I just returned from a trip out to Northestern Nevada in search of a few native trout. My plan was to drive out toward Elko Nevada and from there head north and fish a tributary of the North Fork Humboldt to try and catch a Humboldt Cutthroat. After catching the Humboldt I planned on driving up to, and through, the Jarbidge Wilderness in the Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest stopping to fish in the Jarbidge River which drains the wilderness to the North ultimately dumping into the Snake River in Idaho. The Jarbidge drainage is home to the Columbia Basin Redband and also the southern-most ranging habitat of bull trout. If I was lucky I might catch all three fish.
The drive out to Elko was a long one from the Bay Area, with Elko being roughly 300 hundred miles east of the California-Nevada border. I spent the first night in Winnemucca, not having the energy to charge all the way through to Elko. I woke up early the next morning and finished off the drive to Elko before heading north toward Jarbidge and up the Valley of the North Fork Humboldt. These are the Independence Mountains in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, home to the headwaters of the the North Fork of the Humboldt River, and hopefully some Humboldt Trout.
This is a tributary to the North Fork Humboldt in the National Forest. Access is kind of tricky as most of the roads that go from the highway to the forest are private ranch roads. There are a few though that will let you get through. Off to the right side, among the THICK vegetation, is the creek.
This is cutthroat water in the high desert of Nevada.
After trying a few things, I finally hooked up with this pure strain Humboldt Cutthroat Trout pictured below. Unfortunately my shadow is in the picture a bit, but if you look closely at the fly in his mouth you can see that it is a small olive bugger with white rubber legs. Bernie Weston tied this one for me, based on the pattern I used in Wyoming to catch all four WCS cutthroat trout. Bernie's version has a few innovations from a traditional bugger and I call this one the "Ugly Bernie". I don't know if it is just me, but I have never seen a more effective pattern for catching cutthroat than this. I fished this creek with dries, hoppers and nymphs and didn't get a single take. I was starting to wonder if there were any fish here at all. Finally I tied on the Ugly Bernie and stripped it through some deeper pools and got hits right away. If you read my cutt slam post (link to the right), you'll see I had some similiar experiences in Wyoming.
From the creek I made my way east and then north and over a pass toward Jarbidge Nevada. On the way, about 30 miles of dirt road in (all in all to get to Jarbidge from Elko you have to drive over 50 miles of dirt road), I passed this sheep herder camped out by a small creek. There was no vehicle or horse that I could see, just a tepee and a few hundred sheep."
"I can't quit you..."
For the second time this trip I made my way to the entrance of the National Forest.
I stopped near the entrance to check out a small creek, thinking there may be some more Humboldt trout here but I didn't see any. I thought this picture was kind of funny. This is my car, a hybrid, half dirt and half metal.
On the way over the pass to the Jarbidge, just below the summit, I came across this picturesque pond.
This is a butte at Bear Creek Summit, elevation 8500.
After passing over the summit I came across a bit of snow. I was glad to see that a plow had been through before me.
Coming down from the summit I could see the West Fork of the Jarbidge River. The West Fork is the valley coming from the top left down to the right. The creek entering from the upper right is Pine Creek.
This is the conlfuence of the West Fork and Pine Creek.
Fishing just below the confluence I managed to catch some Columbia Basin Redband trout. In fact, I managed one on my first catch and pretty much every cast thereafter. The Jarbidge is chalk full of Rainbows and they are not shy to take dries. The fish were so willing that at one point, while I was fishing a stimulator and a birds nest dropper, the dropper hooked my net while applying floatant to the stimmie. In removing the dropper from the net I left the the stimmie dangling just off the water right near my leg. A redband actually rose, jumped, and hit the stimmie right at my side!
After camping the night at the confluence and catching countless Redbands and unfortunately no Bull Trout, I decided that rather than drive back up over the pass and down to Elko and thus back over 50-some miles of rough dirt road, that I would head out to the north toward Twin Falls Idaho and make my way home via pavement. This route took me downstream through the town of Jarbidge, which is not nearly as much of a ghost town as many books/websites make it to be. As I progressed downstream the terrain went from more alpine-like to much more of an arid, desert feel. Seeing the ice cold, crystal clear water making it's course through desert limestone was just to scenic to pass up, so I stopped to fish some more.
Here is where I made my final casts on the West Fork.
This nice, older looking, redband was hanging out in the slack water right behind that big rock. I could see him finning in the water as I made my way upstream to get in a good position to cast. Although every time I cast my stimulator to him another smaller fish would dart in and hit it first. I hooked and released about a dozen smaller fish from this hole before old big mo here had a chance to eat.
As I made my way out I came to the confluence of the East and West Forks and the road made its way along the East Fork for a ways before peeling off to the north toward Twin Falls. This last picture is the canyon of the East Fork Jarbidge.
From here I headed up to Twin Falls and east through Oregon before making my way back home for the fourth. I did stop to fish a few more spots, although I'll leave that story for another post...