Saturday, May 28, 2016

Desert Trout- Part 1

Back in 1992 I found a book titled The World’s Greatest Fly Fishing Locations by Erwin A Bauer. It's one of those big coffee table style books loaded with large glossy photos and detailed stories about, as the title implies, some of the greatest fly fishing locations in the world. One of the locations covered in the book is Pyramid Lake outside of Reno, Nevada. At the time I was still a relative newbie to trout fishing. I had taken my share of bass, carp, sandbass and the like on a fly rod from around Texa. But trout were a rarity, taken on annual vacations to Colorado or from TPWD put and take locations near home.

One of the photos in the book showed a huge, pink hued cutthroat held by an angler standing in the lake with barren hills in the background. Of all the fish and landscape photos in that book from around the world that one grabbed my attention in a way that none of the others did. Looking back now I can only imagine it was the contrast between my concept of where trout should live and what I was seeing. The bright blue water, the huge Lahontan cutthroat trout and the completely barren hills didn’t seem to be suited to one another. To say that I was intrigued is a huge understatement. I wanted one and I wanted it bad.

Late in 1993 I found myself laid-off from an aerospace job in Fort Worth and in need of work. I found an advertisement for a job that I had perfect qualifications for as a taxidermist in Reno. Yes how one becomes perfectly qualified to be a taxidermist is a story within itself that I may or may not ever tell. I can’t remember how I felt about the job, or Reno or anything else for that matter but I did see an opportunity to fish in Pyramid Lake. In February of 1994, at the peril of soon being divorced I left for Reno, not to work but to fish. Well I did go to work but only as a means to pay for my fishing.

Instead of stopping Friday and Saturday nights along the way I only made the Friday stop and made the remainder of the drive on Saturday. By the time I got to Reno it was 9:30 local time and I was beat. I tried a few hotels in town but they were either booked or too expensive for my budget. I had pushed on through Saturday in order to be able to fish on Sunday so I headed north in search of the Crosby Lodge at Sutcliffe. It was mentioned in the book but I didn’t have that with me for reference. This was in a time before smartphones and roaming internet via 4G networks, hell we didn’t even have those big clunky cell phones yet. I was flying by the seat of my pants with a very worn out paper atlas and a flashlight with weak batteries.

Unlike today the Pyramid Highway was completely deserted once got to Sun Valley a mile or so north of I-80. It was totally dark with no moon, there were no other vehicles on the road and not a single flicker of light in sight. I had been driving for about 20 hours, I was hungry, dehydrated, completely out of my element, to be honest a little unnerved and I needed to pee before my bladder burst all over the seat of my truck. Driving north on NV-445 I had forgotten to check the odometer. It seemed like I had gone far enough to reach my turn at NV-446 but there was no intersection in sight. Unable to take it any longer I pulled over to void my bladder beside the highway.

Opening the door I didn’t even turn off the ignition or move away from the truck. Standing there feeling the celestial relief that came from releasing 300+ miles worth of coffee a movement caught my eye from across the road. Still in full relief, squinting I could barely make out the shape of a fox’s head standing at the edge of the glow from the truck’s interior light. The tall ears trained in my direction like miniature radar dishes had to be picking up sounds that confused their wearer. For a long moment we stared at one another not moving. I didn’t even realize I had finished my business until the fox darted back into the darkness unseen.

I don’t know if it was the relief of not having that pressure on my bladder or finally being able to stand up after 5 straight hours driving but all my anxiety had drained away. Or maybe it was seeing that fox looking at me in the dark examining something it didn’t understand from a distance. It was the first sign of any life I had seen on that pitch black, dark road. Whatever happened at that moment I had finally arrived and in one piece. In my head the worst case scenario went from total unknown doom to "I’ll find the lake and sleep on the beach".

I did find my turn and Crosby Lodge. They even had accommodations available for the night. Now all I needed was some sleep.

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