Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Desert Trout - Lahontan Cutthroat

My company sent me to the Nevada desert in order to train on fuming acid spill mitigation. Most "normal" people would spend a couple of free days on the Vegas strip, but not me! I checked around for something to do away from the Las Vegas strip and thanks to friends at The Angler's Life List and the Nevada DOW I found this...

The Nevada DOW agent gave me the exact directions to find this stream. I have never been in the desert and what I didn't realize going into this was how rugged it would be.

I left the 4 Queens casino at 5:00 AM and by 6:00 I was in the town of Pahrump picking up plenty of water - I also carried my water purification filter. I turned off the hard top and soon found that it would be slow going. These weren't the gravel roads of Wyoming, where 30-40 mph is possible, this was 5-10 mph and that was pushing it! I assumed I would be heading somewhere in the vicinity of the snow (in the desert?).

The desert itself was incredible! Apparently they had a wet winter and it was green and some plants were in bloom.

Beavertail cactus in bloom:
I was a bit late for the yucca bloom, but there were still a few out there:

As I gained altitude, the Joshua tree became more prevalent and I took this shot of a fine specimen in the low light of the early morning.
After nearly an hour of off-road driving, I had made it to the first part of my destination (I was beginning to wonder).

The canyon stream would eventually be back and to the right of the USFS sign, but it would be an adventure in itself. The road turned to a cobble trail and I spent another thirty minutes crawling.
I finally made it to water and made one stream crossing. When I made it to the second crossing, a little deeper, I decided to get out to inspect the crossing a little closer. I think I could have crossed but on the other side the road turned to a second channel of the stream. I was almost 90 minutes from hard road and solo, so I decided discretion is the better part of valor and I parked and made the final hike to the trailhead on foot.

Once at the trailhead I found myself at a very nice looking pool, so I strung up my 6' 4-piece pack rod and thought to myself: what do desert trout eat? I tied on a small stimulator and on the first drift I had three fish inspect my fly...were these the fish I was in search of? Another drift and this guy was brought to hand.

My first desert trout, a Lahontan cutthroat, and my 8th cutthroat species added to my life list.
I picked three or four more cutties from the trailhead pool before I moved on. I eventually switched over to my "bread and butter" rig of an EHC on top with an 18 BHPT dropper. I soon found out this set-up works everywhere!
I picked up numerous fish of multiple age classes.

When I got to a section of stream where the canyon choked down, I sat on the pool at the bottom of the canyon and picked out cuttie after cuttie. I probably landed over ten fish from this pool - and missed nearly as many...typical cutthroat fishing.
The last little Lahontan from this pool had an unusual dark color to him.

The DOW agent informed me to be very careful when working along the stream banks as it was nearing snake season. With this warning and no easy way to move on up the canyon, I decided to call it a day. I had completed my goal, with several Lahontans landed, and I had another adventure ahead of me with the drive out.
I stopped and worked the trailhead pool one more time and picked up a couple more beautiful cutties before calling it a day.

After an hour plus ride back out to the hardtop; it was on to Bishop, California in search of the Bristlecone pine tree called Methuselah...


Bill said...

Absolutely beautiful fish!

Wolfy said...

Chris - found your blog through Bill's call out. OUTSTANDING work! I one shared your passion for catching "all" the cutthroats subspecies. Only got 5 - Greenback, Bonneville, West Slope, Yellowstone, and Coastal. My travel no longer takles me to where they live quite as often. (But I DO get to Nevada frequently and may have to follow your lead to the stream Lahontans!)

I'll be posting your blog on my blog list. I look forwar dto going throug hall your older posts over the weekend.

If you get a chance, stop by at Flowing Waters - www.wolfwaters.blogspot.com. Not nearly as much trout as you do, but fairly passionate about fishing and photos nonetheless.


Anonymous said...

Now that is terrain I am not used to seeing. Those are some nice fish though.

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate the work you have put into this site. I have spent quite a bit of time reading the older entries and really enjoyed this latest post and your photography. Keep up the great work.


Anonymous said...


Great LHC story and the search for pure strains is daunting. Please ell your readers about the Wild Trout Symposium:


Wild Trout-X
Holiday Inn, West Yellowstone, MT
September 27-30, 2010
"Conserving Wild Trout"

The Wild Trout Symposium brings together a broad and diverse audience of governmental entities, non-profit conservation groups, media representatives, educators, anglers, fishing guides, and business interests associated with trout fisheries to exchange technical information and viewpoints on wild trout management and related public policy. Held every 3 years, each symposium has led to innovative wild trout management approaches.

Wild Trout X offers a unique forum for professionals and anglers to interact, and where participants will to be exposed to the latest wild trout science, technology and philosophies. This conference will equip participants to better manage, preserve, and restore these significant but declining resources. The symposium will focus on the needs of working-level wild trout professionals, conservationists, and trout anglers.

Event Registration

You may register online for the symposium at http://www.wildtroutsymposium.com/register.php The registration fee is $250. Starting September 1, 2010, a late fee of $50 will be added for general registrations. A $25 cancellation fee will be applied after September 1, and no refunds are available after September 14, 2010.

Your registration fee includes: social events, viewing of River's of A Lost Coast independent film and a special fly fishing casting clinic with renowned angler and fly tier Bob Jacklin.

To register online, http://www.wildtroutsymposium.com/register.php
If you would prefer to register over the phone, register with MSU Conference Services in Bozeman, MT. Contact: Stephanie Stratton (406) 994-3333

Hotel Accommodations
The Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort is our host hotel for Wild Trout X. Mention the "Wild Trout 10 Symposium" or group code "WTS" and the receive the special group rate. For a complete list of the room choices and prices, visit http://www.wildtroutsymposium.com/accomodations.php
To learn more about the Wild Trout Symposium, visit us at

Marty Seldon
WT-X Organizing Committee

Davin said...

Thanks for the great post Chris!

I have been following your blog for a while. I was super exited after reading this post because I am headed to Vegas for a 30th b-day party and bachelor party this weekend. I'm flying in from Minnesota but talked a friend, who is driving out from LA, into taking me out to the desert to try and get a few Lahontans. I have just started my cutthroat quest but hope to get a few more when I move out to Colorado next year.
A quick question if you have time.
Is the road passable with a car or would you say a high clearance would be required?