Until a few weeks ago, southern Utah’s Newcastle Reservoir was little more to me than a name on a map or one of those brown signs you drive past on your way to somewhere else. Driving past the signs to Newcastle Reservoir is something I’d done for more years than I care to admit.
Then my friend Paul invited me and my youngest son, also known as “The Wildman,” to join him and his son Daniel on an overnight fishing trip. Paul didn’t have a particular destination in mind, but said he figured I could come up with somewhere to go.
Since we were only going overnight, we put a three-hour limit on travel time and I started looking for a place.
After checking local fishing reports for waters within our three-hour radius, I provided Paul with a couple of options, one being Newcastle. Neither of us had been there, but the reports said the 224-acre impoundment was giving up rainbow trout, wipers and smallmouth bass. That was enough to tip the scales.
Newcastle Reservoir is a high-desert lake located about 30 miles southwest of Cedar City off state Route 56 and about two miles southeast of the town of Newcastle.
The reservoir is nestled in the bottom of a small canyon at an elevation near 6,000 feet. The shoreline is privately owned but open to the public. A Utah fishing license is required.
Rather than pack a tent, we took Paul’s recreational vehicle and hoped to find a camping spot within walking distance of a shoreline area where we could launch our float tubes without much trouble. We weren’t disappointed, though a couple of turns on the access road were a little tight for the RV.
We found a good spot to set up camp on a point overlooking the upper end of the reservoir. We leveled the RV, rolled out the awning so we could have some shade and set up a few camp chairs. (I could get used to that.) The boys were excited to get out of the city, and it didn’t take them long to get on the water. Paul was right behind them and immediately hooked a plump 16-inch rainbow trout, hitting a 1/4-ounce Kastmaster. That same lure fooled a feisty wiper soon after.
My goal was to catch a few smallmouth bass on a fly, so I tied on an olive Woolly Bugger and began working the rocky shoreline where Daniel and “The Wildman” had found several small olive-colored crawdads. About 20 feet from the water’s edge was the unmistakable color change that marked the edge of a steep drop-off where I was sure a few smallies would be hanging out.
A disappointing hour and a couple of fly changes later, I swapped my fly rod for a spin-casting rig and went back to work. This time I threw what bass pro Gary Thien calls a bank robber rig. I tied a smoke-colored Senko with blue flakes about 15 inches above an olive crawdad imitation with a small weight sandwiched in between. I cast close to shore and had just started bouncing it toward that drop-off when a scrappy bass decided the Senko looked good enough to eat.
On the next cast, I got hit again. A smallie swallowed the crawdad, and that’s when the fishing really turned on. Paul soon switched to the crawdad and began catching smallies as well. By the time we climbed out of the float tubes a couple of hours later, we had landed nearly a dozen. We didn’t catch anything really big, but we did catch some good fish.
The next morning we picked up where we left off. Smallmouth bass hit the crawdad all day. Daniel was having trouble catching fish, so Paul worked with him in the back of a cove. When he figured out how to set the hook Daniel got in on the action as well, and “The Wildman” wasn’t far behind.
Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at email@example.com.