Trip Report | Pyramid Lake, Nevada

Here is the short story of our Got Fishing/Wild Fish Wild Places quarterly meeting/fishing trip to Pyramid Lake where we spent 3 days fishing for giant Lahontan Cutthroat Trout.
Kent and I pulled up to the lake well after dark and rolled out our bags. I always like getting to a place in the dark – there’s something about waking up to a new and foreign place. It was 28 degrees as I crawled in my bivy, I didn’t expect it to be warm anyway, and it was a beautiful clear night. I watched a few shooting stars before I drifted off to sleep, and you can bet what I wished on for the next day.
The excitement of what the day will bring is the best alarm to jolt me up out of a warm sleeping bag and into my clothes. We met Denis Isbister and his uncle Rod at the boat launch. We threw our gear in Rod’s boat and motored across the big lake. Rod hooked up before I could even get my line through the eyelets of my 6wt fly rod. I rigged up as fast as I could to get my line in the water. The day followed with Kent catching a few fish before I could add one of my own. Between the 4 of us we landed about 15 fish between 4-8 pounds! I thought it was a pretty good day but Denis said it was pretty slow.
The next morning we fished from the banks. We used ladders to get out a little farther trying to cast to the drop off and ultimately to where the fish were cruising. Kent landed one beautifully colored cutthroat before Brian and Kory showed up.
We decided to go fish a different part of the lake. Once there, we all fished hard from ladders, small rafts, and off of big rock points. Trying everything and changing flies and techniques multiple times to get the fish to bite without much success. Finally Brian, Kory, and Denis all caught one on either a balanced leech or chironomid under an indicator. Kent added two more by stripping little leeches from his one man catamaran. I didn’t get bit all day but it was fun to see everyone hook up! That night I grilled us up some wild game. While I cooked we had our quarterly team meeting. We talked business, new ideas, and new trips for us to explore and bring to our clients.
The third morning found us on the rocky points that had produced a few fish for us the night before. Besides, no one seemed to be doing well anywhere else so we figured it was our best bet. It was windy and blowing hard so we hoped it would churn up a feeding frenzy. Well it didn’t, but we worked hard changing flies and techniques while the wind blew sand in our eyes. The wind was gusting hard, this is how I expected the lake to be based on pictures I had seen. Kent caught one fish late into the morning before him and I decided to split around noon and head for home.
Brian and Kory fished it out for a few more hours. As luck would have it Brian landed a true representative of Pyramid Lake just a short while after we left. Kent and I got a text on our drive back to Idaho with Brian grinning with his trophy. We wished we could have been there to celebrate the success and see the old dinosaur in person a 10lb + Lahontan cutthroat! Brian stayed persistent and it payed off by catching what we all came for. Besides the slow fishing I was stoked one of us landed a trout over 10 pounds and capped off our first experience at Pyramid Lake on a high note.
The opportunity to catch a giant cutthroat is what draws so many people to this beautiful desert lake and I know we will be back to fish it again. We only slightly tasted what Pyramid Lake can produce and after talking to locals and others who regularly fish the lake we realize the potential and what is considered a “good” day of fishing. Denis said when “it’s on” a 20 fish day of 4-5 pound cutthroat is the standard with a few pushing 10 pounds and the occasional giant.
And if you go, there is plenty of camping along the lake but you will need to get a permit. Permits can be purchased at Crosby’s Lodge along with fishing licenses and anything else you need for your trip. If you want a more comfortable stay you can rent a trailer house from the lodge. It was nice to get out of the weather and wind and have a comfortable place to lay our heads.
by Patrick Kissel