The Lifeblood of Reno-Tahoe: Hunting and Fishing the Truckee Watershed

Reno locals, particularly those with a penchant for outdoor activities, often refer to their home and the surrounding area as Truckee Meadows, after the Truckee River and surrounding watershed, which is the lifeblood of the area. Indeed, the Truckee River couldn’t be more important in the natural history of Reno-Tahoe, as it is the sole outlet for alpine Lake Tahoe, connecting it with Pyramid Lake in the desert north of Reno. First ascended by Euro-Americans in 1844, John Fremont and Kit Carson originally named it the Salmon Trout River after the huge adfluvial Lahontan cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii henshawi) they found. Unbelievably, the party reported trout well over 40 pounds and exceeding four feet in length! The “Salmon Trout” moniker was short-lived however, as it was rebranded the Truckee after a Paiute Chief likely named Tru-ki-zo later the same year. Over the 120 river miles from Tahoe to Pyramid, the Truckee provides nearly unlimited opportunities for outdoor recreation, including some of the finest fly-fishing in the West, and in nearby areas, excellent upland bird hunting for native quail and introduced chukar. If you’ve made plans to attend The Wildlife Society’s Joint Conference with the American Fisheries Society this fall and you enjoy hunting and fishing, then look no further than the nearby Truckee to provide nearly boundless possibilities.

Many readers are likely already aware of the remarkable fishing for Lahontan cutts in Pyramid Lake. However, if standing on a ladder and sight-casting to cruising trout doesn’t sound appealing, then perhaps a more traditional western river fishing experience on the Truckee is appropriate. The best thing about fishing on the Truckee may be the many personalities of this blue-ribbon system.  If you prefer smaller stream fly-fishing, then you might consider crossing into California and heading up to the mountain town of Truckee, where after visiting Mountain Hardware and Sports for a few flies you can fish for rainbows, browns, and cutthroat, then grab a beer at Truckee Brewing Company after a day on the river. If a drive to the mountains isn’t an option, then you may choose to wet a line on the Truckee in or around Reno, where the trout fishing is still considered blue ribbon, and the early autumnal weather may be a bit less seasonal than up in the mountains. The Truckee Meadows Water Authority offers an excellent map of river accesses and fishing sites in and around Reno. And of course, if you’re a bucket-lister, and a shot at a giant Lahontan cutthroat is on your list, then you should definitely plan on making the trek up to Pyramid Lake – just be sure to check in with the crew at Reno Fly Shop for a fishing report and tips on landing a lunker!

If you’d prefer to tote a shotgun for a bit of wing-shooting, or if you’re the type who likes to “cast and blast”, then you’re in luck, because most of the upland bird seasons in Nevada and California open in September or early October. Indeed, similar to the variety of fishing on the Truckee along the 120 river miles from Tahoe to Pyramid, upland bird hunting in the Truckee watershed of California and Nevada varies with altitude and terrain as well. If you’ve never had a chance to chase beautiful, native mountain quail (Oreortyx pictus), then an afternoon in the Sierras this fall may provide the perfect opportunity. Consider packing your rod up to Truckee to fish for trout in the morning, then turning to the nearby mountains for a bit of wing-shooting in the afternoon: a true western “cast and blast” experience. Indeed, the Truckee River Wildlife Area offers just such an opportunity. If you’re a dedicated bird hunter and have never had a chance to chase chukar (Alectoris chukar) in the arid lands of the West, then you’re in luck, because the chukar hunting around Reno can be spectacular. Although chukar are introduced from the Middle East and Asia, they have a dedicated following among American wing-shooters, as the chance at a couple birds after a tough scramble up a mountain slope can be tremendously rewarding. After visiting the Nevada Department of Wildlife upland game page for more information on chukar hunting, consider tapping a Nevada outfitter to help with your adventure. A bonus for those who choose to chase chukar is the strong possibility of also running into California quail (Callipepla californica) along the way. There’s nothing like a multi-species bag to make for an unforgettable hunt!

If you’re a bit more adventurous, and are considering traveling beyond the Reno-Tahoe area for hunting and fishing, consider that Nevada is the seventh largest state in the nation, just behind Arizona at nearly 111,000 square miles. Although neighboring California is larger, at nearly 164,000 square miles, Nevada bests the Golden State when it comes to federal lands. In fact, Nevada tops all states when it comes to percent federal lands, with nearly 85% of the total area of the state managed by the federal government, for a total of 60 million acres. California isn’t far behind with 46 million acres of federal lands. Why does this matter? Because if you’re a hunter or angler looking farther afield for sporting opportunities this fall, then the abundance of federally-managed lands in Nevada and California offers tremendous opportunities. A short drive nearly any direction from Reno offers plentiful opportunities for hunting and fishing on public lands; remember, as a wildlifer you’re also a public land owner! Visit the California and Nevada Chapter pages of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers for more information on visiting your public lands. Whether chasing chukar outside Reno, angling for cutts on Pyramid Lake, or tossing flies for brown trout on the Truckee near Tahoe, the hunting and fishing opportunities for attendees at the Joint Annual Conference this year are sure to impress – just be sure to plan ahead so you can make the most out of your time in Truckee Meadows!

Header Image: The Truckee River watershed offers great chukar hunting for those looking for outdoor recreation around Reno-Tahoe during this year’s conference.