Traveling to different fishing spots has, in my opinion, always been a time to reflect or reflect on what to expect once I finally arrive at my destination. This is especially true when driving and not flying. Western fishing destinations usually mean one has miles and miles of road to conquer. You can only listen to a limited number of radio stations, books on tape or news networks before boredom sets in.
On my recent trip to Pyramid Lake in Nevada last week, boredom set in the moment I arrived at the Farson Junction. I am not joking. The roads aren’t too crowded with tourists or locals at this time of year. I listened to satellite radio but used it for background noise more than anything else as I counted state license plates, antelopes, deer and even small herds moose near South Pass.
Once I managed to emerge unscathed across the ever rough highways, interstate interchanges, and drivers from Park City, Utah, to the Salt Lake City area, before me lay the salt pans of the great Salt Lake and the empty roads of Nevada for the next 530 miles on Interstate 80. This gave me plenty of time to rehearse how I had planned to approach Lahontan cutthroat trout swimming in Pyramid Lake.
Last time was late October 2021. The fishing was good and the trout were willing. Since I fly fished 99.99% of the time, the flies that tricked trout the most on my October excursion were balanced leeches and large gnat pupae fly patterns. I was hoping that the flies I had tied for this trip would be as successful as those used six months earlier. To make sure I got plenty of flies, I called guides and other friends of mine who fished Pyramid regularly to find out what fly options would work if the leeches and gnats weren’t successful.
Connoisseurs have suggested I attach several different patterns of beetles and caddis that Lahontans like to eat in early spring. Compared to what we would use in Cody Country, the beetle flies were huge. To be better prepared, it was also suggested that I tie dumbbell eye streamers, just in case.
Time flies faster when solving puzzles or daydreaming about big trout. Before long, 14 hours and 40 minutes ended in Sutcliffe, Nevada, which is located on the Paiute Indian Reservation and the place to purchase a non-resident tribal fishing license for Pyramid Lake. After becoming a legal fisherman, I drove one of the lake access roads and rigged. Now was the time to test my skills and my hand-tied flies on the lake’s huge cutthroat.
Since there was no wind (more on that later) upon arrival, the lake was flat and clear with nothing but small rolling waves splashing the shore. Conditions were perfect to try out a red-bodied moss beetle to see how things would play out when thrown onto the waters of the lake. Trout were visibly present. Many large fish in the 25+ category were rolling or swirling around in the wide, shallow bay I had chosen to fish. There were no other anglers for hundreds of yards so I wouldn’t trample anyone. Also, I had a great visual on the large pyramid-shaped rock that gives the lake its name as a backdrop for the landscape.
I waded waist-deep from the shore and threw myself into the deep blue water of the lake. It may have been five minutes before I had my first take. I’m not ashamed to say I blew the hook. It happens as you all know. However, I got a tug and a positive response from my beetle. Tug is the drug it’s been said, so I re-triggered my fly in the rough vicinity of my first hold. Again, a whirlwind and my fly was gone. He had been sucked into what appeared to be a very nice Lahontan cutthroat. But this time I was ready. I leaned on my rod and put all the energy I could into my hook set.
The line has come loose from my reel. Within minutes I was hoping my 12 pound leader was up to scratch and also hoping the trout weren’t going to straighten my hook. My luck withstood the battle and I put my first Pyramid trout in my net. A 5-pound, 25-inch cutthroat is a great start to the day. I fished the beetle alone for a few more trout, before changing my fly rig from a one to two fly setup. My leader was 9ft 2X tied to an olive balanced leech then another 3ft 3X tippet was tagged on the back of the leech hook and attached to a green bodied beetle with a white foam back .
This system was suggested to me by a good friend Bill Brady from SoCal whose daughter now lives in Cody. This combo also worked very well. As I retrieved the leech pattern, the weighted leech caused my beetle to dive, then float again while I paused in my stripping action. It turned out to be a deadly duo combination. By late afternoon, my arm was worn down from the fish fights and I had to head to Reno to check into a hotel and meet some friends who came to meet me for the next few days. I will try this setup on East Newton and Luce Reservoir as soon as this cold weather passes.
I was lucky to have had a good day of action on some decent sized cutthroats before the wind and cold swept through Pyramid Lake in a cloud of dust as the wind piled waves of 2 to 4 feet on the beaches the following days. Because I had traveled over 900 miles to get to Pyramid to meet up and fish with a friend and because the wind and I are no strangers to each other, I continued fishing the next day or two days despite the bad weather. In fact, my friend and I continued fishing. So did hundreds of other anglers who expected to catch one of these Lahontans much larger than 25 inches. We saw large cutthroats swimming past us as the waves crashed on the beach and the wind blew, but we saw very few trout land due to the conditions. More than a few cruising trout easily pushed 14, 17, 20+ pounds, but connections were rare after the first day.
After finally packing up my gear and putting Pyramid Lake in my rearview mirror to retrace my route back to Cody on Thursday last week, my thoughts of getting home were different than when I left Park County on Friday. previous. Instead of expectations, I had disappointment and frustration to contend with on the ride. One thing I’ve resolved to do though is not to give up, but to return to Pyramid Lake and try my luck one more time for its massive Lahontan Cutthroat. Someday in the future I not only have dreams to sustain me, but definite plans to come back and put my fly in the mouth of one, if not more, or those fabulously huge cutthroat trout. That would be bullying, don’t you agree?