Moby Goes to Shithole Reservoirs

Larry has been fishing rarely visited reservoirs on BLM land where Idaho meets Oregon meets Nevada. More or less. (The I.O.N. Triangle). Nearby McDermitt, Nevada, population 500, is the only town for 100+ miles. The term reservoir is a stretch. These mud puddles were created by bulldozing a pile of dirt across a ravine to catch a bit of snow melt. They water cattle in the dry summer months, unless they go dry. Which makes fishing them iffy. They’re stocked with trout by a state I cannot mention (on Larry’s orders). If snow and rain and luck hold, if the sun is not too hot, there will be enough water for the fish to survive the winter to live and grow another year. Eventually they might get big. Or not. But how can you be sure unless you go and see?

And so we go.

Perhaps you are planning a Shithole Reservoir tour yourself. Larry and I have created a scoring guide to help you choose from the plethora of possibilities. Which have the best fishing? Which are the most scenic? Which can you drive to without ruining a $1600 set of tires? Dear Reader, read on.

Shithole Reservoir Scoring Guide

Fish = Does the reservoir have fish? Lots of fish? Big fish?

Road = How far is the reservoir from pavement? Do you need 4×4? Is it likely that your vehicle will be destroyed?

Quality of Life = Is there grass? Shade? A view? A flat place to camp?

Each category is scored on a 1-4 scale. The fishing category is doubled because, according to Larry but not obvious to me, it is the most important. Total possible points = 16.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Shithole Reservoirs

(Although this is a travel guide, Larry has insisted that I change the names of these Shithole Reservoirs, lest you rush out and catch all the non-existent fish before Larry can do so himself. All of Larry’s fake names contain a hint to lead you to the real name . . . as if you care.)


Score = 4/16

  • Fish = 0
  • Road = 3
  • Quality of Life = 1


Notes: The lowest-scoring reservoir in our survey for good reason. This place is hideous. Hot, dry, dusty, cow-stomped. Added bonus: NO fish. The only upside is you can get there on a good dirt road.


Score = 5/16

  • Fish = 0
  • Road = 4
  • Quality of Life = 1


Notes: Barely missing the honor of last place by the dubious advantage of being closer to pavement, this place is a must-see if you love cows. But don’t expect to catch anything because there were NO fish!


Baby Serpent

Score = 5/16

  • Fish = 0
  • Road = 3
  • Quality of Life = 2
IMG_0739 This road rates a 3 on our 1-4 scale (pretty good!). Although brushy, it’s mercifully smooth. High-clearance recommended (or leave your Subaru at home and drive your lawnmower).


Notes: Be sure to come on a blue-sky white-cloud day. It’s the only reason we gave this dump a “2” for Quality of Life. Set up camp on this Martian landscape and pretend you’ve been resettled to Mars for the rest of your life. Hope you brought supplies because you will NOT be eating fish!


High Viper

Score = 5/16

  • Fish = 0
  • Road = 2
  • Quality of Life = 3
A nice place to spend a day, this reservoir earns a “3” in the Quality of Life category.
Upper Rattlesnake
Plenty of solitude



Wildflowers add to the Quality of Life category.


This road earns a “2”. It’s so steep you’ll swear you’re going to slide backwards.
Gently rolling hills above the reservoir make a scenic drive.

Notes: Although Larry had high hopes for this reservoir, plan to spend your time hiking since there were NO fish.



Score = 6/16

  • Fish = 0
  • Road = 3
  • Quality of Life = 3




Notes: Bring your pals and good food and drink. Spend your time socializing and forget fishing. There were NO fish!


Horse Tail

Score = 10/16

  • Fish = 3
  • Road = 3
  • Quality of Life = 1


Mule's Ear
I doubted fish could live in this soup, but it was loaded with nice rainbows that we later grilled and fed to our unsuspecting friends.


This nearby rock formation is worth checking out if you get tired of pulling whoppers from this shithole reservoir.

Notes: Finally a shithole WITH FISH!!! . . . and a relatively easy drive (unless it rains and you’ll slide off the dam and get stuck, as we did on a return trip.) Too bad the Quality of Life is so low: hot, dry, dusty, cows. Stop in to wet your line, but don’t plan to camp here.



Score = 13/16

  • Fish = 3
  • Road = 4
  • Quality of Life = 3


Tanker truck pumping water to take to cows elsewhere.


The rainbow’s gut was full of tiny shrimp. Yum!
This reservoir has a fence to keep the cows out, making it a much better–if not great–place to camp.

Notes: Finally a place we’d want to hang out for a few days. Drive in on a very good road, catch lots of decent fish, and camp among the green rolling hills.


Top Secret

Score = 13.5/16

  • Fish = 3.5
  • Road = 3
  • Quality of Life = 3


  • IMG_0855


Notes: This one has it all–good fishing, good roads, good camping.  And you’ll probably have the place to yourself.


Super Top Secret

Score: 14/16

  • Fish = 4
  • Road = 2
  • Quality of Life = 4


Fish on a cow pie platter


Killdeer eggs (above) and parent displaying broken wing distraction trick (below)


Notes: This place wins our “Best of the Worst” category with an almost perfect score, falling short due to the last bit of road being passable only by serious 4×4 vehicles, a road so steep and rocky I walked while Larry drove Moby. But if you make it in, you’ll be rewarded with eager big fish, a grassy campsite, good hiking, and interesting wildlife neighbors.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And so, Dear Reader, we conclude our travelogue of Shithole Reservoirs. We hope you put your own trip together and suffer as we have. Larry says there are more trips to come, as he is sometimes rewarded with giant trout like this 6-pounder from a reservoir north of the I.O.N. Triangle, coming soon to a blog near you.

Big Boy

7 thoughts

    1. We’ll keep trying on the rocks, Gary. Maybe you should take us to your secret spot where you get all the green petrified wood and we can do a blog to reveal it to the world!

  1. Great fun to read your shithole story and see our picture! You sure have a way with words! Love it!

  2. Okay, I’m pretty sure this is fake news. The trout had to come from a store in Hagerman. Dan Bailey’s wife used to do this all the time to bait-and-switch fisherman into going to the wrong hole. Sometimes she would even buy a whole cod, attach it to her wooly bugger, and put it in a hole on the Yellowstone or Madison near the road so people would think she was hauling in a monster. Larry surely knows about this. And your scoring guide is missing the most important category: chukar hunting potential, an omission even more obvious than the putative trout.

    1. Sorry, Bob, the only thing fake was the name of the reservoirs. And even they are all related in some way to the true names. Except for Super Top Secret reservoir, which I wouldn’t let Janene even hint about. Although after a few pints of your home brew I might let slip their location to you. There was nothing in the scoring guide relating to chukars because I haven’t heard or seen a single chukar at any of them.

  3. Janene – Outstanding article! Excellent writing, knee-slapping humor and great photos. Not to mention Larry”s beautiful trout. This blog you and Larry have created provides me with hours (maybe I’m just a slow reader . . . or I wish to savor it – like when you dread the upcoming ending of a good book). Please keep ’em comin’!

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