Pyramid Lake & Lahontan Cutthroat Trout

I'm a self taught fly fisherman.   As a teenager I would watch fishing shows of guys fly fishing and I decided I needed to try that someday.  I mowed lawns for an entire summer to afford to buy a Sage Discovery series kit with an 8.5 foot 5 weight rod.   I still fish that rod regularly.  

Fast forward a few years.  While in my twenties I began to be aware of all the different strains of Cutthroat Trout in the West.  I had caught Bonneville Cutthroat on my home water in Utah.  I caught my first Colorado River Cutthroat while fishing the Green River in Wyoming.   It started a desire to complete the Wyoming Cutt-Slam and also sparked an interest in all the various species of Trout that I could catch.   Doing some research I came across the mysterious Lahontan Cutthroat.   Rumors of fish that exceeded 50lbs had my full attention.   I started a book/journal of all the Trout & Salmonoid species I could find - it is sort of my fishing "bucket-list" book.   The goal is to catch and take a picture with each species.   I'm a long way from even reaching half of the list, but I had an excuse to go to Reno Nevada and therefore a chance to go after a Lahontan Cutthroat Trout.

Pyramid Lake sits on the Paiute Indian Reservation about 30 minutes north of Reno & Sparks Nevada.   If you have seen pictures of people standing on ladders while waving a fly rod in the air you have seen Pyramid Lake.   The Lahontan Cutthroat was once thought extinct in its pure genetic form.  There were Lahontan's in places like Indepence Lake and the Humbolt River but as those strains were reintroduced to Pyramid lake the large fish were just not returning.   In the 1970's, Lahontan's were discovered in Pilot Creek in Utah.  These were a genetic match to historic samples of Lahontan.   They began introduction of the Pilot Peak strain in Pyramid Lake in 2006.   So far these have exhibited a much longer life span and are growing to incredible sizes.   We may even begin to see the Pilot Peak strain running into the Truckee river to spawn.

I basically had one and half days to catch a Lahontan.  I left home at 4am and drove straight to Pyramid Lake meeting up with 4 friends who had fished it beginning 2 days earlier.   Fish were feeding and I was excited, but I ended that day with no fish.  The next day was expected to be quite windy with a storm moving in.  This would either be a brilliant day, because wind and waves helps with indicator fishing, or a potential bust.   As the day got going we had up to 2 foot rollers coming into Popcorn Beach where we were fishing.   The wind was howling.  NO ONE was catching fish.   In the early afternoon I pulled my ladder back to the beach and was ready to go take a break in the car.   Almost without warning the wind switched directions and the waves settled.   I was with one TU friend Paul and we decided to head back out after seeing a fish roll at the surface.   We pushed back out and setup.   It was about 10 minutes later when I hooked up.   After a brief battle and a fine netting by Paul, I had my Lahontan.  The fish had taken a fly I tied, a wine colored Maholo Nymph.  Pictures and high fives.   It was the only fish either of us caught that day.  Paul landed several on the previous days.

It was a bucket list item checked off but more importantly it was witnessing a successful comeback to a trout once thought gone forever.   The Piaute Indians take great care of Pyramid and I hope to return many times in the future and chase that elusive 40 inch cutty.   


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