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Testing fishing techniques on Pyramid shore

Bruce Ajari
Provided to the SunBruce Ajari shows off a nice Lahontan cutthroat trout he pulled out of Pyramid Lake.
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Shore fishing in a body of water as large as Pyramid Lake, northeast of Reno on the Pyramid Lake Paiute Indian Reservation, can be intimidating for the neophyte angler. At 27 miles long and four to 11 miles wide, Pyramid is a large high desert lake.

I am sure that most anglers, like myself, when seeing it for the first time are a bit overwhelmed at its size. The first question that comes to mind is just where do I fish? The second is how do I fish it?

I have discussed the first question in some depth in previous columns, but suffice to say that fishing a large lake should not be any different than fishing a small one. Apply what you know about where and when to catch fish as you would when fishing your own favorite lake.

The second question is also relatively straight forward. Shore anglers fish with either spinning or fly fishing gear. Anglers must keep in mind that only artificial lures or flies are permitted.

The one unique element about shore fishing at Pyramid Lake is that many anglers use ladders or milk crates on which to stand. Anglers typically wade out as deep as they can to try and access the drop-offs where fish cruise in search of food.

Sometimes these drop-offs can be accessed without such a platform, but most times one of these is generally necessary. The one exception is that during the spring, the fish will cruise very shallow water and using a platform can spook the fish.

The reason anglers fish from the ladders or milk crates really involves angler comfort. Standing on these platforms gets a good part of the angler out of the very cold water, allowing them to be just a bit warmer. It also prevents fatigue from casting. Without the platform an angler would have to keep their arms fairly high while fishing, causing muscle fatigue. By fishing from a platform, they can let their arms hang down naturally after casting.

Finally, on calmer days, being on a platform lets the angler peer down into the water more easily. Many times fish can be seen following the lure or flies. An angler has a good opportunity to catch these “following” fish.

For fly fishermen, a technique called the Pyramid Lift is employed. As the transition from fly line to leader approaches, the angler will stop retrieving the line and slowly lift the leader and flies towards the surface and pause, watching the loop created above the water. If a fish takes the flies, the loop will straighten out. Sometimes this take is sudden and sharp, while other times it will just slowly straighten. When this happens the angler will set the hook. Some days the Pyramid Lift will account for as much as 90 percent of the fish caught. The tip here is to be sure and fish your lure or flies all the way back to you, otherwise you could miss many opportunities.

The spin fishing techniques are relatively straight forward. Most anglers use either large lures such as Tor-P-Dos, Marabou jigs or flies with a triple swivel and weight. The lures are then retrieved in either a jigging motion or a steady retrieve with varying speeds.

During the spring and fall when the fish are in the shallows in large numbers, many spin fishermen use much lighter lures with a constant retrieve such as Kastmasters or even spinners. The rationale here is that the longer casts are not necessary because the fish are in so close.

Most spin fishermen use line anywhere from eight- to 12-pound test. However, you can go a bit higher if you use fluorocarbon lines.

For fly fishermen, the typical Pyramid setup involves a nine-foot, six- to eight-weight rod, a matching sinking shooting heard or fly line and a six- to nine-foot leader. Tie on two woolly buggers, sizes 4-8 in a dark and light combination and you have it. A pair of foam beetles is also a good choice in the same dark and light combination in sizes 4-10. This combination is best in the fall and spring, but has caught fish in the winter months. This is the everyday setup.

I like to put a mark on my fly line or shooting head (about a five-inch sink rate) at the point where it reaches my hand where I normally do the Pyramid Lift. When the conditions are windy it allows me to know exactly where the line and leader are at the point of the lift. The mark has a noticeable feel as it comes through the tip-top, and then you can feel it in your hand and automatically lift. This saves a lot of eye strain on those less-than-ideal weather days.

The shooting head is a good choice for the cooler months when long casts are the rule, but when the fish are in during the spring and fall, a full sinking fly line allows the angler more control when the distance is not needed.

Another technique that has become popular in the past four or five years is the use of a floating line, a strike indicator, a leader of nine to 15 feet with a tippet of six to 10 pounds (generally fluorocarbon) and two bead-head nymphs sizes 10-14. A number of flies work, but a red, black and olive are popular combinations. This technique is very popular during the spring and fall when the fish are in shallow water and accessible from shore. This is not a technique that typically works real well during the winter months when the fish are in deep water, but during the spring and fall it can provide some of the fastest action an angler can experience.

Sometimes the fish prefer movement, so many anglers will take the indicators off and fish the nymphs with a slow retrieve. This method also works very well when the fish are in shallow water.

Whatever your preference, fishing Pyramid Lake can be a terrific experience. The fish are among the largest that most anglers will catch in their lifetime.

One warning: If you are looking for solitude, this in not the place. Typically, anglers fish in a lineup along the drop-offs. You will have a neighbor 15 to 20 feet on each side of you when the fishing is good. I like to call Pyramid fishing a social fishing trip! Go with some friends and you can have a terrific time.

Bruce Ajari is a Truckee resident and regular fishing columnist for the Sierra Sun and other area newspapers.


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