Written by: Joseph Evans
Pyramid Lake, Nevada is one of the best Stillwater fisheries across the globe.
The alkaline saltwater in the lake grows the largest strain of Cutthroat trout in today’s existence, the Lahontan Cutthroat trout. There are two strains: The Pilot Peak (hatchery – brude stock) and the native Summit. The Pilot Peak strain grows up to sizes of 20lbs as it feasts on a small baitfish called Tui Chub and filter feeds aquatic insects. The geography of Pyramid Lake goes back and forth from massive rocks which give the appearance you could be on Mars, to long, gravel beaches. Anglers will fish from boats or most commonly, bank fish. The large fish don’t stay too far off the shoreline as the majority of their food is located there. As a result, anglers will fish off the rocks or bring a ladder, placing it in the water right off the shelves or drop-offs along the beaches.
For the last two years, I have been making trips to Pyramid Lake to chase this immaculately sized trout. This year, I brought with me my girlfriend Annika and two close friends, Bradley and Emily. What most don’t understand is that fishing this place is an absolute grind. The best fishing is right as the sun rises and right as it is going down. The weather can be brutal as well, extremely strong winds and cold storms. Despite the conditions, ultimately the trick to catching these fish is keeping a line wet - basically fish 24/7. These large fish cruise the shoreline and you never know when a 20lb fish could be approaching your fly.
There are two different methods to fish Pyramid Lake: simply choosing a beach and wading or bringing a ladder and stripping. Stripping uses a full sink line, dredging the bottom with a big fly up front to kick up mud with a back fly beetle pattern to float up. The other method is indicator fishing with a floating line.
This year, we chose to balance chironomids and leeches under a bobber off the beaches, but usually from rockier structures. We picked a spot near a cove with rocks and used switch rods and Scandi or Skagit floating lines to roll cast these rigs out. We used a double chironomid rig in a size 12. Snowcone midges or any color Zebra midge does just fine while using 3x tippet. A big bobber is key to keep your flies afloat as these fish will rip it under.
The Pyramid Lake fishery is most prominent in the winter months, November to April. This is when the fish are most shallow and become easiest to target as a shoreline angler. In the fall, the fish are fattening up for the winter, bigger flies and balanced leeches through January will produce less eats, but the largest fish. As the transition from January to April occurs, big fish are still around to spawn, but the numbers increase with it. Don’t be surprised having a 30-fish hay day in the 18-24” range in April.
Aside bearing through the wind and rainstorms, 4AM wake up calls and a parched appetite all day, this is one special place. The fish are large and being beside friends will ensure some of the greatest memories. Every year, I excite myself for Pyramid Lake any time it crosses the mind.