Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Trout in Las Vegas

As I got on the plane to Las Vegas with my fly rod I got a couple of strange looks. Maybe he’s connecting to Salt Lake? Yeah, that’s it. But no, I was headed for Las Vegas and thanks to a chance stumble upon a blog post I had found a stream that had one of the most beautiful and rare trout species in the world. Lahontan cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki henshawi) evolved in a prehistoric lake (lake Lahontan) that covered a good portion of California and Nevada. Lahontans are the largest species of Cutthroat trout and originally inhabited smaller remnant lakes of Lake Lahontan such as Pyramid, and Walker Lake. Due to a number of man induced catastrophes the largest cutthroat trout species know to man became extinct in pyramid lake. Populations have been re-stocked from lake tributaries and Spring Lake but do not attain the same size as the original Pyramid Lake strain.
The LCT has a golden hue, a red lateral line and is spotted along the dorsal and lateral body. More spots occur near the tail tapering off in number toward the head. Par marks can be present along the lateral side as well. And like all cutthroat trout, the Lahontan has slashes or orange or red along the lower jaw.
Fortunately, I convinced an old friend to drive out to Vegas instead of flying so we would have wheels on Saturday for our adventure. I had read the road was pretty rough and a high ground clearance would be required. Well, does a Chevy Impala count? Not really, but we made it far enough out to have a short 1 mile walk to the stream. It was about 14 miles from the blacktop to the stream and it took us 90 minutes to get 13 miles. Vegas was 106 degrees but it was barley 70 at 7500’ where we met the stream. Cactus and Joshua trees had faded to pines, the landscape transition was extraordinary. I felt like we had been transported to the Sierras. Who knew this was so close to Vegas? Well, about 50 other people that day apparently. Luckily, none were fishing but all were laughing at the Impala driving out-of-towners.
We found a spot where we could see a few fish. The water was cold and gin clear. Beer cans and trash were tucked here and there, way too much for one person to carry out. Its too bad there was so much trash is such a beautiful place.  A few casts just spooked these fish, we moved on. After trying a few small spots we came upon a nice deeper hole maybe 4 feet deep. I tried a few casts and got one to rise on a Wulff. The first fish was nice sized and dramatically colored. My first Lahontan was definitely a fish to remember. A few quick pictures then I lowered the fish down and he exuberantly swam off. We tried to bush whack back a ways but found no other pools. We came back to the same spot and got three more off nymphs. In hindsight we should have tried more terrestrials. We saw a grasshopper that must have been 3 inches long on the way in. Next time. In spite of the fact I was hung over and could barley hold my hand still from all the coffee it took me to get awake we made it out and back to the stream with no serious damage to us at least. The Impala is another story.

As far as my quest to catch all of the native trout in North America goes I have two cutthroat down and hope to cross off the little kern golden in two weeks.

Here is my list so far:
Volcano Creek golden trout
Kern river rainbow
Minnesota and Wisconsin brook trout
Minnesota Lake trout
West slope cutthroat trout
Lahontan Cutthroat trout

I have a ways to go yet.