Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Ruby Marshes - An Eastern Nevada Gem

 The Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge is as beautiful and bountiful as it is isolated and unique.  Situated at 6,000 feet, this 40,000 acre collection of ditches, marshes and springs serves as the terminus for the eastern watershed of Nevada's Ruby Mountains which soar to heights in excess of 11,300 ft.  
 A 7-mile long "collection ditch" connects several dozen fresh water springs and supplies water to the various sections of the marshes.  Though man-made, the collection ditch meanders across the valley floor and is emblematic of a slow flowing spring creek...and fish behave as such.
The northern reaches of the ditch are known as "the fingers" and serve as the headwaters for this lazy river.  Being spring fed, the water clarity is amazing, affording ample sight fishing opportunities to wary Tasmanian strain rainbows whom often times will see you long before you see them.   
 The fish have little cover in the fingers.  This coupled with water as clear as gin makes them highly vulnerable and exceedingly easy to spook.  When you do finally hook up you'll discover that these fish are specimens - healthy, colorful, thickset and acrobatic.
Unless you see a hatch to the contrary, midges are good bet to get lines tight.  A pupa about 8" above a larva gives your quarry some optionality.  Depending on depth and current, a #6 shot can be useful in current/holes but in shallow/still water it will spook fish on the cast.  Also, a sticker type foam indicator is a must, that or no-cator style high sticking, but thing-a-ma-boobers and the like = fish running for cover.
 #18-20 chironomids on 4x worked well.  Even floating fly line spooks these spring dwellers so we found 12-15ft leaders to be a plus.  We clearly oversized our tippet to hold these athletic fish, and even that wasn't enough at times. Our 2 biggest fish broke us off. 
20/20's are common place and are not boast-worthy (20+" fish on #20 fly)
These fish desperately need to learn about the Jenny Craig midge pupae.  Due to their genetics coupled with the insane biomass in the marshes and springs, including epic midge hatches, water-clouding scud populations and more, these fish put on as much as 15-20 ounces per annum, reaching record shattering proportions in a very short period of time.
 After midges and scuds, October Caddis were the next item on the menu.  They hatched in good numbers all things considered, and fish did take them opportunistically, but given the midges and scuds were much more plentiful, the caddis played second fiddle.
Springs well up and feed the collection ditch, they also provide wider/deeper/safer habitat for fish and at times, fish will congregate in them, especially in the summer months where cold oxygenated water is scarce.
 Accommodations for us were Nevada-style 60's era hunting lodge.  Log cabin construction...check, hot water...check, animals hanging on the walls...check, we're good.
 Hey, it beats the heck out of tent camping, we had a stove and running water and brought with us ample guitars, whiskey and beef....I'd call it luxury living.
 This was one of the better bows we got to pose for us.  Right after this fish, Dan chose to quickly release a trophy rather than wait for me to get there to snap a pic and a few others toads were camera shy altogether.

 The scenery is inspiring and history buffs would really like appreciate this place, from its Fort Ruby origins, Cave Creek folklore, settler heritage and mining legacy.
The Bressman Cabin is pictured below (1880)
An offering to the liquor Gods pictured below
 Cave Creek claimed the life of one of its first explorers.  Its origins can be found a few hundred yards up from the valley floor where water wells up out of a cave system at the base of the Rubies.  In the late 1800's, Fort Ruby soldiers assembled a boat insides its entrance, paddled 500 yds up the cave entombed creek and ultimately hit an impassable rock wall were water welled up from beneath.  
Against the advice of his accomplices, one soldier jumped overboard and swam under the rock wall, the current brought his body back minutes later. Its believed his ghost still inhabits the cave.
PS: This fishery has mind-blowing rainbows with figures that could pass for carp, they're fickle and spooky but they're also gargantuan.  Streamers at dusk, nymphs under indicators, high stick no-cator nymphing and large dry beetle/stimulater patterns all work at different times of the day, so bring all your gear,  extra midges, several rods, perseverance and your "A" game.  Oh, and don't forget some heavy leaders, after all, the state record rainbow and tiger trout reside in these waters at 16.5 lbs and 13 lbs 13 oz respectively.


Pete Goodro said...

I'm not one to call people out for hotspotting, but honestly this is one spot that really can't handle much pressure. Its one of those places that could easily be fished out in a season. I hope you'll reconsider whoring out this great fishing spot to get hits on your blog.

Anonymous said...

If you want this place to stay a "Gem" you should highly consider removing the name/location from this blog post.

- A Concerned Angler

Joseph said...

pump the brakes fellas...let's see, 3/4 of the 'hits on this blog' will never make the drive, the other 20% don't know what a pupa is, and the rest are buying needles to pump of their worms. This is Nevada and 'concerned anglers' are dudes who didn't draw a tag.
Nice post Ryan, fishing + places of historical value = majestical.

Anonymous said...

i agree with both sides here. personally, it took alot of time to find this gem, most people wont make the trek. the rubys need to be well kept, its the best fishery Nevada has. if we really want to make the rubies better, the collection ditch should be made catch and release, and the main lake kept at 5 limit.

Anonymous said...

I used to work in elko and fish the marshes and I know how incredible it is and I still can't muster the effort to get there. Nice write up. That place is one of the Jewels of the West!

Unknown said...

