Another article in my astounding series of Nevada waters
Pyramid Lake is located about 35 miles or so north of Reno and is where the Truckee River goes to die. Pyramid is nearly as large as Lake Tahoe and the lake is well known for its stark beauty and summer water sports. But nothing can overshadow Pyramid's world famous Lahontan cutthroat fishery. These are the largest cutthroats in the world, sometimes exceeding 20 lbs!
It wasn’t always this way though. If you can believe it, Pyramid (and Lake Tahoe) once supported cutthroats that exceeded 50 lbs! When John C. Fremont discovered Pyramid and its fish, he was astounded by the fish’s size and flavor and this ultimately led to the fish’s demise. Soon their was a thriving commercial fishery and inevitably the population was devastated. Further damage came in the form of introduced species and dams along the Truckee River. Finally, the Pyramid giants became extinct.
Fortunately, a population of Lahontan cutthroats was found at Summit Lake in northern Nevada. Ultimately, those fish were used to restock Pyramid, though they do not reach the mammoth proportions of the original Pyramid fish. They also no longer are able to spawn up the Truckee River through Reno and up to Lake Tahoe. Most of their reproduction is handled by the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe whose lands surround Pyramid Lake, not mother nature.
Today, Pyramid is an excellent fishery and fish over 10 lbs. are caught most every week, many by fly fishermen. Most of the fly fishers employ the ladder technique, whereby one drags a ladder out into the water, stands on it and casts. The purpose is to twofold. One, this gets the angler out of the frigid winter water and two, allows the angler to fish deeper and near the drop off. The drop off is very important as during much of the year the fish will school just beyond the drop off and make trips up onto the flats to forage. When the water cools in the winter, these trips are more frequent. This is where you come in.
When employing this method a stout, fast action rod is required. Most anglers use a 7 to 10 weight rod, large capacity real with a disk drag and employee fast sink shooting head line to maximize distance and get to the bottom quickly. Because the possibility exists to hook into a 15 to 20 pounder, the equipment should be of the highest quality. Additionally, because Pyramid is salty, 1/6th as salty as the ocean, salt water tackle isn’t a bad idea. At the very least wash your equipment thoroughly at the end of the day. If you don’t have the perfect set up, though, you can still fish Pyramid. I have used my 5 weight with full sink line and caught fish without the use of a ladder.
Most of the time, Pyramid requires little in the way of matching the hatch. Wooly worms are the fly of choice, with color being the only variation. A size 6 or 8 wooly worm in both light and dark colors will do the trick. Some anglers have boxes full of them and nothing else. Some popular colors include black, purple, chartreuse and white. Because many of the strikes are more from curiosity or anger, a little flash doesn’t hurt. Whatever you do, leave the wooly buggers at home. The tails often induce short strikes. My favorite is a chartreuse body with white hackle.
Now, that covers the norm out at Pyramid, but many times it can be very different. Depending on conditions, the cutts can be had on midges, dragon fly nymphs or actually just about any lake fly. Some anglers have begun using float tubes and pontoons especially during the spring spawn. In the spring, on the back side of the lake near Fox Bay, I have sight fished for cruising 20-inch fish. In other words, don’t get locked into one method and be creative, especially when the fishing is slow.
The easiest way to get there is take the Pyramid Highway (SR 445) out of Reno and head north. When you reach the lake, left will take you to Sutcliffe where they have a store and boat launching facilities, right will take you to Nixon and the east side of the lake. Pyramid Lake licenses can be had at the Pyramid Lake Store on SR 445 near the lake, in Sutcliffe and many outdoor stores in the Reno area, including the Reno Fly Shop. The Reno Fly Shop is also a great source of information and reports.
Pyramid Lake is open from October 1st through June 30th for trout, all year for other species. There is no bait allowed at Pyramid, and "legal keeper" size for trout is 16 to 19 inches, and/or 24 inches & longer. Only one trout over 24 inches allowed in possession. Catch limit is two trout per day, but not more than one of them may be 24 inches or longer. For example, you may keep two trout between 16 and 19 inches; OR, you may keep one between 16 and 19 inches, and one over 24 inches. In addition to fishing and boating, dispersed camping is allowed at Pyramid for fee. Firearms and hunting are not! Remember Pyramid Lake is on Paiute Tripe lands and subject to different laws and regulations. Familiarize yourself with the rules before you go.
That ought to get you going. For more information see the links below and good luck!
Reno Fly Shop (775) 825-FISH:
Pyramid Fishers Website with information and the regulations:
Pyramid Lake Map: