My first trip of the year to Pyramid Lake
There is something about this lake that just tugs at my soul. The last remaining remnants of old Lake Lahontan that has been around for over 80,000 years and still to this day looks very prehistoric to me. It just feels like every single time you visit this lake you are part of its ancient history and this gives me chills throughout my whole body, and of course the fishing is pretty special too.
My trip started by myself leaving Riverside on Wednesday, March 24th and making my 9 hour journey up through the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountain range with my destination being just 30 miles northeast of Reno, Nevada. This is where the great Pyramid Lake awaits all fly fishermen wanting to catch a 10, 15 or 20 pound trout on the fly. On my scenic drive up the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains I noticed this year we have a great snow pack and this is great news for all of us fly fisherman for the fast approaching opening season coming up in the end of April.
I arrived at 1 a.m. to the greeting of 40 mph winds, which were blowing me all around the road on the way up starting in the Mammoth Lakes area. I quickly set up my bed in the front seat of the passenger’s side of my truck and fell fast asleep. At 4:30 a.m. the outside window knocking awoke me and my friend Ernie Walsh invited me into his trailer to find another great friend, Greg Sano, wiping the sleep from his eyes. The first words out of his mouth were, “you woke me up when you arrived” and for that I apologized and was greeted with a cup of hot coffee and a hot sweet roll. We were about to embark on our journey for the day of fishing Pyramid Lake from ladders.
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MY FIRST TRIP TO EAGLE LAKE
My first trip to Eagle Lake would be with my good friend Russ Smith, a fine fisherman and great fishing companion. We have taken in many fishing adventures together before and have been talking about this trip for over a year now. With hearts full of anticipation, we decided to take the challenge and promise of some of the best rainbow fishing Northern California. After a 13 hour drive with boat in tow, we made it to Eagle Lake RV Park at 3am in the morning, and a 5am wakeup call with our guide for the day. We thought since we didn’t know much about the lake we would use a guide, this was not a good idea and will tell you more about that later.
I have heard and been told for many years that I should take a trip to Eagle Lake in Northern California. The stories of monster rainbow trout that never give up fighting even after you’re able to put them into the net seemed to be more myth than legend in my mind until I was able to sample these fish for myself. The days of fish up to 10 pounds might be long gone and in the past, however I am here to tell you that these fish fight harder than any fresh water fish I have ever seen and they do not give up at all. They are the hottest and strongest fish and I can’t wait to go back to Eagle Lake for another shot at these beautiful fish. These fish average at 18” or better and many fish in the 25” range. 4X tippet the norm.
Day one we were greeted by winds over 20mph and waves up to 3 feet high in the middle of the lake. Our guided trip that lasted until 3pm was certainly not what we expected. He moved the boat a total of two times in nine hours of our fishing time and this was not in any way stretch or form in my mind working very hard for your clients. It was the first and the last time I will ever hire a guide and we will leave it at that. We boated a total of 15 fish between the two of use, many over the 18” mark. My friend Russ said that I looked like I needed to be placed on suicide watch because I was very disappointed. Russ ended up with 10 fish to net, I ended up with 5. He taught me a lesson the first day but you can’t keep a good many down for very long. We went to bed at 7pm and looked forward to the next day of fishing.
An Ancient Inland Sea, By Ernie Gulley
Pyramid Lake is located 35 miles North of Reno, Nevada on the Piute Indian reservation. This ancient lake, along with the Piute Indians, has been around since the beginning of time. This beautiful sea has only one inflow, the Truckee River, which is being cut in half by the derby dam completed in the early 1900’s to divert water into the Carson City basin. The lake has been hanging on by its finger tips over the years and a much needed 2011 winter has risen this lake over 4 feet due to one of best winters the Sierra’s has had in its history. Still with all of the trials and tribulations this ancient lake and its people have gone thru, it remains in my opinion one of the best stillwater destinations in all of the United States. In no other stillwater lake can I think of at any one given moment, on any given cast, you have a chance to hook a 10, 15 or 20 pound cutthroat trout on a fly rod. Here is the story of my trip of the year, Pyramid Lake, NV.
