Switching Gears, from early-season to mid-season at Pyramid

Here at Pyramid Lake we are transitioning from early season to the middle season. This time of year, is truly an amazing time to go fly fishing out at Pyramid Lake. Freezing hands, reels, guides, extreme cold, and driving winds can make it very difficult, but if you are looking to catch the biggest cutthroat of your life this is the time of year to do so. The reason this time of year is so great for catching HUGE LCT is veiled in water temps and fish metabolism.

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Fish are cold blooded, I’m sure this goes out as a shock to no-one, but never the less, this means their body is not temperature regulated. In other words, the temperature of the water that they are in is the temperature that their internal organs are.  Fish go into a pseudo-hibernation. They eat just enough to stay alive, and nothing else. Their bodies are functioning at a much slower rate, and because of this their need for food is also much lower. This is where it gets interesting. Let’s say that a fish in cold water (under 45 degrees) needs 10 calories per pound of fish per day to sustain itself. That means a “shaker” (4-5 pounds) needs 45 calories a day to sustain life. Not very much. That caloric intake is easily consumed with one tui-chub. In contrast the 25-pound goliath LCT needs 250 calories a day that’s 5 times more food that this fish needs to sustain life. Understand, these numbers are in no way scientific but are representative.

Why are bigger fish are caught with more frequency in the colder winter months?

They simply need to eat more!

Colder temperatures also mean that the tui-chub baitfish are holding in deeper water. The Lahonton Cutthroat Trout (LCT) have difficulty catching and corralling baitfish in open water. They work in schools to push baitfish into shallower water and against the drop off. Schools of LCT can number in the hundreds and will stay close together if they have baitfish to eat, but once the bait fish disperse so will the trout leaving fishermen wondering “what just happened?”, the bite will be on and for no apparent reason turn off.

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Windy day between storms


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Jan’s Spark Plug. Especially good on windy/wavey days

Fly selection changes as well this time of year as we begin to embrace floating lines with or without an indicator. As fish metabolism slows so does their aggressive nature. Suspending a chironomid or balanced leech off the drop off will greatly increase fishing success. We strongly encourage everyone to try the great flies we offer in the Shop that are tied locally by Jan Nemec. These are proven patterns that we are using day-in and day-out. Successful colors can vary day to day so check in with us and we can share what has been working.

Jan's Balanced Leech (mimicflyfishing.com)

Jan’s Balanced Leech (mimicflyfishing.com)

Fish will take retrieved flies all year, but will shy away from quick retrieves until the water temps increase in late season.

Chartreuse Boobie

Cat Whisker Booby

Putting in long days will reap its rewards. This is made difficult by cold days and weather. It is imperative that you have many layers, appropriate rain/snow shells, and accessories. Simms Coldweather shirt and Skeena gloves have become a piece of my layering in the past few years and I recommend them to anybody trying to keep warm this time of year.

Jan Nemec Maholo Midge (mimicflyfishing.com)

Jan Nemec’s Maholo Midge (mimicflyfishing.com)

My guide calendar is filling up for January and the rest of the spring. Give us a call to book your trip or purchase a gift certificate for a friend or family that can be mailed directly to them.

We are offering half and full day guided fly fishing at Pyramid Lake this winter and spring.  A half day trip is $300 and includes all the gear that you will need.  You can pick either the morning or afternoon session.  An option available following a morning trip is to rent the gear you use during the morning to fish with all of your new experience and knowledge. Call the Reno Fly Shop soon to get on the calendar! 

The Reno Fly Shop can be reached at 775-323-3474.

Good luck out there!!

Michael Anderson


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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