RENO, Nev. (News 4 & Fox 11) — You would have a hard time finding a bad opinion about Reno's Fire Chief Dave Cochran.
More than 24 years of safety, service and dedication to Reno residents for Chief Cochran has left him with a sturdy resume of respect and accomplishments — including reviving the aging apparatus fleet for the city's fire department.
Chief Cochran has held his title for about seven years now, but his career did not start in the world of firefighting. It started as an attorney for nearly a decade, practicing law in Nevada and California. He also volunteered as a firefighter where he lived.
His change in career paths was encouraged by his wife during a discussion, "not an argument, just a discussion," chuckled Chief Cochran as he casted his nymph fly across the Truckee River.
Chief Cochran said,
Another guy in town was a Reno firefighter. And he saw that I was involved and thought I might be interested. And he suggested, 'hey, we're hiring,' you got to take the test.' And there were about 5,000 people who applied. And I got the job, obviously. I pointed out to her (his wife) that my career change was at her urging, and she said 'I was just trying to be supportive, I didn't think you'd actually do it.' But I don't regret it.
As we waded through the Truckee River, trying different spots, Chief Cochran shared how the ebbs and flows of his career had been navigated by standing exactly where he was as we spoke — in the middle of flowing water with a fly rod in hand.
"You know, fishing is a great opportunity to decompress. To maybe figure out the answer to a thorny problem or what you think might be the best course of action, I found that that really is helpful. In my position, just being able to think through, consider the different options, consider the impacts on stakeholders, and whatever that decision may be. And fishing really helps that," said Chief Cochran.
Chief Cochran took a moment to compliment my focus on my 'ten to two' casting technique, something my dad taught me when I was learning to fly fish.
He is referring to how I keep my elbow up and maintain a short/strict arm path when casting — as opposed to swinging my entire arm like you would when throwing a ball.
As mentioned, Chief Cochran's work as a city safety official and his passion for the outdoors has earned him a respectable name — especially in the wildlife space.
Travis Hawks, western region supervising fisheries biologist for the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW), said he has known about the chief's efforts both with fire management and maintaining a healthy river through town.
For him to actually have the time to be able to go out and appreciate this resource is huge. You know having a guy like him saying, yeah, he cares about the river, he's on the river, he's actively doing things within his department to benefit the river is huge. And you know, from our standpoint, from my standpoint, you can't benefit the river any better than what he's doing.
I took a second to use the wealth of knowledge around me to get some tips on fishing northern Nevada waters, specifically the Truckee and what flies I should be using.
I was casting a wooly bugger olive, which imitates a baitfish that trout tend to go for to try and use its weight to get across the high flow of the Truckee onto some promising areas on the other side of the river.
"That's a classic man, you're really not, it's not never going to be a bad choice. You go dry flies. Then look at things like the blue wing olive or an elk hair caddis. Those are always going to be good as well," advised Chief Cochran.
I, of course, had to ask Hawks, who pulls in some monster trout from all around the country what he would be casting with.
On the Truckee River blue wing olive, you can go dry fly or nymphs or carrots are always a good one on the Truckee River. Perdigon's are becoming pretty popular because you don't need a heavy line to go with.
Early season is going to be great for fishing this year, said Hawks, which is right now through early July. Populations, according to NDOW, are just below carrying capacity. So plenty of fish to catch but the chief and I had no luck that day.
Chief Cochran said that is what fly fishing is all about the lessons, the patience, the not getting what you want, but being nimble is important on the river and in his role as fire chief.
Before ending our discussion, Chief Cochran left me with some personally tied flies and this tidbit about how fly fishing correlates with his job every day:
Being passionate about fly fishing, and the fire chief position is incredibly important. Because really, there's a pretty close analogy to both of them, you have to accept that you don't get your way. If you're the fire chief, and the city manager made a comment the other day to a group that he meant as a good thing about this, but I will come to him with seven different ideas. They're all good, but he's got to be the one to tell me 'Hey, we can only do one.' One for seven is not a great batting average. So that can be frustrating. But what you do is you take that as a win. I got that and I'm going to keep leaning on it and I'm gonna come back and I'm not gonna give up. Same thing with fly fishing. You come out here. You don't catch a fish right away. You don't catch a fish for a long time. Maybe you don't catch a fish all day. But you're willing to come back. You stay persistent. You have that passion to figure out what to do, how to get better, and make it work next time.