I used to fish the marshes 50 years ago. The fishing was outstanding then, as im sure it is now. we worked at kennecot in ruth nevada and would make the drive over to the rubys on our days off. 60 or 70 miles of dirt road. I was back recently, and boy has it change. There is a huge mining complex south of the marshes now, the little town is much much bigger. but i never tried to fish. It looked like it has lost a lot of the collection ditches that used to be there. Time changes everything, the trout do look healthy tho, those in the pictures. Not to worry about over fishing for now tho i think.

Anonymous said...

I have fished the Collector Ditch twice. Once in 2013 in August and then again in 2014 in May. Each time I hooked very large trout. In August, the fly of choice was a grasshopper imitation cast "blindly" into the "Fingers" region of the ditch. The second time (between the Nevada Hatchery and the NWR HQ) was similar to fishing for bonefish at Christmas Island. You locate cruising fish and cast a red midge pupa with trailing schuck about 15' above where the fish is headed and twitch it to get attention. The first movement by the trout is an indication that the fish has seen the fake midge. The second movement is an indication that it has taken the fly and you raise the rod deliberately but slowly. Chances are that you've hooked a large Rainbow or Tiger Trout and I found that 4x tippet is the smallest I could get away with. This is a balancing act between what doesn't spook these wary fish and what will hold them during a protracted fight. Weed beds will cause you headaches once a fish is hooked. Your standard net is of no use here. Fight them until you can pick them up directly and remove the hook. Put them back in the water ASAP and make sure they are revived before completely releasing them. If you don't release them properly after fighting them to exhaustion, they will die. Take your time. Make sure they are completely revived before releasing them. The Collector Ditch can't withstand a great deal of pressure, so please don't fish it out. Spend 3 days there and no more. And please take care of the resource. It is extremely fragile.

Ryan said...

Pretty much agree with everything the last anonymous said, and yes, please do spend time reviving them, especially the big ones, they fight so hard and sometimes on light tippet take so long to land, you have to really make sure they have the strength to survive, they need to swim out of your hands.

Elko Mike said...

I fish the Marshes several times each year, and caught the record rainbow. After that catch and the record tiger, more people did fish the Marshes for a few months. Then it returned to normal or near enough to it that I don't notice any difference.
In my view the biggest threat to the hatchery is neglect because the bird sanctuary is the priority of Fish and Wildlife.

M. Faulkner said...

Good to see you out there, a few days ago! Your posse of three (Dan, Brian and Dave) were equally fun to acquaint with, and did very well! A class operation, see you soon!

David Gunn said...

I was at the Ruby last year (see anonymous post in May). Going again this September. Any word on how the fishery has fared this past year?

Ryan said...

The trout faired just fine, the drought didn't hurt them at all in the ditch or the ponds to the south of the county line. Unit 21's fish survived but the water got low and warm so the fish congregated where the ditch comes in and they were vulnerable to catch and kill anglers who thinned them out. Unit 10 will no longer contain trout, they used the drought as the impetus to drain it to conserve water for the south marsh, they also no longer want fish in it, bass have been an issue eating baby ducklings. I don't know about the south marsh, it lost a foot or more of water but I suspect the trout made it through by laying at the bottom of the deeper springs. They should make the ditch C&R.

Unknown said...

Relax people! If you are practicing catch & release as we all should, there is no fear in sharing the information. I live in western Washington and plan to drive through the area for Astrophotography at night and remote privacy and hot spring soaking during the day. Before reading this friendly Blog, I would have had no idea about the beautiful Fly Fishing opportunities there. So thank you! Should I or any others be restricted to only fishing our home waters? How did those waters become our home waters? Just because we lived nearby? Release everything you catch (let go of having to kill things to feel better about yourselves), pick your trash up (better yet, don't have any to leave)and a little extra, and before you know it, the places like this are nice for everyone, not just you. From what I've seen, we could all use an outsiders critical eye to help make our cherished places better. Thanks so much for sharing all the information on this blog with us! Refreshing to see someone not hoarding everything to themselves.

Unknown said...

Who wants to share with me where the Hot Springs near the Ruby Lake NWR are? You want the clean campers and the catch & releasers to come and visit!

David Gunn said...

Well, I'm headed back in mid to late May this year. Just curious to hear if anybody has fished "the ditch" this year yet and how did you do? How is the fishery doing?

Unknown said...

I fished the ditch this week and landed a couple of medium size rainbows. I saw a monster (over 20 inch) in there and got it to go for a parachute adams but it was smart enough to reject the fly at the last nanosecond. I was using 4x tippet and probably would not have been able to haul in such a huge fish anyway. I fished the two main ditches in the early morning or late afternoon/evening. My technique was to strip out line and let it float downstream, then slowly strip and twitch the line back in. With this technique I landed several fish in the first cast. Then the fish would ignore everything I tossed in. I got them to go for weighted nymphs such as golden stone, copper john and hair's ear. Otherwise I fished the deeper ponds for bass. They are all around 9 inches long but some put up a good fight. Since 10 inches is the limit, I think the bass have stopped growing in length at 9 inches and just keep growing in girth. The bass went for sparkly streamers and leggy grasshopper patterns. I stayed in the campground and overall, it was a fun trip. I'd definitely come back again.

David G. said...

Hey guys, I am headed up again this year in early July. Anything of significance to report?

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