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.