I envy the fly anglers who live close enough to Pyramid Lake to fish it numerous times through a season. For me, I must take the best shot for just an annual visit, at least until my work duty goes into retirement mode. So, it’s a 10-hour road trip from my hometown in Washington and worth every mile and minute it takes to get there to try my luck for the largest trout species in North America.
Oregon angler, Dave Kilhefner, joins me for this year’s trip and it’s his first time to Pyramid Lake. Like most fly anglers coming to this large alkaline lake, our anticipation is about hooking into the mammoth, 20-plus pounder, Lahontan cutthroat trout!
The first day started off with a bang when we arrived at the lake early in the morning (before sunrise) to the North Nets with 1 ½ to 2-foot rollers and freezing temperatures. My favorite fishing weather, a southeast wind blasting into our faces and setting the bite on fire to a long line of bent rods! We didn’t catch any hawgs in double digit weights, but 22–26-inch trout are nothing to snivel at. I totaled out at 15 cutts and my buddy caught 8, along with plenty of follows and short bites to keep us on edge during every cast! Only two years ago, the North Nets was void of angling pressure as the water level was too high to reach the ledge. Of course, now the water level has receded and its game on along with a line of ladders and platforms at least two football fields long!
Unfortunately the first day would be the beginning of the end for a fabulous bite as the next three days brought fair weather, which brings repetitious grinding of hundreds of casts and retrieves without too much action. I caught 7 fish in the last three days and my buddy caught 5 compared to the first day if that tells you anything. However, Dave did beach an 11 pound beauty on day three to boost his and mine spirits! Gotta love beginner’s luck! During those three days, we tried fishing at Windless Bay, Pelican Beach and South Nets without much action. Early mornings gave up a fish here and there, but overall it was very sparse! We were not the only ones whining about the catching as we learned from others it was pretty much the same all over; bummer.
The weather is always a big factor for good to great fly fishing at Pyramid. Though the calm, clear, sunny days are comfortable, they suck in terms of bringing fish in close to the beaches! If you can plan your trip closer to particular weather patterns that tend to spike the catch, like cold and windy, that’s the time to go. The best ideal conditions is when there are relatively strong winds out of the south or southeast, with second best winds from the east or northeast. The southern winds, can push warmer water towards shore and more fish along with it.
On this trip, the stripping fly fishers showed the most success over the bobber anglers. We caught fish on floating type flies like the popcorn beetle, Pyramid tadpole, and the boobie fly coupled with unweighted buggers in black, black and blue or purple, white and chartreuse and all white. At most places where there was a ledge, we were using a 300 gr sinking head with the intermediate sink running line casting with 7 or 8 weight rods. Shallow places called for intermediate sinking lines. For all my setups, I like to use about a 9 to 10-foot leader. The first 6 feet is a mono twisted leader with a #10 SPRO barrel swivel at the end. I tie about a 6 inch tag (15 lb flouro) to the same place on the swivel that the twisted leader is connected to for the dropper fly. Then I add 3-4 feet of 12-15 lb flouro to other end of the swivel for the point fly. If you notice on long casts that you are scraping a sand bar on the way in, put your floater fly on the end of the leader and the non-buoyant fly on the dropper, or fish two floater flies. This helps minimize dragging a fly through the sandy hump and avoiding snags.
The highlight of the trip was watching my buddy stick his 11 pounder, right in front of his ladder! He followed my instructions well about pulling his fly rod to one side, towing the fly towards the beach before taking the fly out of the water! Here's what he had to say about it: “There is nothing better than a visual take; seeing 7 to 11 pound trout chase then inhale the fly at your feet is the ultimate and makes the hours of casting in cold weather totally worth it!”
Check out the slide show below, click over the image to bring up "pause" then click on "pause" to use the arrow key to manually go through the pics.
Meeting new fly anglers on a Pyramid Lake trip also makes for an interesting trip as people come from all over the US and the world for that matter. On this trip, I appreciated what one young angler next to me on his ladder expressed to me, “When I drive over that rise and see that magnificent lake, I’m just as excited to come here as I was the very first time! And when I leave, it’s a depressing moment as I watch the lake disappear.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Tight lines in your fly fish pursuits!
Lodging: I have a connection for a great place to stay while fly fishing Pyramid. Two nice bedrooms in a spacious large home like an Air B&B arrangement, $75 for a single room or $100 for both rooms per night. Single guy owns the house, I have stayed there twice, great guy, will treat you well. Place is in Spanish Springs north of Sparks off of Pyramid Way (route 445).
Email me if you're interested or call/text me at 509-two eight one-one eight three five.