My trip was to be a 7 day expedition to Pyramid; however with unforeseen adjustments with my fishing partner, we decided to make it a four day trip with three days of fishing. This is a very long drive for me, more than 540 miles one way but it was going to be Pyramid Lake or bust. I started my journey from my home in Riverside, CA at 9am in the morning, next stop, Mammoth Lakes, CA to pick up my fishing buddy, Joe Contaldi of Performance Anglers Guide Service. This would be an opportunity for my first trip with Joe to Pyramid Lake and hopefully many, many more in the years to come. All reports since the beginning of the season were dismal to say the least. Anglers were averaging 1 to 3 fish per day. This year’s fishing reports from Pyramid had been the worst reports in over 20 years. The fish were not moving into the shallows to spawn, water temperatures had held them back and with a very warm weather front moving in we decided to take a chance and make the trip anyways. With a lot of hope and a few prayers, a chance at a monster Lahanton cutthroat on any given cast was on our mind. Nine and a half hours later, which seemed like an eternity to the both of us, we arrived at the ancient shores and unpacked the truck. Along with our entire fly fishing gear and camping equipment, we also unpacked our ladders, yes ladders. This is one of the tools that you need to fish Pyramid and be successful, however this year we didn’t need our ladders, we used them sparingly with very minimal success. We fished mostly deep drop-offs that can be found on many of the different beaches found along the 25 mile long western side shoreline of the lake, mostly standing and wading in ankle deep water along the edge of the shoreline. Our favorite and most productive beach turned out to be a beach named “Sand Hole” located on the southern end of the lake close to where the Truckee River feeds into the lake.
Fantastic Stillwater Fly Fishing
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to fish a small lake located 45 miles North of Santa Barbara. The fishery is fairly new, in only the second year of existence, and is located in the rolling hills above a little town in California’s wine country called Los Olivos. What the lake itself lacks in size is made up for very quickly by the size of the rainbow trout it holds. On this trip the fish caught averaged about 17″, with many fish in the 20″ inch range. My first fish to the net while fishing intermediate sinking line and a black and red leech pattern was a whooping 22″ and well into the 5 pound range.
This adventure started on a Saturday morning in a parking lot at a country store in Los Olivos. I was there to meet Ken Lindsay, the owner of the fly fishing store called “The Fisherman’s Spot” located in Van Nuys. This is one of the best fly fishing stores I have seen and you should take advantage and visit this store in the near future. Ken and I were to meet one of his store’s customers and brain child of Lago Fig’s existence, Lake Manager, and local ranch owner Rick Paaske. From there we were escorted only five minutes away to his beautiful ranch nestled in the foothills outside of town where I was pleasantly surprised at my first glance at this beautiful little Stillwater fishery settled in a small steep canyon surrounded by green grass, beautiful oak trees.
As we all parked – there were 6 anglers in our group – I popped out of my truck and unloaded my gear very quickly. Ken said, “Slow down Ernie”, to which I replied “You know me better than that and how passionate I am about my Stillwater fly fishing”. I was quickly in the water with four rods in hand on board of my super fat cat pontoon , one intermediate line, one sinking line type 4, one floating line for indicator fishing and on other indicator rod for deep water indicator fishing with a sliding indicator for water over 15 feet deep. As I kicked away I could hear the anglers ask, “Wow, who is this guy?”, a question I would hear a few more times throughout the day as the fishing became better and better using midges under an indicator. As I kicked away stripping line off of my intermediate line rod I was surprised to see just 30 feet or so off the shore line the water was well over 15 feet and dropping fast into the 20 to 25 foot depths. Wow, I said to myself, I will have to let this intermediate sink for a while to get down closer to the bottom so I slowed my kicking down to a crawl and casted out 60 feet of line. No more than 2 minutes later my rod loaded up and I was on a nice fish and as quickly as the fish loaded the rod the fish disappeared back into the depths. I was not disappointed, not by a long shot. Success so soon was more than I could have asked for.