Bikefishing in the Desert, Summer 2020

It has been a fishing-forward summer to the extent I have fished more than I have biked and have have made so many trips combining the two, bikefishing. Part of this has come from getting a Tenkara fly rod from the Tenkara Rod Company which has made carrying everything you need for fly fishing easy. The next part is finding places to fish in the desert which is just another reason to explore Nevada’s backroads.

My earliest setup for bikefishing, Surly Ice Cream Truck, and grocery panniers to carry waders, boots, and gear. Truckee River Canyon, Tahoe-Pyramid Trail

Nevada’s mountain ranges are striped with green canyons home to spring fed, snow melt fed, flash flood creeks, and dry arroyos. While there are a few major rivers in northern Nevada, the Truckee, Carson, Walker, and Humboldt, smaller ribbons of green like Smoke Creek, Big Creek and Desert Creek have gotten me out on my bike to explore with a fly rod.

The Walker River flows through very dry canyons but is kept cool in the shade of dense willows

One great day of riding in the Desatoyas I crossed so many creeks of substantial size it was an example of a ride where, “if I just had my rod, I had no idea!” I have to get back there with my Tenkara rod. There are plenty of rides to return to with fishing in mind. I also refer to the Nevada Atlas and Gazatteer by DeLorme looking for concentrations of their fishing icons in various ranges. Their latest copyright is 2018, my copy is 2010. I should probably upgrade. Anytime I have questions about a creek I can ask my friend Pete Rissler who has made a career out of studying Nevada’s desert fish, as well as being on his way to completing Nevada’s native fish-slam. Hmmm, I might have to ask Pete about a bikefishing native fish-slam.

The Desatoya Mountains are a favorite of Pete Rissler’s and mine. So much water! Milkhouse Creek
Smith Creek Ranch Reservoir on the east side of the Desatoyas

I have posted photos about bikefishing on the Truckee River, Hunter Lake, Desert Creek, and Price Lake always carrying my 6’6″ 3 wt, 4 piece retro-glass rod by Bob Claypool out of Ashland, OR. I have a small sling pack by Vedevoo for my tackle. This always felt like I had to pack too much extra gear for a ride. Then the set-up and tear-down time each time I wanted to move spots seemed daunting. Tenkara has been a great solution to this. My rod tube is more compact than what I was using for my conventional rod. My tackle fits in a small pouch by Urchin Bags. The set-up and tear-down time is nominal. More time to fish! Fish anywhere!

Until this summer this is how I packed for bikefishing. Desert Creek
Now with Tenkara it’s more like this! White Mountains

One of my first trips this summer was hitting Desert Creek and the Walker River in a single go. Parking off NV 338, I headed up Risue Rd to Desert Creek. After a quick 45 minutes of successful fishing I reversed my route back to NV 338 and headed south to Forest Service Road 028 along the East Walker River to Bighorn Campground in the Walker River State Recreation Area (State Park). Here I spent a fruitless 45 minutes but a great time was still had. Although our State Parks were closed to camping during this period the Park Ranger told me there was no enforcement at this time. Desert Creek and the Walker River provide abundant opportunities for bikefishing.

Desert Creek has always been very productive!
Arriving at Bighorn Campground, Walker River State Recreation Area

Next I biked up to Hobart Reservoir, a historic component of the Marlette Water System which provided water to Virginia City starting in the 1870’s. This was a steep climb to 7,750′ overlooking Washoe Lake and passing a single track to Carson City. I fished the outlet to Franktown Creek, picking up my first Tiger Trout. I left Hobart following Franktown Creek, avoiding a road that I knew deadened into private property, looking for the road through Little Valley with the goal of riding to Price Lake. I ended up in one of those magical places where the forest had reclaimed where the roads had once been. With hindsight (and GPS) I am ready to return for an overnight bikefishing trip this fall.

Hobart Reservoir, as historic as picturesque! And the fishing is so good it just makes you laugh!
My first Tiger Trout

Then came exploring the Reese River Valley and the creeks flowing out of the west side of the Toiyabe Range. To give this area a comprehensive review I would need to invest days bikefishing the Toiyabe Range. I am willing to take one for the team. The Toiyabe Range is one of my favorite places to visit. I started in Big Creek, fished above, in, and below Big Creek Campground. I picked up a nice rainbow and lost a fly to another hard hitter. Then I pedaled past a few spots along the mighty Reese river where I wet a fly. I got nothing on the lower Reese. Then I followed Cottonwood Creek to San Juan Creek. I spent some time exploring spots to fish but really need to spend an overnight to make it count. I moved on to Washington Creek, although I saw a few fish in tiny pools I really needed more time to find the best spots to fish. I had a few other creeks in mind but the day was getting long. Next trip will focus on water south of San Juan Creek.

