Wild trout are finicky creatures, and invariably demand clean, oxygenated streams to survive, often in places of sublime natural beauty. It always strikes me as something of a miracle, given these demands, and the imperiled state that watersheds face across the country, that wild trout can nonetheless thrive in unlikely places, such as the pure strain population of Mcloud Redband Rainbow trout that live in Crane Creek, right amidst the small urban landscape of Crane, mentioned in the previous post. Perhaps even more remarkable is the chance to cast over a fragile population of native trout, that somehow persist on the edge of harsh conditions.
Such was the case when I made a day trip to a small stream I know of near Las Vegas, that contains a small but healthy population of native Lahontan cutthroat trout (the state fish of Nevada). These fish live in a short stretch of creek that flows off the slopes of Mt. Charleston, before disappearing into the Mojave desert. The landscape changes dramatically from yucca, joshua trees, cacti, and other desert-adapted plants, to conifers and vegetation more often associated with country farther north, in the distance of only a few miles.
The creek flows cold and clear, primarily the result of springs at the headwaters I suspect, making the existence of trout in this usually dry land possible. Sights such as the one below greeted me in the crystalline runs and pools.
The Lahontan cutthroat found in the stream were small by some standards, but fit perfectly in their miniature environment. Moreover, catching and admiring these little gems, and knowing they evolved in the currents where I found them, provided a quality that had less to do with size, and more to do with part of the heritage of a landscape, and the joy of accessing it through fly fishing. Here is an image of a beautifully colored cutt below, and the nicest fish of the day, right at 11", a relative beast for the size of the creek.
This trout rose to a #16 yellow-bodied Neversink caddis I tied, a great dry fly pattern, combining floatability and a profile that is both realistic and suggestive. Here's a close-up of the same fish (and the Neversink caddis), before being returned to its watery home.
All in all, a great way to spend an afternoon, along one of those streams that in my mind embody much of what is best about fly fishing.