountain, the eastern slopes of Hays Canyon Peak, and the western slopes of Cherry Mountain to Duck Lake, a dry lake in northwestern Nevada. Hays Canyon Peak, at 7920 feet, is the tallest of the three.
Wall Creek was dammed in 1960 to form Wall Canyon Reservoir. The reservoir is used to irrigate downstream farm lands. When full, it covers 133 acres and has a maximum depth of 55 feet. The reservoir lies just south of the BLM-managed Wall Canyon Wilderness Study Area.
The Wall Creek drainage is home to the Wall Canyon sucker (Catostomus sp.). Once abundant throughout the drainage, their extent and population size has been severely reduced by the introduction of non-native brown trout and signal crayfish. a restoration project is underway to protect the Wall Canyon sucker population in Mountain View Creek, a tributary of the Wall Canyon Creek.
Boulder Creek, on the northern slope of Boulder Mountain, is a spring feed creek. It was dammed at the feeder spring in 1950 for irrigation purposes. The reservoir is now owned and managed by BLM. It covers about 8 acres and has a maximum depth of 12 feet.
Wall Canyon wilderness (Photo by Bob Wick, BLM)
Fly Fishing in the Area
Wall Canyon Reservoir
Wall Canyon Reservoir is routinely stocked with rainbow and cutthroat trout but also holds smallmouth bass and bowcutt trout (rainbow x cutthroat hybrid).
Trout fishing is best in the spring and fall. In the summer, fishing for trout near shore in the early and late hours of the day can be quite productive. Trout will cruise the shallows looking for food when the sun is off the water. When the sun is on the water, try throwing streamers or fishing nymphs or leeches under a bobber.
Bass fishing picks up as the days get longer in late spring and can remain good well into the fall. In cooler months, productivity will improve as the water is warmed by the afternoon sun. Fishing streamers in deeper water using full sink line can be quite productive.
Crayfish patterns can also be productive.
Wall Canyon Reservoir can be productive all day long if you have a boat or a tube. In spring and fall and morning and evening, the fish tend stay in closer to shore. Mornings and evenings are best. All the usual patterns produce, however, the most productive flies by far for me over the years have been chironomid patterns #16 - #20 dead drifted under an indicator in a breezy chop or slow-stripped in glassy water. I also fish them naked, varying my strips depending upon the conditions. Find the depth and you will be into fish all day. We’ve also done well on balanced leeches, buggers, hare’s ears, pheasant tails and all the other usual suspects in the #14 - #20 range fished under indicators, naked and on intermediate sink lines.
Dispersed primitive camping is allowed at the reservoir. No facilities are available. Please be aware of fire restrictions.
Boulder Reservoir is stocked routinely with rainbow trout. It be fished from shore or afloat. The reservoir fishes well in the spring and fall. During the summer months, weeds can take over.
When the sun is off the water, try throwing dries near the shore. When the sun is on the water, try fishing deeper waters with streamers or nymphs.
The fish at Boulder are more plentiful, but smaller than Wall Canyon. I’ve caught fish up to 20” at Boulder, however, the fish I’ve caught between 18”-20” can be counted on two hands and that is a very, very small percentage of the overall fish total caught over the years. Most fish run in the 8”-15” with average being 10”-13” or so.
I like to empty my boxes at Boulder, using multiple patterns just to see what works best. (Not what works – everything works, what works best.) Early mornings and late evenings are dry fly times with hatches coming off every day and the fish really are not that selective. Spring and fall are the best times to fish as the weeds tend to choke it out a bit in the warmer summer days, however, find the slots in the weed beds and you will find the fish. Every time I’ve been there in April or May, I’ve been snowed on at least one day so be prepared for all types of weather.
Primitive camping is available in designated sites which have fire rings and tables. A vault toilet is provided nearby.
Wall Creek is typically fished in the 4+ mile stretch immediately above the reservoir. Rainbow, cutthroat, and brown trout can be found along with smallmouth bass in this stretch. Stretches below the reservoir are fishable as well. In these stretches, as well as in the Mountain View Creek tributary of Wall Creek, brown trout can be found.
Small dries and hopper/dropper rigs are generally productive on all creek stretches.
Roadside dispersed primitive camping is allowed.
Roads in range from gravel county roads to single track 4x4 road. The roads are typically muddy early and late in season as well as after heavy rains.
Wall Canyon Reservoir and surrounding area is typically accessed using Wall Canyon Road off of Washoe County Road 447 from Gerlach, NV or from Cedarville, CA. Jeff notes:
1 1/2 hours north of Gerlach (57 miles) on 447 take a right turn on Wall Canyon Road. Just off of 447 after you turn right, there is a windmill on the left. The reservoir is 7.7 miles using the creek crossing, through a gate and across the dam from the south side. If you choose to avoid the creek crossing, it is just over 8 miles skipping the creek crossing to the right and staying left on the dirt road which takes you up and over a ridge and drops you down into the north side of the dam.
I don’t remember the exact distance after turning right off of 447, but its between 1-2 miles in toward the reservoir on relatively nice gravel road. There is a blind drop-off that, if you’ve never been there before, will catch you off guard and, if you are going too fast, especially if you are pulling a trailer, could be catastrophic. Again, I cannot remember the exact mileage, however, you cannot miss it and when you go over it you will know. Remember, it is completely blind, and the road simply drops out from under you. I recommend taking it slower until you get past this dip.
Boulder Reservoir is also typically accessed from Gerlach, NV or Cedarville, CA. Jeff notes:
From Gerlach, north on 34, Boulder Reservoir is 72 miles, 52 of those miles on gravel and dirt roads. The pavement (if you can call it that) ends just past the Fly Geyser Ranch. The next 44 miles are all weather gravel road on 34 before making a left turn at the sign to Boulder Reservoir on Hays Canyon Road. From there it is 8 miles to the reservoir. So you know you are on the right road, you will pass a windmill and water trough on the right side of the road approximately 1 mile in. Stay right after you pass the windmill. It can get confusing as you near the reservoir. Approximately 5 miles in, you take a left off of Hays Canyon Road onto Boulder Reservoir Road and it’s about three miles from there.
Boulder Reservoir is 17 miles north on single track 4x4 road from Wall Canyon Reservoir or 82 miles from Wall Canyon through Cedarville and around, should you choose to go to Boulder from Wall. If you are pulling a trailer, your only choice is to take the longer route through Cedarville. If you have a good clearance/tires 4x4 or ATV/UTV you can make the trek through Wall Canyon from the reservoir to Boulder or visa-versa if you want to do a day trip.
Nearest services, including gas, in the area are located in Gerlach and Centerville.
Wall Canyon wilderness (Photo by Bob Wick, BLM)
This article was written by Kurt Zeilenga with additional notes by Jeff Gorton.