Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, Pyramid Lake, NV – Nov. 19 to 21, 2016

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Ethan and I got in a long weekend at Pyramid Lake, prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. We again stayed at Crosby’s, in Sutcliffe, which is about as convenient as it gets, the lodge being located only a few minutes away from the South Nets beach!



We could not resist starting the day at South Nets, where, on our prior trip, I caught my biggest fish yet – about 10 lbs.

The first morning. Suiting up at South Nets

Our rented AWD Subaru Forester. You can get in trouble with a two-wheel drive vehicle on the sandy beaches of the lake. If you do get stuck, call the number shown below.

If you get stuck while on the

If you get stuck on the “rez” (the lake is on the Pyramid Lake Paiute reservation), call Rez-cue.


Ethan is stoked!

Here's my two-handed 9 wt. rod, which I found on sale at Cabela's in Reno, a few years before. Ethan is using a 7-piece Orvis 9 wt.

My two-handed 9 wt. rod, which I just happened to find on sale at Cabela’s in Reno, a few years ago. Ethan is using a 7-piece Orvis 9 wt. The “pyramid”, for which the lake is named, is seen across the lake.

Beach and lake at South Nets

Beach and lake at South Nets. The pyramid is seen straight across the lake.

Ethan, at South Nets

Ethan, at South Nets, with a regular-size (yes, that’s correct!) cutthroat

A typical Pyramid lake cutthroat

Another regular-size Pyramid Lake cutthroat. The thing seen in the water behind me is a temporarily vacated step-ladder. Many Pyramid Lake aficionados use such ladders or portable platforms equipped with seats.

I caught all my fish on either “woolies”, or foam beetles trailed behind the woolie. A woolie is a Wooly Worm, tied very bushy. The classic pattern is black, with a short red tail, tied on a 3x streamer hook, in sizes around 6 to 8. I leave the fly unweighted, since I use an Orvis Depth Charge line to get it down. Wooly Buggers, weighted or unweighted, also work well. I use a stripping basket, but most other fishermen don’t.

Ethan's wife, Flo, bought him this thjermos for the trip. Ethan added the Irish Cream

Ethan’s wife, Flo, bought him this extra-large thermos for the trip. Ethan added the Irish Cream.

Later in the morning we switched to another favorite spot - Monument

Later in the morning we switched to another favorite spot, located close to the north end of the lake – Monument Beach. A cluster of tufa pinnacles is seen at the head of the lake. Tufa is a calcium carbonate rock precipitated from the lake water. See below for a video of Monument Beach.

Coffee and danish!

Coffee break at Monument – coffee with Irish Cream and danish!

A windstorm blew up in the afternoon

A windstorm blew up in the afternoon. The greenish water shows that the drop-off is close by.

Telephoto shot of a tufa pinnacle, with the background obscured by blowing dust

Telephoto shot of a tufa pinnacle, with the background obscured by blowing dust

The wind drove us off the lake in mid-afternoon. Back to Crosby’s.

The two-sided bar

The two-sided bar


View to the lake


Big fish (and big boobs)


Unit #1



Is there such a thing as too much Irish Cream?

Is there such a thing as too much Irish Cream (or Jameson’s Irish Whiskey)?

We returned to Monument the following day. It was colder than the day before.



Ethan, with another typically-sized cutthroat

Ethan, with another typical cutthroat. Note the fresh snow in the mountains beyond.

Ethan's two rods

Ethan’s two rods. The rod on the right, a TFO Mangrove series 6 wt, is rigged with a strike indicator. A  woolie or leech, trailed by a foam beetle or nymph, is suspended at an appropriate depth below the indicator. The bobbing of the indicator animates the flies. Ethan had luck with a black Maholo nymph. The Maholo, in a variety of colors, is a local favorite that looks pretty much like a Pheasant Tail, but uses holographic tinsel for the abdomen.

The wind came up again in the afternoon, and we went in search of more-protected shorelines. We went first to Warrior Point, which was calm for awhile, and caught one fish there. Then we continued south to the appropriately named Windless Bay, and caught another fish there.

Windless Bay

Windless Bay

Then the sun set, and it was back to Crosby’s. It being Saturday night, Crosby’s served a very nice Tri-tip dinner, followed by a DJ playing country tunes. As we left, the crowd of locals were having a good ole time line dancing. Folks were dressed up western-style, of course, and it was quite a scene – and of the sort I rarely get that close to. But, being sufficiently liquored-up (see below photo), I enjoyed it a whole lot.

Saturday night dinner, in the company of other fishermen.

Saturday night dinner, in the company of other fishermen.

Pyramid Lake saved the best for last. We returned to South Nets for our final half-day of fishing. The weather was still unsettled, making for nice atmospherics.

Looking across the lake

Looking across the lake

Ethan and God beams

Ethan and God beams

God beams, closer view

God beams, closer view

And then it happened! I got a hard pull and immediately felt the weight and power of the fish as he started to empty the spool. But I was using 16 lb fluorocarbon tippet, and could put sufficient pressure on the fish to turn him back. He took a black woolie that I had tied for this trip.

The big one!

The big one!

The big one!

The big one!

The big one!

The big one!

Wanting to return this magnificent creature to the water sooner rather than later, I decided to forgo the rigamarole of trying to weigh and measure the fish, and, after taking these photos, was gratified to see him swim away. So how big was he? I’ll never know for sure, and your guess is as good as mine. Somewhere between 15 – 20 lbs, I’d guess.

It goes without saying that the chance to connect with a wild trout of this size is what keeps fishermen coming back to Pyramid Lake. Beyond that is the sheer beauty of this natural lake and the hospitality of the Paiute Tribe and the local merchants. Though we were obliged to drive through a snowstorm on Donner summit, Ethan and I  were back in Berkeley in 3 hrs and 45 minutes.

Finally, all but 2 of the photos seen here were taken by Ethan, with his new double-lens iPhone.

Here are links to my prior posts on fishing at Pyramid Lake.

About believesteve

I am a photographer and have published a book of photography and accompanying text on running the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The first (print) edition is out of print, but a second edition is available as an iBook (eBook) through the iTunes bookstore. All Grand Canyon, river and nature lovers will enjoy my book: I have also published two additional iBooks: 1. The Salt River: 2. Coyote Buttes:
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