Once you get beyond Spanish Springs, the drive is an unencumbered expanse of Nevada high desert and the last thing anyone would expect to see is a blue-green lake more than 20 miles long and 6 miles wide.
The lake, which was discovered by explorer John C. Fremont in 1844, is part of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe reservation and has been spared the overdevelopment and commercialization that is characteristic of many other regional lakes.
Besides being a quiet, secluded place for boating, camping, swimming, hiking and just relaxing, Pyramid Lake is a geological marvel with huge mounds of popcorn tufa and world-class fishing for native Lahontan cutthroat trout.
Tufa is a rough rock-like carbonate deposit that also can be found in abundance at Mono Lake in California. The lake is the termination point of the Truckee River, which originates at Lake Tahoe, and its high alkalinity levels make it ideal habitat for double-digit cutthroat trout.
The pyramid-shaped rock formation that juts out of the water is the lake’s namesake and, although it is on the far side of the lake, it can be seen for miles along the shoreline.
When you first arrive at the lake, you might see a row of anglers seated atop ladders about 20 feet from shore. Ladder fishing allows anglers to keep the water from getting into their waders and it improves casting distance.
Spring is the best time to catch large cutthroat trout as they move into shallow water to spawn.
On Sunday, Doran Wheeler was fishing from shore near the boat ramp at Pelican Beach and caught and released a beautiful, crimson cutthroat.
Jim Hartfiel of Just Rite Fishing is one of several area guides who have years of experience fishing at the lake. He loves fishing so much that he and his wife, Dee, live in an RV right at the lake.
Hartfiel has been guiding at Pyramid since 2000 and is a virtual encyclopedia when it comes to fishing for cutthroat trout.
“The primary food for cutthroat is tui chubs,” Hartfiel said while trolling along the shoreline on Sunday. Tui chubs are small minnows that are abundant at the lake.
Hartfiel’s boat is equipped with downriggers that allow him to get his lures down to specific depths. He also uses sophisticated electronic fish locators that beep when it detects a fish.
“These fish seem to like water that is between 48- and 52 degrees,” he said. “The surface temperature now happens to be 42 degrees.”
His boat also has a 9.9 horsepower Yamaha trolling motor that he endearingly calls Elfie. The motor has an automated guidance system that pilots the boat so that he can concentrate on fishing with his clients.
The ideal trolling speed at Pyramid Lake, Hartfiel said, is between 1.7 mph and 1.9 mph.
Fishing at Pyramid can be hazardous for boaters when the winds kick up.
“See those whitecaps out there?” he asked, pointing to an area about a mile away. “That’s the squall line. The waves out there are about three feet. This area is protected, so it’s not as rough.
He said many boaters who ignore the winds and remain in the water are endangering their lives and the lives of their passengers.
“One boat sank at the dock about three Saturdays ago,” he said.
Fly anglers who use prams or float tubes also can be affected by sudden, high winds at the lake. One angler who was fishing in a float tube near the Nets was swept across the lake and spent the night on Anaho Island because the water was too rough to attempt rescuing him.
Hartfiel’s experience fishing at Pyramid Lake benefitted Lisa Stevens of Gaberville, Calif., who chartered his boat during the Crosby Lodge Presidents’ Day Fishing Tournament and caught the prize-winning cutthroat, which weighed in at 12 pounds, 12 ounces. She took home a $4,000 first place purse, which more than paid for the trip.
Other professional fishing guides at the lake include George Molina of Cutthroat Charters, Lex Moser of Pyramid-Tahoe Fishing Charters and Chris Grellman of Hog Charters.
You can contact any of these guides by calling the Crosby Lodge at (775) 476-0400 or log on to www.crosbylodge.com.
If you are interested in fly-fishing from shore, you can book a guided trip through the Reno Fly Shop by calling 825-3474 or logging on to www.renoflyshop.com.
Anglers who are fishing Pyramid Lake for the first time, or even those who have tried fishing the lake unsuccessfully, can tap the vast knowledge of a fishing guide and increase their chances of catching a trophy fish.
Anglers also should read and follow the fishing regulations at Pyramid Lake. A new regulation at the lake is a requirement to use barbless hooks. This improves the mortality rate of fish that are caught and returned to the water.
For those who feel confident about their fishing prowess at Pyramid Lake, Crosby Lodge is hosting the annual Hook, Line and Sinker Derby at the lake on April 19 and 20.
For the rest of us mere mortals, hiring a guide for the tournament might be a good investment. Plus it’s a great opportunity to take in the beautiful scenery at the lake and watch the pelicans fly overhead.
Anaho Island is a sanctuary and nesting area for American white pelicans.
Be sure to bring along a good pair of binoculars or a spotting scope because the lake has many different species of birds including waterfowl, six species of grebes, burrowing owls, sage thrashers and many others.
Paul G. White is a freelance writer living in Reno. Comments? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.