Part 4 – Three-Season Fishing at Pyramid Lake
by Miles Zimmerman
Part 4 in a Series about Fly Fishing at Pyramid Lake
Pyramid is open for fishing from October 1 through June 30. Conditions at Pyramid can change in an instant and one thing I cannot stress enough is to bring a number of different layering options and more clothing than you’ll think you’d ever need. As well as a back-up pair of clothes in case you get soaked from a rogue wave or a heavy squall. This is very much like fishing in an inland sea and preparation is key to a successful and comfortable day out here. December through March will be the colder months and it can get quite uncomfortable out here with consistent 20-30 MPH winds and sub-freezing temperatures. This can be some of the better time to get into fish however as the fish will come in shallow when nasty weather is present. The weather is sporadic at best and checking the weather before you go out is a must. The early season in October and November can make for some spotty fishing conditions as the fish can still be in deeper water depending on water temperatures. Yet the fish will be less pressured during this time of year as they haven’t been fished for all summer.
Early Season – October and November
When this lake opens on October 1st there is always a lot of buzz from the fishing community concerning this lake. Fall can make for some spotty fishing conditions for fly fishers, as the fish can still be in deeper water depending on water temperatures. Conversely, the fish will be less pressured during this time of year, as they haven’t been fished all summer. This is usually when boat anglers do best as they are able to target fish in the deeper water and cover a lot of water. A common way for fly fishers to approach the lake early season would be via a float tube or pontoon. If you do decide to go this route, please be very cautious as the inconsistent weather patterns in this area can make for a very quick change in conditions. Be sure to bring a Personal Floating Device (PFD), stay close to the shore and have a plan in mind in case you capsize. Back kicking a fast sinking line with a streamer imitating a tui chub can be very effective this time of year as the tui chub will school up to spawn in the early fall. This can make for some very exciting fishing if the stars align and you get on top of a ‘bait ball’ of these fish as the cutthroat have been known to sit underneath them and pick off the wounded fish as well as slash through the balls to cripple them.
Winter – December through March
As Winter sets in, the water temperature plummet and the fish will be in moving up into the shallows most of the day. During this time of year, you can reach them from the shore predictably throughout the entire day. Both stripping streamers and using an indicator set up can do well during this time. However, I believe this is when the indicator set up with a balanced leech below it really shines. The advantage of the indicator during the winter is that the fly stays in the strike zone longer and when the fish’s metabolisms slow down, they often don’t want to chase their meals down. The balanced leech also works well when 1-2 foot swells are present as this moves the fly both up and down but also pushes it around, thus covering a vast amount of water. When the lake has no waves present a leech can still work fished totally dead still, but a lot of times doing a hand twist retrieve, slow strips or even just the occasional bump can elicit more strikes. Pairing the leech with a midge above it is a good way to cover your bases and can be a good test of what the fish area preferring that day. Sometimes playing around with fly selection, depth and movement can get you into more fish, other times it’s just luck of the draw. That’s Pyramid for you. I was told by long time Pyramid angler Bill Ladner “If you think you know how to fish Pyramid, you’re full of crap”. Basically, just go out there with a good assortment of gear and flies and mix it up until you find consistent success. Easier said than done.
Spring Fishing – April through June
Spring is personally my favorite time of year to fish here as the days get longer, the fishing remains good most of the day and the fish begin to switch to eating more bugs than bait fish. Cutthroat are spring spawning fish and usually around April or May they are schooled up and doing their pre-spawn mating dance. Often times you will find yourself sight fishing off the shore, picking off individual fish in less than 2 feet of water. When sight fishing here, I recommend using a 7-weight rod with floating line and a small lightly weighted streamer on a long leader to keep your fly further away from your fly line. Make sure to place the fly well ahead of the fish to give it plenty of time to sink and avoid spooking them as they can get very tight lipped during this time. While the ones that you can see are fun to target, they will also be some of the toughest to get to eat. It's easy to get fixated on these shallow water cruiser but don’t forget, for every one that you see there will be hundreds you don’t see. This is where indicator fishing using midges, copper johns and other attractor nymphs will be best. Focus on significant drop offs and color changes when fishing this way and don’t be afraid to set you flies as shallow as 3-4 feet. Also try spacing out you flies by a few feet to see what depth they are in and adjust accordingly.
Camping at Pyramid
We’ve learned to make the most of our time out at Pyramid. For us, Spring makes for the best camping here and if you are looking to plan a family trip here this would be the time to do it. Long days mean you can be ok with taking a break from fishing for an hour or two make some lunch and get some shade (it can get hot out here in the spring!). The desert sunrises and sunsets can be awe inspiring and the stargazing at this lake is also spectacular as there in no light pollution. Also, there is great boating opportunities and they even sell fireworks at the marina store (please check the latest regulations concerning fireworks and always clean up after yourself). Camping permits are also available online at https://pyramidlake.us/permits.
I hope this article helped you to understand why this lake is so unique and why it deserves our attention as anglers, lovers of the outdoors and as conservationists. Always recreate here responsibly and understand that getting to visit this lake is an honor and a privilege granted onto us by the people that own and care for this land. I see this lake as a very spiritual place and hopefully when you visit here you will see it in the same way. The 20-pound trout residing in here are just a bonus.
We’d be happy to help make your Pyramid Lake experience as good as can be. Send us a note at the shop, give us a call, or just drop on by to talk. We can get you outfitted and matched up to a guide too. Tight lines!