Posted by: 1000fish | May 7, 2023

The Rod and Reel Road Trip


It was 1988, and I was out to dinner with someone whose name is, for purposes of this blog, lost to history. She mentioned that Rod Stewart was playing somewhere nearby, and suggested we go, so that we could see him before he died of old age. This was 34 years ago.

I like Rod Stewart’s music, except for the disco phase, and while I wanted to go, I was also making something like ten bucks an hour and would have had to skip meals to spring for the tickets. I always regretted not attending, although I secretly suspected my date would have gone home with Rod Stewart and not me. 

May we all age this well.

An ophthalmologist friend of mine just had to send this. Thank you, Ira.

Fast forward 30+ years, and Rod Stewart is still touring. South Park can make all the jokes they want to, but the fact remains the guy is a dynamo. This time, I did not pass on going to the show, and my date – Scott Perry – probably wouldn’t leave with Rod Stewart.

I’ve known Scott for 30 years. We worked together at a software startup and have stayed friends ever since. No one knows what’s in it for him. He has made the occasional appearance in the blog, and as we have aged, we have made sure that some of those ideas that start with “Gosh, we really should go to X and see so and so in concert” have actually happened. We aren’t going to live forever, and I plan on leaving nothing behind but debts and fishing gear.

So it was, one pizza and beer filled evening, that we decided to road trip to Las Vegas and see Rod Stewart live. I take all road trips as a personal challenge to find at least one fish, no matter how obscure or teensy, and this one nearly got the better of us.

On paper, the Amargosa pupfish looks easy. It’s one of the few pupfish that you won’t go to jail for catching, and they live in some fairly accessible places. They are supposed to be generally cooperative, and they were more or less on our route where we could leave on a Friday, stay overnight in some remote part of California, spend the morning catching the fish, and still make it to Vegas in time for the show. 

It seemed like a good plan. But as Von Moltke said many years ago, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” (Or, more elegantly, Von Tyson said “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”) We got up in the morning, and made a short drive from a remote place to a really remote place.

It’s a desolate but beautiful drive.

The small stream we were seeking was supposed to be a short hike away from the road, and while the area did not have cell signal, it looked so close that we did not bother to bring water or other common-sense provisions. We are both experienced hikers and should not have done this.

It was a beautiful place to get lost. The trailhead started in some very tight brush, and when we exited onto a riverbed, we did not mark the spot. This was also a rookie mistake. We then bumbled toward where the creek was supposed to be, and after a mile or two that looked like we were just about to find water, we suddenly realized we hadn’t found water. We found some small flows against more dense brush, and while this didn’t seem to be the open creek I was looking for, there were fish.

Yes, there were fish in this.

We spent about half an hour there, and caught several dace, one of which has since become its own species, the Amargosa Dace, so I was unknowingly on the board but bent out of shape about the pupfish, which showed occasionally but wouldn’t bite.

Sure, it was a species. But it wasn’t a pupfish.

Thank you to the team at UC Davis for splitting these into a new species. The same paper that split this one also split off the Sacramento Speckled Dace and the Santa Ana Speckled Dace, so it was truly an armchair species bonanza. Both blogs have been updated appropriately.

It got later, and while we still had plenty of time to get to Vegas, we played it conservatively and decided to start back. I was disappointed, but figured we could try it again on the way home.

We made it to the brushy stuff ok, but it was a big area of brushy stuff and it all looked exactly alike. We still had plenty of time to get to Vegas, but it was starting to dawn on us that we had no idea how to get back to the trailhead.

It was gorgeous country, but I didn’t want to die here.

This led to another hour of trying to work our way through the creekbed toward civilization, which didn’t go very well, as there were a lot of downed trees and old fences to maneuver past. We both got fairly scratched up, and I tore my favorite REI fishing pants.

This didn’t make us feel any better.

Just around the time I was figuring out how to break it to Scott that I was going to have to kill him and eat him for survival, he had the bright idea of scrambling to higher ground to get perspective. So we scrambled to higher ground to get perspective. We could see the parking lot – it was deceptively close, but there was still no clear route. We had enough time to make it to Vegas, but we were going to have to get moving. 

We continued along the general dry creek for another half an hour or so, and my mouth was starting to taste like someone else’s hockey socks.

We made another trip up the hill for bearings, and saw we had gotten to the edge of a ranch that abutted our starting point. We crashed through another hundred yards of brush, and finally burst into the open, looking dehydrated, cut up, and stupid. We drank all the water in the car, including the warm one in the cup holder, ate the remaining Cheetos, and promised to never tell anyone what had just happened. Except for you, and you are sworn to secrecy on this.

We had just enough time to get to Vegas, change clothes, sort of wash, and go see Rod. I started the drive badly by turning left instead of right, but Scott, ever the skilled navigator, told me to stay on the route because we could still pick up the main road from there.

Scene of the fateful wrong turn.

About five minutes later, Scott did something remarkable. He said “Stop the car. We are crossing a creek.” We didn’t have much time to spare, and I certainly never would have spotted the thing on my own, but there it was on the map, a thin blue line, and when we parked, I could just make it out behind some tall weeds and an old fence. 

As I peered into the water, I started seeing shapes flitting back and forth on the shoreline. They were pupfish. Hundreds of them. I wasted no time with the micro-rod, and although they weren’t easy, I got one to bite in about 10 minutes.

I can’t thank Scott enough. This wouldn’t have happened without his patience and powers of observation.

And yes, they are cute.

We now had just enough time to get to Vegas and go see Rod. Our tickets were just far back enough where he probably wouldn’t notice the smell. 

We got to Sin City inadvisably quickly, but we didn’t have time to shower AND change, so I showered and Scott changed. We caught an Uber to Caesar’s Palace, just in time to grab two very large margaritas and a bag of chips, and then spend the next 90 minutes reliving our younger years.

No one got Covid.

It wasn’t just a trip down memory lane – it was an awesome show for any era. The man was 76 years old, and he brought the house down.

Rod does his thing.

And he kept doing his thing for about two hours. How many of you can do your thing for two straight hours?

Stewart also paid tribute to the military, especially the heroes who liberated France on D-Day.

And for once, I wasn’t the oldest person at a concert.

I am proud to report that Scott did not leave with Rod Stewart, although I could swear I saw the 1988 what’s-her-name skulking near the staff entrance. 

The rest of the night was a blur of steakhouses and slot machines. We made the long drive home on Sunday, with the mandatory stop at Willow Ranch BBQ.

Note that Scott is eating a salad. My meal was not listed under “Healthy Choices.”

We had seen Rod Stewart, so that’s one more thing off the bucket list, but on the way home, the more we talked, the more we realized we had so many more of these that we weren’t ever going to get to all of them – so we just agreed to do our best.


Special Bonus Section – The Fluffy Prequel

Two weeks prior to Vegas, the Moore family showed up in my area to try to scratch out a few species. I was able to meet them for an evening of tidepooling and pizza in Santa Cruz, and I am pleased to report that I managed to add a fluffy sculpin to the list. That’s another fish name that would very well for a cocktail or a band name, although I still want to call my band “Phantom Booger.”

My fluffy. I still take horrible night photos.

One of Chris’ photos. Much nicer.

They also caught a green morph of the fluffy.

The full gang out goby fishing the next day.


Chris managed to capture the largest yellowfin goby I have ever seen – and he did this without a lever-drag reel or any other modern equipment.


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