When I hit the road for adventure, it’s an everlasting goal to absolutely immerse myself in new surroundings, but I’d also argue that being around new people is just as important. Listening to new friends share their stories undoubtedly shapes the way you travel, upgrading your experience from interesting to can't-live-without-it. It’s paramount. I’ve found that in Nevada, you can have both.
Deciding on a summer hobby in Nevada was a total blank canvas, BUT there was something about fishing that I kept coming back to. Maybe because most people would never in a million years suspect there to be water in what’s considered to be the driest state in the nation, or the technical know-how necessary to reel one in was a tease. After all, it’s practically like learning to play an instrument for crying out loud. A challenge that I so wanted to take on.
So, on a random Tuesday, I put out the bat call to see if there was someone out there to show me the ropes….ooor lines. I’d been fishing a few times before, and sure, there are local shops offering courses and that’s all fine and good. But I wanted someone who knew the legit ins and outs of the area to give me the unfiltered lowdown. It’s so much more personal, and so, SO much better. And that, my friends, is where Austin Lindsey comes in.
So, I drove to Elko, where Austin and I hit the Ruby Marsh for one blissfully perfect, cell phone-free afternoon. I learned a lot of things that day, but here are five game-changers, straight from Austin to you, that are gonna make you want to hit those backcountry waterways quick-fast-in-a-hurry.
1. ZERO IN ON SOME BEAUTIFUL COUNTRYSIDE
You might do a double take of the face-melter of a scene pictured above [I know I totally did,] but this is REAL LIFE. This, my friends, is Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge, and just south of I-80 in the Elko area. And to think you’ve been blowing by it on I-80, short selling Nevada as bleak while this beaut sat right under your nose.
Up in northern Nevada—Cowboy Country as many Nevadans like to call it—the peaks are rugged and the runoff has created a pristine pocket of alpine lakes, raging creeks and rivers, and supremely perfect natural marshes like this one. Water and Nevada don’t seem like they belong in the same sentence, but you’ll be whistlin’ a different tune with a visit to the Ruby Mountains or Jarbidge.
Here’s the deal with Ruby Lake: yes, it takes a bit to reach this off-grid oasis. BUT, because it’s semi-remote and takes a little effort, I’d be straight up shocked if you see anyone else there. I’d be willing to bet that you’ll have all 9,000 acres of lakes, ponds and waterways all to yo’self. We certainly did that day, just me, Austin and the fishies. Can someone say ‘Heaven on Earth’ please??
2. TRUST THE PEOPLE WHO ARE INTO IT, AND GO WITH IT
I lucked out with having a mega-experienced fisherman take me under his wing, but it only happened because I asked. Plain and simple. Better yet, I soon realized that it wasn’t just Austin giving me the lay of the land, but I had seemed to unlock this mindblowing, under-the-radar fishing phone tree of sorts that completely knocked my waders off. Sure, he’d fished Lamoille, Pyramid, Jarbidge, and tons of other places in the Silver State, but very irregularly fished the Marsh. We were after large mouth bass and needed a drift boat - that he didn’t have - to do the job.
Austin and I met up for the first time at a random gas station in Spring Creek, and promptly hit the road for Shantytown. The reason for this side trip, you ask? This unsuspecting, backcountry burb was right next to the marsh, and where we were picking up our borrowed boat for the day. And all because a guy I’d just met [Austin] convinced his dad to ask his long-time hunting buddy to lend it to us. And AUSTIN had never even met the guy! We showed up, sight unseen, the guy hitched it to our rig and off we went. Oh, and he gave us a protip to boot: to keep an eye out for the bent pole on the marsh…that was where all the bass liked to hang out. A borrowed boat annnnnnd insider intel? All for the sake of a good afternoon of fishing on the marsh.
That afternoon I asked Austin to name his favorite thing about fishing, and instantly—without any hesitation—he said, “Easy, the people. The fishing in Nevada is second to none, but what sets it apart is who you meet and their willingness to share the Nevada experience.” We both had a glimpse of that, that day—I was lucky enough to double dip—but he was right in all the best ways.
