Nevada has plenty of fishing beyond the big lakes

In dreams, native cutthroat rise to my line from shadowed pools, tasting the fly and taking the bait. I set the hook, and the fight is on. Trout nirvana. Hemingway smiles approvingly.

In reality, the trout just laugh and swim away.

But for Nevada Smith and his navigating daughter, Amelia, the act of angling in the Silver State is a cherished tradition. And recent news that positively ancient-sized Lahontan cutthroats have been caught (and released) at Pyramid Lake has us itching to get back on the road and try our luck.

Thanks to her old man’s limited abilities with pole and line and hook, our luck is often not the best. But, as we like to remind ourselves, the journey is the thing.

Although fishermen love to argue, the Lahontan cutthroat is thought to be the largest native trout in North America, according to The New York Times, and was believed by many to be extinct. Federal officials and tribal leaders are attempting to restore the fish to its native waters, the newspaper reports.

The fact someone is using the words “native waters” in a story that takes place in Nevada will surprise many outsiders, who imagine our state as only a parched piece of ground dotted by the neon oases of Reno and Las Vegas. Those who get out into the back country know better.

There are endless places to travel to soak a line and occasionally catch a fish. Nevada has more than 200 lakes, reservoirs and ponds and approximately 600 streams. Although Lake Mead and Lake Tahoe are the best known, we invariably wind up at places such as Cave Lake outside Ely in White Pine County or Chiatovich Creek in the White Mountains of Esmeralda County. We also are fond of the Cold Creek pond, which is essentially in our Mount Charleston backyard.

My father spent much of his youth in the Eastern Sierra and was a fine stream fisherman. Although my daughter uses a wheelchair to get around and is challenged by areas of limited access, she has the gift when it comes to fly-fishing and bait casting.

Apparently, it skips a generation. Although I am not officially the worst fisherman in the world, I am the least skilled one I have ever seen. In more than half a century of practice, I have yet to develop the coordination to do much more than stick my thumb with a bass lure. Outside a supermarket display case, those fish have nothing to fear from me.

I long ago learned to accept my disability and work with it. Instead of worrying about catching a record trout or winning the annual ice fishing tournament at Cave Lake, I mostly spend time untangling line and preparing the sandwiches. Call it my comfort zone.

With Nevada approaching its 150th anniversary, a fishing trip is a great excuse to get out and see our remarkable state. For the uninitiated, the Nevada Department of Wildlife’s website,, is a great place to start. A local sporting goods store can help, too.

If you need an even better reason, June 8 is Free Fishing Day in Nevada. Although we are fully licensed, if less than fully accredited, Free Fishing Day gives others a chance to break out the tackle box and oil up the Zebco.

Perhaps one day Nevada Smith and his navigator will get a chance to try our luck for a great Lahontan cutthroat. Frankly, I like the kid’s chances. But I guarantee those fish are safe whenever I am near.

There’s a name for anglers like me.


Nevada native John L. Smith also writes a daily column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Reach him at 383-0295 or at