“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J. R. R. Tolkien

"Everybody dies. Not everybody really lives."

The saddest sound in the world is a man saying, "I wish I'd have done that."

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Flyfishing Nevada's Ruby Valley

Forget all your preconceived notions of Nevada—the glam and glitter of the Las Vegas strip and the funky, hardcore casinos of Reno. The other side of Nevada, far removed from Vegas and Reno both in miles and in feel is a remote and sparsely populated region that beckons to those who would rather spend a day summiting an 11,000 foot mountain or hooking a trout in an alpine stream than spinning the wheels of a slot machine.

This part of Nevada, in the far northern reaches of the state, is an outdoor paradise, an area filled with imposing snow covered peaks, rugged high desert and clear mountain lakes. It’s also relatively unknown. Ask people if they’ve ever heard of the Ruby Mountains, the Goshutes or Great Basin National Park and chances are all you’ll get are blank stares. Yet all those places and more dominate the landscape.

Too much to see and do in one trip—how do you choose between hiking the Ruby Crest National Recreation Trail, heli-skiing the Ruby Mountains or trekking to the 13,063 foot summit of Wheeler Peak? So I opted to spend a few days there flyfishing the marshes and streams of Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge. This 35,000 acre refuge, located two hours south of the town of Elko, hosts thousands of ducks, geese, sandhill cranes and other waterfowl in its marshes and lakes. And it also offers good flyfishing for trophy sized rainbow, brown and brook trout as well as tiger trout, a brown trout/brook trout hybrid.

The refuge has a lengthy network of ditches and streams interspersed with small ponds that harbor healthy but finicky trout. I spent my entire first day watching trout ignore my best nymphs and midges with zero luck—not a single hit. Especailly frustrating since I could see them clearly swimming in the clear water.  I was sure I had wasted a week coming to this remote place only to be shut out.

Day two was a different story. I stumbled onto an easily accessible fishing spot known locally as Governor’s Pond, a still, open bay near the edge of the refuge. I spotted large numbers of trout working the water and gently rolled a nymph into the water. What followed was two hours of near continuous action, nearly thirty trout in the 8- to 14-inch range taking my offerings.

Then as quickly as it started the pond went cold. Another fruitless hour and I gave up and headed across the refuge to a large oxbow below a fish hatchery located on the refuge. This spot also proved fruitful, but with one significant difference—the fish here were ginormous. I hooked three fish in quick succession—all being long distance releases. One was particularly huge—the largest trout I ever had on line but it flipped loose well away from my net. You know the story—the one that got away. I felt bad but not as bad as when I read this story a few days later:


Yep, exact same place I fished, within mere days of my trip. I’ll always tell myself I let the state record slip away.