3. DON'T PINCH PENNIES WHEN IT COMES TO GEAR
Before heading out, I asked Austin if there was anything I should be doing to prep for our fishing excursion. “Buy the best gear you can afford, don’t scrimp. And support your local fishing shops, they’ll be more than willing to point you in the right direction with your first setup,” Austin advised. I knew that he’d have me covered if I somehow forgot something crucial, but took his advice to heart. As I watched him unpack case after case of tackle boxes, lures, bait and prep several rods like he was stringing a violin, it hit home. In order to succeed you’ve gotta be packing some heat.
Austin told me that most fisherman give it a couple of tries with different gear combos before nailing it. So, we started off with a rubber worm-buzzbait combo on bait casting and spinning rods, but ended up having all of our success with some gold ol’ plastic worms—tequila sunrise to be specific. The secret sauce that afternoon was trying several types of gear, good gear, until one of ‘em worked.
4. TRUST THIS [SOMETIMES ANNOYING] ADAGE: PRACTICE DOES IN FACT, MAKE PERFECT
My biggest weakness? PATIENCE. Oye, that’s a rough lesson—maybe even the antithesis of fishing—but Austin’s cool-headed approach was the tall drink of water I needed. Here I was, so rattled that I was either going to wreck the gear or hook Austin with my rookie approach, but he smoothly reminded me that everyone has to start somewhere—nothing that horrid could happen. So, cast after cast I went from bad to not AS bad, slowly improving throughout the course of the afternoon. It’s true, casting your line demands a particular gracefulness and tempo, which was totally on par with my initial suspicion…just like playing an instrument. “You’ll get the hang of it Sydney, just throw it out and remember to keep your rod tip high,” Austin said. “Once your line is in the water, keep it up and start working it.”
I wouldn’t say I had the hang of it, but could barely hang with a pro like Austin. Enough for us to maneuver in and out of the marsh’s channels, following a series of poles as our roadmap, anyway. We cast our lines into the pockets of water abutting the reeds right near the bent pole, just as our new friend had advised. Of all the things I was taking in: running the boat, understanding the gear, working the marsh, learning technique, etc., Austin said the single most important thing is casting, casting, casting. “I’m still learning, everyone always is. It totally makes all the difference between a successful trip or a frustrating one.”
So: casting is key, patience is crucial, and Austin’s Zen-like temperament kept my head in the game long enough for us to bag several bass that afternoon. As we bass-ked in our glory, Austin said, “This is what it’s all about. If you aren’t having fun, it’s time to pack it up.” Totally NOT an issue that afternoon, but he was right on the money with that one.
5. …AND DON’T BE INTIMIDATED BY OFF-GRID NEVADA. THE MORE REMOTE, THE BETTER.
Here’s the deal: there are some amazing places to be explored that are on the pavement, but IMHO, the best spots are off the dirt roads. Wander where the Wi-Fi is weak, my friends. I promise, you will be thanking me later. With 110,567 square miles, I get it, it’s a big state and there is a real possibility that you could get into trouble if you aren’t prepared. I thought I had Nevada’s gems pegged, but a fishing adventure opened up a whole new world of recreational splendor; something that is def the case with each new recreational pursuit you might have in Nevada. I’ve got hot springing and hiking pegged. Thanks to Austin, I unlocked the fishing level that afternoon for sure.
Some serious fishing goes down in Nevada, but Austin reminded me that trout in Nevada are a’plenty—so much in fact, that you can fulfill all seven trout on the IGFA Royal Trout Slam in Nevada alone, something other states WISH they could lay claim to. And like the Ruby Marsh, guess where those lakes and streams are? Off grid. Come prepared, use your head and get serious about getting deep into some backcountry Nevada—it’ll be a journey that will be hard to forget about, I can promise you that.
After being in Austin’s arena that day, we decided to celebrate our success and unwind in mine. I took the off-roading reins and pointed the car in the direction of one of my favorite hot springs in the state... hidden in the area. WINNING!
As we swam around in a lake-sized hot spring I realized that I took a lot of risks that afternoon, but couldn’t have planned a better adventure if I tried. Starting AND ending the day in some downright sexy landscapes? CHECK. Trusting Austin [and his network,] learning how to use some serious gear, and practicing some casting? All checked off the list. Pushing the threshold of my comfort zone was a common thread that day, but paid off in ways I can’t articulate. If you find yourself in Nevada, I strongly suggest that you challenge those boundaries too. You don’t know where it will lead you-and is the most satisfying way to enjoy this amazing place if I do say so myself.