Early Fly Fishing Season at Pyramid Lake

Mike Anderson at Pyramid Lake

This is the time that most of us have been looking forward to since early July.

Pyramid Lake is finally getting ready to open! It seems like the Reno Fly Shop 2015-16 season wrap up was just upon us but when it comes to catching these fish there is never enough time to truly understand and appreciate this desert oasis. Luckily for us, the lake is in our backyard. We fish it frequently and as a result have developed firsthand experience with its subtleties.  More importantly there have been men and woman who have fished and shared their experiences. Combining this information we have formed general guidelines for fishing at different times of the year.

Mike with a guest at Pyramid Lake

Mike with guest at Pyramid Lake

The early season which we describe as from opener to roughly Thanksgiving  has to be the wildest rollercoaster ride when it comes to fishing at Pyramid. It can be slow one year and electric the next, one thing we do know is that bait fish (tui-chub) are the preferred meal for the Lahonton Cutthroat Trout (LCT) at this time. Fish are aware of the change in seasons just as much as we are. They can sense the days getting shorter and that the water above the thermocline is giving up its heat. It’s time to pack on the pounds before their cold-blooded hearts succumb to winter’s icy grip that drastically reduce their metabolism. Tui-Chub offer these fish eating  monsters the massive calories, fats, and proteins that they are looking for.

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Early season at Pyramid Lake

The key to finding the LCT is finding the schooling tui-chub, which we call bait balls. If it’s true there are strength in numbers then these Tui-Chub have mastered self-preservation. Tui-chub will congregate together in giant schools of hundreds, sometimes thousands, to try to protect themselves. LCT will usually follow these schools and will either pick off weak/straying bait fish or will plow through the school to break it up into smaller, easier to manage chunks. Tui-Chub are not as heat sensitive as the trout, and as such will congregate in shallower warmer waters. Trout will have a hard time staying in this warm water for prolonged period of times. Typically the LCT will hold at or slightly below  the thermocline, the layer of water that is far enough below the surface to sustain cooler temperatures, and will venture into the warmer waters opportunistically to feed on these schools.

Surface water temperatures have been measured a few days ago, before noon, at 72 degrees. Not a bad start, but Trout are most comfortable in water between 65-68 degrees. Luckily with a cold wave that we will be experiencing here in the next few days followed by seasonally below average temperatures for this time of year those temperatures will drop quickly. I personally am very optimistic for the opener and early season to be extremely productive. Sinking lines streamer/wooly bugger/Tui-Chub patterns with a booby will be the most effective. Floating lines and balanced leaches can be very effective too if you can find a deep enough drop off to suspend these flies near the thermocline.

Pyramid Lake should be on every fly fisherman’s bucket list. In order to better serve you the Reno Fly Shop has guides available that will share their experience and appreciation for this amazing fishery.


Mike Anderson, Guide/Instructor

Mike Anderson is a guide and instructor at the Reno Fly Shop.  As a native Nevadan he has grown up fishing Pyramid Lake and the Truckee River. Mike spends many days each year at Pyramid Lake fishing, guiding, tying specialty flies and observing this amazing resource he is lucky to call his “backyard”. Call the Reno Fly Shop today to book at trip and experience this world class fishery.

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