Part 3 – Fishing at Pyramid Lake
by Miles Zimmerman
Part 3 in a Series about Fly Fishing at Pyramid Lake
Ok, I hope I didn’t get too serious for you there. Now let’s talk about the fun stuff, the fishing!
Pyramid Lake Fishing Rules & Guidelines
Pyramid Lake is a winter fishery, open to fishing from October 1 through June 30. Fishing requires the use of barbless hooks (single, double or treble) with restrictions on use of baits and scents. You are able to use up to two hooks on you set up and the tribe uses a slot limit system of 17-20 inches and 24 inches or larger. You can keep 2 fish between 17-20 inches or 1 fish between 17-20 inches and 1 fish 24 inches or larger. Meaning all fish smaller than 17 inches or between 20-24 inches must be released. You are not allowed to keep 2 fish over 24 inches in the same day. It is open from October 1st through June 30th. Please check the Pyramid Lake Paiute website for all other regulations before fishing here at https://pyramidlake.us/fishing.
How to Fly Fish for Lahontan Cutthroat Trout at Pyramid Lake
Due to the size of this lake it is easy to be overwhelmed on your first outing there. But worry not as these fish tend to be within 20-30 feet of the shore and in 6-12 feet of water very often. Sometimes fishing further out and in deeper water is best but when the water temps are in the 50-60 degree range focusing your efforts close in will often get you into fish with regularity. A typical fly rod set up for out here would be a 9-10 foot 7-8 weight rod with either a floating line for indicator fishing, or a fast sinking line with a type 5-7 sink rate matched in weight or even one weight heavier than your rod (i.e. a 9 weight floating line on a 8 weight rod). Make sure to check your lines specifications however as most common lines made for indicator fishing are already weighted anywhere from a half a weight to one and a half weights heavy as are most sinking lines to aid in loading the rod and make casting easier. Switch rods (two-handed fly rods) are also becoming increasingly popular out here and make roll casting an indicator very simple while providing ample fish fighting power. In terms of switch rods, a 11-12 foot in a 5-7 weight is sufficient for most situations out here. These rods do fall short when casting a sinking line however and a single hand rod with a good double haul with outperform in this situation, stick with a switch specific floating line if using a switch rod for best results. If you’re not sure about the setup, stop by the shop and we can show you some options. Check out the post from TCO Contributor Scott Keith about his first experience out at Pyramid in January.
Pyramid Lake Fly Rod Setup Options
A standard indicator set up involves using a 9-foot tapered leader in a 1-2x and preferably fluorocarbon as it aids in sinking you flies faster, is stronger compared to nylon relative to its diameter and is less visible to fish. An indicator is attached on the line depending on desired depth (8-foot fly depth is usually a good starting point) and a 3/4-1 inch indicator with a bright color is recommend depending on the amount of chop present. I’ve become a big fan of Jay Cockrum’s Jaydacator’s for Pyramid as they float high are brightly colored and have unmatched sensitivity.
Pyramid Lake Recommended Flies to Use
Pyramid Lake Fly selection depends on time of year and conditions. Two year-round go-to’s here would be midges and balanced leeches. While you might think of midges as those dainty little pupa that you use in a size 18-22 during normal trout fishing, when fishing midges in this lake, we are using a vastly oversized version tied on a hook size of 8-12. Some people do fish down to a 16 size, but good luck landing a 20+ pound fish on a hook this small. Even a size 12 is pushing it. Balanced leeches are a fairly new invention originated by the Stillwater legend Phil Rowley and they recently found their way onto the starting lineup for most every avid Pyramid Lake angler as they can represent such a huge variety of different bugs and fish. This attractor style of fly can be tied in a number of different ways to imitate everything from leeches, damselfly, and dragonfly nymphs, to various baitfish found in the lake by changing color, size, profile, adding eyes, etc. It’s simply one of the single best still water flies in use today. It was designed to be dead drifted under an indicator but you can bump, twitch, strip or drift it with great success in a number of situations. During the spring when more bugs are present, indicator fishing using attractor nymphs such as large copper johns, Pat’s Rubberlegs, and even worm and egg patterns can do quite well. Just make sure the hooks are up to snuff for a 20-pound trout!
For your sinking line set up, a much shorter leader from 4-6 feet is used to ensure your flies turn over easier when casting with less tangles and this will also aid in a more uniform sinking of your flies so you stay connected to them at all times. A nylon leader is preferred in this situation as nylon has a better abrasion resistance, a higher knot strength and has a slight stretch which aids as a shock absorber for the vicious strikes when these fish attack streamers. Once again while fly selection can change depending on time of year good go-to’s for your streamer set up would be the Midnight Cowboy and a Popcorn Beetle. The Midnight Cowboy is a tried and true pattern originally tied by Dave Stanley who started both Truckee River Outfitters here in Truckee and Reno Fly Shop. It is essentially a variant of the woolly bugger tied in black with hints of red and blue flash and typically found on a size 4 streamer hook. The inventor of the Pyramid Beetle is Ike Berry, and it originated in 1993 after a simple observation of these beetles presence in the lake. They where originally tied in more subdued colors and in a lot smaller in sizes and eventually a white foam top with chartreuse estate body on a scud hook in a size 6-8 became the most fished. Other good fly patterns for stripping at pyramid would be various styles and colors of woolly buggers and other streamers imitating the different bait fish present which include tui chub, cui-ui, Sacramento perch, Tahoe sucker, and trout fry. Check out our Pyramid Fly Collection on our website to see what we mean.
A standard approach for stripping flies out here would be to cast out as far as possible and let your line sink as long as you can humanly stand and retrieve your fly with a strip-pause-strip-pause. The length of your strip and the timing of your pause can vary day to day so just mix it up until you find your rhythm, they do usually prefer it on the slower side however so that is where I would recommend starting.