Sunday, March 8, 2020

Pyramid Lake 2020

February 2020
If you build it they will come. Pyramid Lake is a true success story. Through proper management and restoration of a unique strain of Lahonton Cutthroat Trout, Pyramid Lake has become a top destination for anglers seeking truly monstrous trout. I had been dreaming of making a trip for quite some time and it was finally happening. Joining me would be longtime fishing partners Camron Despain and Kevin Higgs. Also tagging along would be Derek Peterson, fellow big fish hunter and fly shop colleague. Kevin would be pulling his camp trailer over for us to stay in.

Camron and Kevin arrived a day earlier than Derek and I. Camron and Kevin set the camper up and did some exploring and fishing, but sadly no fish came to hand their first afternoon at the lake. 
By 4 am, Derek and I were on the road. When we arrived in Winnemucca, I was pleasantly surprised to see a hero shot of a nice Lahonton Cutthroat trout ding into my phone as we came into cell service. Camron and Kevin were on the board! The last couple hours of the drive seemed to drag on as our anticipation grew.

Derek and I met Camron and Kevin at a rocky point they had fished that morning. By 10 am the bite had ended, but they had each landed a fish. We all fished for a couple hours longer before deciding to move onto a recommended beach for the evening bite. The weather was very nice; too nice. Calm glassy waters and cloudless skies defined the afternoon. Everything we had read was that fishing at Pyramid was best when the weather was nasty. The worst part was that the forecast called for this weather the entire time we were there. Regardless, we set up our 4 ladders in a large gap between other anglers at a popular fishing beach. Ladders are a useful fishing platform at Pyramid, enabling anglers to stand higher in the water and still reach the drop-off that the fish cruise, just beyond waist-deep water.

We all started fishing double chironomids, or "chids" with indicators and it didn't take Camron long to tie into a fish.

We all hoped the chid bite would turn on, but as quickly as our excitement started, it faded as the afternoon wore on and nobody caught any more fish. Finally, Kevin switched to stripping a bugger with a popcorn beetle and hooked up. 

Other anglers around us slowly began to pick up a fish here and there, including Kevin who seemed to have the "hot hand", who landed 2 more fish by 5pm. 

I also finally hooked into my first fish shortly after. 

Soon it was dark and Kevin finished the day with 4, Camron 3, myself 1 and Derek sadly had yet to receive a sniff. 

We started the next day at the same beach. At first light, we placed our ladders near the drop-off and began casting and stripping. A few casts later I tied into a nice cutty. 

I apparently had the hot hand for the morning because I kept getting bit. Meanwhile, 30 feet to either side of me, Kevin hooked one but Derek still hadn't seen any fish. We were all using the same thing and retrieving our flies the same, yet I was receiving the love this morning. We had been warned that Pyramid could be like this. 

By the time the sun crested the mountains around us, the bite had ended. I finished the morning with 4 fish, while Camron and Kevin landed 1 a piece, and Derek still no love. 

We decided to do some exploring while the fishing was slow. We had heard that when the sun is out and the lake is calm, find some rocky areas near deep water and fish with indicators. We explored the lake and found areas worth trying and areas to avoid. But as the afternoon progressed with no fish, we found ourselves on another popular beach waiting with everyone else for the evening bite. However, this beach was so popular that we were forced to split up. Camron and Kevin squeezed into a spot in the North side of the bay while Derek and I squeezed into the South. As the sun fell behind the mountains, people began to catch fish, including Derek who tied into a feisty specimen.

We saw Kevin catch a few and the guy next to him landed a 13 pounder, but as it got later, Derek and I still hadn't seen anymore action in our neighborhood. Strangely enough, people were clearing out with plenty of daylight to spare, including a spot near Kevin and Camron. Derek and I quickly relocated our ladders and resumed flogging the water in a new neighborhood. Just before dark I hooked one, but that was it. 

The following morning we found ourselves once again at the same beach we fished the previous morning. Today the forecast had called for wind in the afternoon and this beach was supposed to fish dynamite with a strong wind. The morning progressed with a few hookups, but as the sun came out and the water calmed, we debated whether to stay and wait for the wind or do some more exploring. We decided to explore.

We found a nice rocky point where some ladies were hooked up on a nice fish. We walked over to see a monster of a cutty slip into the net. The fish ended up being 18 pounds! Camron and Kevin decided to fish in that area while Derek and I decided to drive to another point nearby. While Derek took a brief nap in the truck, I walked down to the water to find a spot to fish. There were anglers fishing the main rocky point, but just to the South I noticed a couple submerged rocks that I could wade to. Once out there, I would be nearly surrounded by deep, dark water. I tippie-toed out to the rocks and an optimistic smile came across my face; this water looked good! Next to where I stood, a bleached bone rested on the rock. I think I'll call this spot "bone rock". With my chids set-up at about 10 ft deep, I patiently stared at my bobber on the glassy water. Fort-five minutes must have passed and I was nearly day dreaming when suddenly a lone cloud passed over the sun. While I longed for the afternoon skies to fill with clouds, my bobber sunk. Luckily I was paying just enough attention to notice and set the hook. I felt significant weight on the end of my line and it was obvious I was dealing with a different caliber of fish. The fish battled hard as I pondered how I was going to land this fish by myself and get a picture. 
"Looks like you could use a netter!" I turned around to see Derek coming down the hill.
"Just in time man!" I replied.
After a great fight, Derek scooped the 27 inch fish into the net. We high-fived and took some photos of our first big Lahonton Cutthroat.

