Thursday, December 13, 2018

Braving The Winter Cold At Pyramid Lake

Many sources describe Pyramid Lake as a winter fly fishing destination however I find that the lake, like many fisheries, tends to fish better in the spring and fall. The true definition of Pyramid lake as a winter fishery means big Pilot Peak quality over the average Summit quantity. The weather is near freezing, the chilling wind can burn wet hands, and the fishing is slow but if you can brave the conditions you can potentially catch the fish of a lifetime.

Snow Covered Tahoe

This trip was originally planned for a family member however he flaked out at the last minute leaving me with new waders, a new ladder, and reservations for a hotel stay. I decided not to cancel because rain, snow, or shine when it comes to fishing I'll be out there.

I always keep an eye on the weather before heading up past Truckee to make sure there isn't any snow or unexpected winter weather on the way up. Luckily the light snow that was predicted didn't show up and the ride was nice and smooth. I made it to the big pond at around 10:30am.

Choosing where to fish on Pyramid Lake is the biggest gamble you'll make when fishing the lake in the winter. I like to look at the Pyramid Lake map I created to help give me a better idea of where to go. I'm still in the process of learning the best spots however a few key factors I keep in mind in choosing where to fish is wind direction, structure, and fishing pressure.

1. Wind direction - The wind is your friend at Pyramid Lake. Fish tend to concentrate their feeding efforts in the opposite direction of where the wind is blowing as it moves food towards them. The wind can also hide an anglers presence with surface chop making it harder for the fish to see you. This is where I believe the term, "The worst the weather, the better the fishing" originated at Pyramid.

2. Structure - At first glance Pyramid Lake appears to have very little structure that you can visually see. Aside from the tufa rock formations that can be found at certain beaches the primary structure at Pyramid Lake are its beaches. Not all beaches at Pyramid are the created equally, some beaches are shallow, some have a gradual descent, and some drop-off right where the water touches the shoreline. I don't have much experience fishing the lake but my time at the lake has led me to believe that the fish will cruise the shallows in the fall and spring when the temperatures are ideal and will slowly move into deeper water as the season continues. The fish tend to be at their deepest depths during the summer and winter.

3. Fishing pressure - When Pyramid Lake is hot, it's hot! During times when the fishing is fantastic the hot beaches look like salmon season on a lake. Anglers from all over the country form a long line a few feet apart from each other in the water with their ladders. It's a great time to be out on the lake because everyone will be catching fish. The majority of the time however there aren't as many fish to go around so the more people the lower the catch rate. I think the biggest secret of Pyramid Lake is that you don't have to be next to other people to catch fish. You just need to get out of the anglers mindset of, "If people are fishing there then there are probably fish there." There's plenty of beachfront where you can find your own spot with no one around and catch a giant cutthroat. A good rule is that if your not catching anything after an hour, move to a different spot on the beach.

At Warrior Point

I chose to fish Warrior Point because the beach had no one on it and I had success the last time I was there. I used the classic midnight cowboy and chartreuse popcorn beetle combo on my 8WT with a sink tip line. After enduring a little bit of snow showers I hooked my first and only fish of the day near noon. This Pilot Peak cutthroat was about 24'' long and put up a decent fight. I got another take right after releasing my first fish but missed it as it swiped at my fly while I was pulling them out of the water. I froze for another four hours and left after no more fish came to the net.

First Fish Of The Trip

The following morning I fished Warrior Point again, "Don't leave fish to find fish." I got my first grab near 9:00am and it was tugging at me pretty hard. After a few exciting runs I landed my first true monster cutthroat. The fish was around 27'' and absolutely thick definitely over 15 pounds. I've noticed that the big fish will take a fly that's further out into the lake whereas the smaller ones like to follow and grab at the last second. This technique is called the Pyramid Lift and that's how I caught my last two cutthroats before calling it a day at noon.

Peaceful Cold Pyramid Days

Pyramid Lake is a strangely eerie and peaceful place. The tranquil silence, the beautiful powdered mountains in the background, and the reflective frigid water. I have an odd spiritual connection to the place as it makes me think of what life is like after death. I guess you can essentially call it heaven.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your sacrifice in braving the cold to make this!