Angling from the Top Rung

Angling from the Top Rung


If you would have told me while I stood on the third rung of a latter painting as a side job through high school that years later I would be hunting trout from a similar step, I would have looked at you like you were crazy. Just when you think a 20lb cutthroat is a myth, Pyramid Lake located near Reno, NV will make you believe any goal on the fly is possible. With a depth of 300 feet and the Truckee River delivering fresh water to salt, this has to be one of the most unique fisheries on the planet. 

Photo by Landon Mayer 

There are advantages to standing tall above the waters surface: sight fishing the cruising trout along the shoreline, the freedom of movement for a long cast, and reaching some of the drop lines that are located 100 feet offshore. Some of the ladders seen on Pyramid are fully loaded version with swivel seats on top, but a 4-6 ft standard a frame will work just fine.  Don’t be fooled though, there are also many drop lines that can be found a rods length away from the water line, eliminating the need for ladders. A topo map showing depth of the lake is key for productive shoreline fishing. This will expose prime spots where the drop line is next to shore. Weather permitting, pontoons and u-tube boats can also be a great tool for navigating and standing along the drop line with the promise of reasonable wind.  After experiencing the lake during spring the previous two years, the promise of 20 plus lb pilot peak strain Lahontan cutthroat trout that where stocked in 2006 growing at an estimated rate of ½ inch per month was irresistible. So in November after seeing giants landed in reports the fall before, Angus, Phil, Jeff, and I reserved an RV in Reno named “fish bus” and headed to the beaches we would call home for the next 4 days.

Photo by Angus Drummond 

Our first day was filled with a constant wind of 5-10 MPH and cloud cover all day. If anyone is wondering what conditions are ideal for still water fishing on the fly, this is it. Big fish chop with clouds to give the fish confidence to get close to shore and feed. While also lifting and dropping your flies in a jigging motion when using a nymph rig. This is very helpful as trout in still waters are in constant motion looking for the next meal. The remaining days where magical from an aesthetic view, but challenging to say the least, with pure sun and no wind to make hunting a success. Many stories where told during midday as we paid our dues in wait of the low feeding light. Becoming early birds at sunrise and bats at dusk, these two to three hour windows produced the best result in clear/calm conditions.

Photo by Landon Mayer

One of the most productive strategies in these calm conditions is fishing streamers with full sink lines type 6-8, using a 7-8wt rod and a foam tied Pyramid Lake Tadpole (a 2-3mm foam strip pulled over a cactus chenille body and a trailing marabou tail). This floating fly allowed our sinking line to scrape the lake’s bottom while the tadpole wiggled a few feet above. You need this deep end rig because some of these large fish will find refuge in depths of 30 feet or more right next to shore. This dark environment gives the trout confidence by not seeing movement from above. Using 30-60 seconds (literally watch the timer on your clock after you make a cast) soaks as we call it will finally get your fly down to the thirty-foot zone. We were excited to use this discipline all week knowing, as they say, that the tug is the drug. Even then, we had a second 6wt sticks on deck for shoulder relief (rigged nymphs and midges below indicators). Some do not believe this method is as effective, but I have to disagree. On almost all the still waters I have fish from west to east coast, this method has produced consistently every time. The trick is finding the right feeding depth. Once this is discovered, it is game on.

With our biggest fish of the week hovering around 12-13 lbs the adventure was a success. Losing, landing, and seeing these giants searching for Tui Chubs and other meals along the edge will forever keep us coming back for more, in addition to wondering what monster can cork an 8 wt while moving along the shore and spit the fly so fast there was no way to react! In comparing the two seasons the late winter spring bite seems to offer more numbers of fish for daily activity. While the fall seemed to offer less numbers with the understanding that you could at any time see incredible size. You can realistically expect during both times of year more and more fish growing above the 20lb mark. We where all blown away to think that in our lifetimes we could have shots at 30-40 lb trout (every fly fishing addicts dream). So if you are looking for an adventure with friends, Pyramid is a sure bet on the fly.

Landon Mayer
Florissant, CO
Landon Mayer Fly Fishing

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