It was a heavy mist morning south out of Corvallis. The Willamette Valley smelled like low tide, a storm was building as I stepped out of the car at Eugene International. Mendo Brown met me a few texts past security for coffee. We walked slowly to be those guys who wait till the last minute to get on the plane, until I realized I forgot my rod at the coffee shop, and then I was the guy running to the plane. We were headed to Reno for the Western TU meeting and a little fishing.
We were staying at the Atlantis casino, a neon pink, butane lighter palace by the airport. Even in that establishment of compulsive nicotine laced Americana, the Sierra Nevada and high desert glowed in a piscatorial light. The cartoon glass elevator showed snow fields and canyons, leading into cottonwoods, all said fishy, even if it was Nevada. But this was Reno and the Truckee River Valley. These dudes were cool, hell they had their own fish, Senor Lahonton, The Buckaroo of the Great Basin.
The Lahonton is as much a mystery as a tragedy in fish conservation. Pyramid Lake is now filled with hatchery fish, a remnant of the great fish that used to spawn up a once wild Truckee River. Like the salmon runs on the Columbia, settlers filled wagons of Lahonton cutthroat for food and fertilizer, also like the Columbia, the Truckee began getting dammed and diverted eventually bringing a once prolific fish to near extinction. What is so cool about Lahonton is they are a closed basin trout one of 5 cutthroat trout in the Great Basin. There used be 6 but Oregon’s Alvord cutt is now extinct.
One our flight back into the Willamette Valley, we had missed a deluge of rain. Descending into Eugene The Big Willy was out of its banks, showing old bends and sloughs of the Calapooia and Santiams in grass fields and pastures. It was a stark contrast to the high dry closed basin fishing of Nevada. We arrived just in time for descending rivers and steelhead.