Picked up a nice fish waiting for me at the undercut bank, Big Creek, Toiyabe Range
Washington Creek, now how to get into that good water? Toiyabe Range

I made a short ride into the Granite Range along Cottonwood and Wagon Tire Creeks. I was shocked to pull a little brook trout out of my first stop. As often is the case in these tightly overgrown streams I spooked far more fish than I angled for. I brought the dog on this trip, she thought for sure she could pick up one. In this same area I want to checkout Donnelly Creek.

Cottonwood Creek, Granite Range. On the edge of the Black Rock Desert
Lily is ready to fish Wagon Tire Creek, Granite Range

Next I made the drive down to the east side of the White Mountains to explore several creeks in the northern end of the range. I started up Rock Creek Road to Trail Canyon. I climbed to the wilderness boundary and fished the alpine Trail Creek. A group of locals were fishing the tiny Trail Creek reservoir above 8,100′. I passed Dry Creek on my way to Middle Creek. This area seemed to have the best potential spots to fish. I was disappointed with Chiatovich Creek as most of the access is blocked by private development. This represents only a third of the creeks flowing into Fish Lake Valley. The White Mountains offer creeks to fish, abandoned mines and ghost towns to explore, a variety of public lands including the Inyo National Forest and Boundary Peak Wilderness. Locals at the bar in Dyer freely recommended areas to fish and hot springs to visit. Combined with the highroad trip I made last year, the White Mountains are becoming a favorite place to bikepack.

The White Mountains, Trail Canyon
I chased a handful of brook trout through these pools. They bested me
Fish Lake Valley locals’ fishing hole, a tiny reservoir on Trail Creek above 8,000′. A family was doing a great job of producing a stringer of fish. White Mountains

Closer to home I bikefished Marlette Lake above Lake Tahoe with Pete Rissler. Pete’s angling has gone through a rebirth thanks to Tenkara. He has three rods from Tenkara USA and has introduced me to the TenkaraBum, the most comprehensive source to Tenkara I have found. It is a bit of a grind from the Spooner Lake parking lot to Marlette Lake, 1,200′ in less than 4 miles. The electric mountain bikes we saw on the fire road suddenly seemed like a great idea. We fished the west shore near the dam then biked to the east shore to finish out a great day. Marlette Lake and Hobart Reservoir are within the Spooner Lake and Backcountry portion of the Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park.

We started fishing here, caught a few, then rode to a point directly across the lake
After ditching our bikes, I followed Pete down a bear path to the lake

My Setup; Review of Tenkara Rod Co. Sierra Package I made my initial purchase based on price and ease of entry into the game. Then I looked at rod length and intended fishing conditions. Nevada desert streams are overgrown, narrow, and challenging pocket waters. The Sierra Rod was the shortest rod at 10.5′ intended for small mountain streams. The package, as promised contained everything I needed to catch fish; rod, furled line, a spool of tippet, and 3 kebari style flies. To transport your rod they include a line spool, rod sleeve, and rod tube.

Ready to fish Cottonwood Creek, Granite Range

The “portability” of attaching my rod tube to the down tube of my bike with a couple of ski straps and tucking a shirt-pocket sized pouch of tackle into my saddle bag means I am ready to fish any stream I come across, expected or not. The rod’s light weight sensitivity makes catching tiny mountain trout fun. The rod’s flexibility allows you to land much larger fish on lighter gear than you would expect.

There is no lack of water to explore with a fly line in Nevada. There is no lack of backroads to get you there. See you out there! Tight lines!

4 thoughts on “Bikefishing in the Desert, Summer 2020

  1. Pingback: 2020 Annual Review; Overcoming Inertia and Building Momentum for 2021 – Bikepacking Northern Nevada

  2. Pingback: The Year of the Overnight; 2021 Pedaling with Friends – Bikepacking Northern Nevada

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