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Spring means Pyramid Lake

Bruce Ajari

Spring means that the large Lahontan Cutthroat trout of Pyramid Lake in Nevada will soon begin to show up in the shallows to begin to spawn. Called “Big Red” these large trout begin to congregate near the town of Sutcliffe in an area called the Nets.

This large lake, northeast of Reno, sits entirely within the Paiute Indian Reservation. Anglers need not have a Nevada fishing license, but are required to have a day or season permit to fish. Angling costs $6 per day or $32 per season. Boat permits carry an additional charge.

Permits can be picked up at the lake, or at some sporting goods shops in Reno. Only angling with artificial lures is permitted.

Anglers fishing from boats, or the shore can find good success in the spring. The shore anglers typically fish with spinning or fly fishing gear.

Tor-p-do lures are a favorite of the spin fishermen as well as flies. Flies are simple woolly worm or woolly bugger patterns typically in large sizes such as a No. 8 through No. 4. Effective colors include black, purple, olive and white. Other colors such as chartreuse and pink can also provide some action.

Fly fishermen use fly rods that range from a 6 to 10 weight rod, depending on the wind and weather conditions. A fast sinking shooting head is the usual line of choice. If you are purchasing a standard sinking head, the rule of thumb is to get a shooting head one weight greater than your rod weight. This can vary depending on the action of your fly rod.

One of the most unique techniques that fly and spin fishermen use are ladders or milk crates to stand on to aid casting. Standing on a platform allows an angler to let his or her arms hang down freely and puts less stress on the shoulders and neck. It also permits the anglers to stay out of the water a little more and aids them in staying warm.

On a recent trip to Pyramid, the weather was pretty foul in Truckee. This is usually a good sign when you are heading to this lake. As one of my friends used to put it, “if you aren’t suffering, you can’t catch fish!”

The weather this day seemed perfectly suited to “suffering.” It was cold and inclement and the waves could knock you off your casting platforms. Unfortunately, the fish figured that we were not suffering enough. It had to be one of the slowest days that I had ever seen at Pyramid, particularly in recent times. We did not get even a strike.

Pyramid has really benefited from the influx of water coming into the lake because of the five good winters in a row that we have experienced in the Sierra. The water level is at its highest point since I began fishing the lake.

All this water has created very favorable conditions for growing fish. Even the small ones are showing some great signs of growth. They are fat and healthy, and more fish in the double-digit range are beginning to show up.

Fishing at Pyramid is what I call social fishing, since you are typically fishing in a huge crowd, called a line-up. A line-up can stretch for miles during the spring because the fish are generally very plentiful.

Do not go there in the spring and expect to find peace and solitude. It is just not going to happen. Instead, take a group of friends and make an outing of it and plan on socializing.

It is always nice to know the person fishing next to you, but if you don’t you will have an opportunity to during the day.

I did notice a couple of other things with all of the water. First, casting a fly can sometimes be tricky because of the higher banks behind you, depending on your location. Secondly, you can also find yourself finding more obstructions, such as submerged sagebrush, than you could in the past. This can lead to more lost flies and even lines.

Fishing will only get better from here until the season ends on June 30.

With an opportunity to hook a double-digit Lahontan Cutthroat trout, most anglers are willing to put up with the crowds to fish this lake. If you have not tried fishing here, it is worth the ride out there to give it a whirl. Maps and good advice are available at most sporting goods shops to help you find the best locations to fish.


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