The Art of Small Stream Fishing
Nevada Freshwater Fishing
A Lahontan Cutthroat Trout from Andorno Creek in the Santa Rosa Range.
While the art of fishing in small streams has been declining over the past several decades, there are still plenty of places to go to get away from the crowds and wet a line. Nevada may be the driest state in the nation, but we have over 600 streams and rivers scattered throughout the state which provide a diversity of fishing opportunities. In fact, if you look at the Fishable Water Maps in this Fishing Guide, you’ll notice that most waters identified on these maps are small streams.
Eastern Region Fishable Streams and Rivers
NDOW’s Eastern Region, including Elko, Eureka, Lander and White Pine Counties, contains some 295 named fishable waters. Of these waters, 248 are small streams or rivers. The Eastern Region Fishable Waters Key in this Fishing Guide shows that Elko County has 185 fishable streams, followed by White Pine County (55), Lander County (32) and Eureka County (7). Only eight of the streams in this region are stocked on a regular basis as they receive quite a bit of fishing pressure. The remainder are not stocked as they are rarely fished or already contain populations of native trout (Lahontan cutthroat trout, Bonneville cutthroat trout, Yellowstone cutthroat trout, redband trout and bull trout) or self-sustaining wild trout (brook, rainbow or brown trout).
For the stream angler coming to Elko County, the Jarbidge and Independence Mountain ranges offer some of the best areas for stream fishing, seclusion and access. The mainstem Bruneau, West Fork and East Fork Jarbidge rivers are well known, but the East Fork Owyhee River below Wildhorse Reservoir can be a sleeper, especially after good water years. Nearly all the tributaries to the Bruneau, Jarbidge and Owyhee rivers have good numbers of native and wild trout. Most of these tributaries are small, but they can hold an amazing number of smaller trout. An 8” to 12” trout from one of these tributaries is a good fish, and about as big as they’re going to get. The Ruby Mountains in Elko County also hold an abundance of small stream fishing opportunities for native and wild trout, but access across private land can be an issue. When in doubt…ask permission.
While White Pine County doesn’t have the larger river systems like Elko County, there is still quite a bit of small stream fishing to be had around Ely. A majority of these streams are located in the Snake and Schell Creek Ranges. These small streams hold good numbers of brown, rainbow and brook trout, with a majority of the Snake Range streams containing the native Bonneville cutthroat trout. For more secluded fishing, try the streams coming off the east side of the Schell Creek Range. Many of the wild trout there never see an angler.
Lander and Eureka counties also don’t have the large river. Most of the fishable streams in Lander County are in the Shoshone Range and north end of the Toiyabe Range. These are very small streams that hold populations of wild rainbow, brook and brown trout. The tributaries to the Reese River in the south end of the Toiyabe Mountains (Nye County) are where the native Lahontan cutthroat trout can be caught. The most notable stream fishing in Eureka County is located on Roberts Mountain, with native Lahontan Cutthroat Trout on the north side and stocked rainbow trout (with some wild brook trout) on the south side.
Southern Region Fishable Streams and Rivers
You may not think about stream fishing when you think about southern Nevada, but the Southern Region contains some hidden gems just waiting for the adventurous angler who is willing to get off the beaten path.
Beaver Dam Wash is a small stream that originates in western Utah and flows into eastern Nevada through Beaver Dam State Park. It is stocked annually catchable rainbow trout every spring, and also supports a thriving wild rainbow trout population. The average size of trout is 6 to 8 inches with the occasional fish at 12 to 15 inches. Anglers can access the stream at multiple locations in the state park. The best access point is just below the main campground. There is also a trail that follows most of the stream through the park.
Most of the stream fishing in the Southern Region is in northern Nye County (central Nevada) in the Toiyabe, Monitor and Toquima ranges. Barley Creek flows out of the west Monitor range into Monitor Valley and offers very good stream access with a dirt road that follows the stream for approximately 4 miles where it ends at the Wilderness boundary. Peavine Creek is located at the south end of the Toiyabe Range and flows through the US Forest Service Campground which is approximately 10 miles from Highway 376. Pine Creek is located on the east side of the Toquima Range in central Nevada and flows down into Monitor Valley. Access to this stream also starts at a US Forest Service campground and continues up stream into the Wilderness. All of these streams are stocked annually with catchable rainbow trout in early summer and also support wild brook and brown trout populations. The average size of trout is around 7 to 10 inches with occasional fish 12 to 15 inches.
Carpenter Canyon Creek in Clark County provides a unique angling opportunity in southern Nevada because of its proximity to the Las Vegas Valley, high-elevation terrain, and its wild Lahontan cutthroat trout fishery. The creek is located on the western slope of the Spring Mountains just west of Las Vegas, originating at approximately 10,000 ft from Peak Spring and ending near the top of the Carpenter Canyon Road. Historically a fishless stream, Lahontan cutthroat trout were stocked in the 1970s to provide a wild trout angling opportunity. The stream is characterized by medium velocity runs and numerous drop pools over large boulders, and fish occupy approximately three miles of stream. Streamside vegetation is thick and restricts access in some spots. Hiking can be tough, with steep rocky slopes and large downed trees throughout.
Western Region Fishable Streams and Rivers
Stream fishing in the Santa Rosa Mountains of Humboldt County is a great way to get away from crowds and enjoy a variety of mountain-stream fishing in the Western Region. The Santa Rosa Range is home to several streams that support wild populations of rainbow, brook, and brown trout, in addition to a few streams that support populations of native Lahontan cutthroat trout. Streams vary in size in the Santa Rosa Range with the typical stream being small enough to jump across, such as, Lye Creek or Singas Creek, to large streams, like the Quinn River and Martin Creek, which require some wading in order to fish them effectively.
The Santa Rosa Range is located approximately 25 miles north of Winnemucca and is nestled between the small communities of Paradise Valley to the east and Orovada to the west. The mountain range extends north to the Oregon/Nevada border. The larger peaks of the mountain range rise to above 9,000 feet in elevation with the valley bottoms sitting around 4,500 feet. From Winnemucca, travel north along US 95. You may then take SR 290 to Paradise Valley to access the streams on the east side of the range or continue north on US 95 to access streams on the west side of the range. The Hinkey Summit (east side) and Windy Gap (west side) roads provide good access to several streams.
Some of the smaller, better-fishing streams in the Santa Rosa Range are: Singas Creek, Road Creek, Lye Creek, Cabin Creek, Flat Creek, and McConnell Creek. These streams all support wild populations of brook and rainbow trout, with a few wild brown trout. Andorno Creek and the Southfork of Indian Creek are smaller streams in the Santa Rosa Range that feature native populations of Lahontan cutthroat trout.
The larger streams in the Santa Rosas are Martin Creek and the Quinn River. Both streams support thriving populations of wild brown trout as well as hatchery stocked rainbow and brown Trout.
No matter the region you’re in, all types of anglers can catch fish in these streams. Bait fisherman can use worms, grasshoppers or PowerBait. Spin anglers should use small spinners such as rooster tails, mepps, and panther martins on the smaller streams. On the larger streams, spin anglers might even try spoons or rapalas. Fly anglers can slap the water with grasshopper and dropper set-ups, ants, beetles, caddis, or hare’s-ear, pheasant-tail, and other nymph patterns. The best time to fish these streams is just after the spring-runoff, throughout the summer, until the snow flies in the late-fall causing the streams to start to freeze over.
Be sure to check this Fishing Guide before heading out to determine the limits and any special regulations that may apply for the waters you plan to fish. Get your Nevada fishing license, grab your fishing gear and get out to explore some of Nevada’s most beautiful places.