Revive - A Quarterly Fly Fishing Journal (volume 2 edition 1) - Page 114

A 25 pound cutthroat makes fools of us all.

The truck was pointed northwest out of Phoenix, and the tarp that we lashed over the bed of the truck gave the impression that we were smuggling something illegal. But the tarp concealed nothing illegal, instead, the flapping tattered tarp hid only four ladders and enough fishing gear to stock a small fly shop. We’d been planning this trip to Pyramid Lake in northwest Nevada for the better part of six months, and all that stood between us and the hungry Lahontan cutthroats of the Paiute Tribal land was a twelve hour drive through the night.

Coffee and junk food fueled our long journey as we pushed onward through the dark desert and past the bright lights of Vegas. Only after a heavy breakfast of pancakes and bacon at the last slice of civilization did we finally roll the truck onto the sandy beaches of Pyramid Lake, with about an hour left before sunrise. The beams from our headlamps bounced around the back of the truck as we donned waders, assembled fly rods, and fought to calm the anticipation that welled up in all of us. With the faintest light in the sky, we pushed our way into the chest deep water where we sunk the feet of our ladders deep into the sand, before climbing up on to the upper rungs. Out of the frigid water, we were comfortable and able to cast and within a few moments the first of our group hooked up with a with a small 20 inch Lahontan cutthroat.

Yeah. I said small. The fish in Pyramid Lake have an extremely turbulent yet interesting past, not unlike many species in the West. The story goes that when Fremont first showed up in 1844 to map the area, he reported Paiute Indians living on the lake pulling huge 50 to 60 lb. “Salmon trout” (Lahontans) and other native fish out of the lake. Over the years, Pyramid Lake became synonymous with big tasty cutthroats, and eventually through overfishing and the building of several dams upriver on the Truckee, spawning habitat was lost, and the lake went extinct in the 1940s.