April 21st, 2007 marked the start of my quest to fish the 50 states. I discovered Lake Mead fishing when trying to find activities around Las Vegas for me to do instead of spending all day gambling or sitting by a pool. This was my first time fishing with a guide in any state, including Virginia, as I had always fished on my own or with my dad. I was struck by how unique Lake Mead is, with its blue water contrasting sharply with the beige of the surrounding desert mountains.
The 50-state quest itself began rather inauspiciously. I caught and released many stripers, but most were very small. Striper fishing in Nevada, like on many Western reservoirs, is simply very different from the striper fishing people know in the South and the East. A trophy striper in Nevada has to be 20 pounds, the same as in Virginia. However, only two trophy stripers were registered statewide in Nevada in 2012, and only 181 statewide between 1968 and 2012, an average of just over four per year. (Virginia, on the other hand, has averaged over 90 freshwater striper citations per year since 2006.) Moreover, Lake Mead accounts for just 102 of the 181 Nevada trophy stripers, or a little over two trophy stripers per year for that time period. As a numbers guy, I really appreciate how thorough Nevada’s Department of Wildlife site is. It is easily the most detailed of any state’s Fish and Game sites that I have closely examined.
However, in spite of my not catching much of anything picture-worthy, I have nothing but good memories of my first state trip. The weather was gorgeous and the fishing action was constant. Most importantly, I dreamed of all of the places my journey would take me. I had no idea then how big a part of my life this quest would be for the next eight years, and it all began with my trip to Lake Mead.
Update February 2022: For my annual out-of-state trip in 2022, I chose Lahontan cutthroat trout on Pyramid Lake with Trevor Herring of Pyramid Fly Company (www.pyramidflyco.com). Trevor and the other guides consistently catch trophy cutthroat over 10 pounds, with several over 20 pounds caught each season.
I had hoped this trip would be an escape from the nasty cold we had in Virginia, but, unfortunately, the temperature dropped precipitously the day I arrived. It didn't get above freezing with the wind chill the entire time I was there. In fact, when I met Travis at the lake at 6:30 a.m. after driving in the snow from Reno, the wind chill was 12. I caught four cutthroat in the three-to-five pound range, but no monsters. This was lucky though, as my reel had frozen solid and needed to be dethawed with a lighter.
We headed up lake, out of the wind and away from the crowds, and it paid off big time. After only an hour, I had my Nevada trophy, a beautiful 32-inch, 10-pound cutthroat. It was an amazing fight, especially on a 7-weight fly rod with 10-pound test. It was also a nerve-wracking fight, as the fish took many runs and kept trying to get into the nearby rocks. But, after what seemed like forever, I finally added Nevada as my 42nd state with at least one trophy.
Trevor is an excellent guide and a great instructor. I still consider myself to be a beginner fly fisherman, and he helped with my technique and walked me through landing my trophy. He also cooks an amazing shore breakfast and shore lunch.
Pyramid Lake itself is absolutely beautiful, and I cannot wait to go back and chase those big cutthroats again!