I had Derek wade out to the rocks and fish while I tried another area. Again, a cloud passed over the sun and almost immediately I heard Derek shout, fish on! I ran down to help him, but the large fish rolled and broke him off. Derek said he saw the fish when it rolled and he estimated it weighed in the teens! 
Derek continued to fish the "bone rock", with several more hook-ups. I texted Camron to see how they were doing. He had hooked a monster that had nearly spooled him and lost. Derek and I continued to fish the "bone rock" until the wind finally showed up. The once placid pond turned into the ocean with 2 and 3 foot rollers crashing into the bank. With newfound optimism we continued to fish with no luck. It was now getting close to sundown, so we packed up and headed back to where Camron and Kevin were fishing. 

They had slowly encroached on the ladies in the hotspot, taking notes as they continued to catch fish all afternoon. We fished this area until dark. Curious if the ladies would be fishing these rocks in the morning, I decided to go talk to them as they were packing up. These slightly "hippie-looking" girls lived in Tahoe and would be driving back that night. They were friendly and helpful, showing me how deep they were fishing and what flies they were using. We now had a game plan for tomorrow.

Before light we were at the "hippie-chick rocks", as we were now calling them. Kevin and I decided to fish the cove nearby and strip flies while Camron and Derek fished indicators off the rocks. At first light I set the hook on a substantial fish. It pulled hard and then made a run toward me. As it came near my ladder and into headlamp view, I caught a glimpse of the fish. 
"Kevin!" I shouted, realizing I would need some help.
The fished raced away and took all my fly line with it as I climbed down from my ladder to grab my net on the shore. Kevin slowly made his way down the beach just as the fish finally tired and I scooped it into the net. 
"Dang, that's a nice one," Kevin said. "I landed one up there but he was smaller."
We took some photos and measured the length of the fish: 30 inches.

The sun came over the hill as Kevin and I made our way back to the rocks. Derek had hooked 4 fish in the morning. The 4 of us lined the rocks and pounded the water for the next several hours. Camron and Derek had the hot hands as they landed several fish before lunch. 

I decided to hike back up to "bone rock" and fish for a while for a change of scenery. Once again the sun and glassy waters marked the weather for the day and after a couple hours of no fish, I returned to the "hippie chick rocks". The rest of the guys had caught a couple while I was gone but it had slowed. The guys commented on how they had seen a couple fish cruise in close to the bank. I let my flies drift in a tad closer than previous casts and my indicator took a dive. I set the hook and once again knew I had a significant fish. In the clear water we could see it was another very large fish. Camron filmed the entire battle on his go pro and after scooping the fish into the net, we weighed it: 12 pounds and 30 inches! Unfortunately, when I lifted the fish for a picture it shot out of my hands and back into the deep water. 

A little while later I brought in another mid 20 inch fish and so did Camron.

We finished the day like we had started it; Camron and Derek on the rocks and Kevin and I returning to the beach to strip flies. At last light, I hooked into a 26 inch gorgeous colored up male. Unfortunately we didn't get a picture of this fish either because my phone was dead and so was Kevin's.
We decided to finish out our last morning at a popular beach and rocky spot that we'd observed people fishing well over the last several days. Not having scouted this area, we made our way down in the dark to the rocks hoping to find a good spot. Camron and Kevin decided to strip flies on the beach. Right away, we could tell there were lots of fish nearby because they were rolling all over. I had just enough light to see my indicator, so I started fishing. I missed several take-downs before hooking into a scrappy fish. I quickly shook it free and resumed fishing the magic hour. I tied into another smaller fish and quickly released it as well. Fish were rolling all over. My indicator took a plunge again just as the sun was coming over the hill. After a great fight, Derek gave me a hand in netting and taking a picture of a 27 inch fish. 
Now that the sun was on the water, the morning magic faded and Camron and Kevin appeared. They had each landed one on the beach. The fish stopped rolling, but our neighbors a few rocks down began putting on a clinic catching big fish. We could tell these guys were jaded because they were releasing high 20 inch fish without even taking pictures. Envious, Kevin went over to talk to them and see what they were doing. Kevin gathered the "skinny" for next time, but unfortunately it was time for us to pack it up and head back home. 

Pyramid Lake had challenged us but also offered up some love. Despite tough conditions, we managed a few fish and a few nice ones at that. We all had some rough days and some days where it seemed one of us just had the special hand. We learned a ton about a unique fishery. I can honestly say I'm hooked and can't wait to return!