Pyramid Lake is an angler’s paradise.
WRITTEN AND PHOTOGRAPHED BY SYDNEY MARTINEZ, TRAVELNEVADA
Last year, if an adventure-centric prophet had told me that in one year, I’d be really into fishing, I might have laughed him into the next week. Oh, but it’s entirely true, and I’m not the slightest bit apologetic about it. I spent all of spring and summer chasing fish all over Northern Nevada with a pro who showed me the ropes (or lines). We bagged some tiger trout in Lamoille Canyon, backpacked into some pristine, tucked-away lakes to crush some native mackinaws, and even snatched a highly coveted bull trout after pacing miles on end up and down Jarbidge Creek during an afternoon that ranks up there as one of the best days spent in off-grid Nevada.
In Nevada, a place most would expect to be completely barren, desolate, and dry, there actually are an extraordinary number of impressive waterways. It’s tough to narrow down only one aspect/quality I love about this amazing state, but if I were forced to pinpoint one, that alone might be it.
So with a pocket full of life-changing fishing excursions in the books, it was hard for me to turn down an afternoon at Pyramid Lake, aka the fishing mecca of the Northwestern United States, with the Grand Poobah of Nevada angling working the lines. Oh, and did I mention there would be dining connoisseurs whipping our catch into culinary delight? Talk about making this thing come full circle. On a brisk October morning, right after the season opened, the four of us joined forces at Warrior Point and launched into an angler’s Shangri-la.
It seems that Pyramid often is treated by locals as the “red-headed stepchild” of area lakes, and I seriously don’t get it. It’s, by surface area, nearly as big as Lake Tahoe, has an island right in the middle of it (Anaho Island) that is considered of global importance for bird migratory paths, and is one of the two breeding grounds for the American white pelican in the country. Plus, the area surrounding the lake has spectacular scenery that goes on for days and is imbued with cultural importance for Paiutes, who have called the area home for thousands of years.
One tiny last detail: It’s home to the Lahontan cutthroat trout, Nevada’s state fish. But this isn’t just any fish. We’re talking 20 pounders on average. Some of the most pristine fishing in the nation is in a desert lake in Northern Nevada, and I had just the man to show me how it was done: professional fisherman and native Nevadan Denis Isbister.
He and I shared at least one commonality: We’d traversed some extremely remote, off-grid locations in Nevada chasing these trout, which many consider a bucket-list catch. Yet here at Pyramid, a person can roll right up and catch these beauts.
Our culinary virtuosos, Jaci Goodman and Amanda Burden (publishers of edible Reno-Tahoe), knew their part would come in later in the day, but were ready to turn the adventure level up as we dialed in the depth finder to find a nice, deep spot of water, teed up the downriggers (which held the rods to the boat), and lowered our lines into the water. Then we waited.
Goodman had years of fishing experience, but the fish out here are next level — easy to nab for even inexperienced beginners, but in terms of weight and size they might as well be river monsters. Within a matter of moments, the line aggressively pulled and Isbister reeled in our catch. That was just the beginning. We showed Goodman how to operate the downrigger, and several catches later, she was a pro.
If you have yet to check this lake off your bucket list, you must know there is a giant shelf in Pyramid, a ledge from the shoreline that drastically drops off several dozen feet. And here’s a pro tip: The Lahontan cutthroats like to hang out down there, and the 70-ish-foot range is the sweet spot.
Isbister steered us into one of his old favorite spots at Warrior Point, where we successfully nabbed some cutthroats in record time. Measuring each catch with precision, it took us a few attempts to snag some that were the 17- to 20-inch legal size, but we finally secured two, which looked downright tasty.
With our catches in hand, we headed back to our digs at Crosby Lodge in Sutcliffe. There, our cabin had a full kitchen in which to prep our feast. Isbister prepped the fish and stoked a wood-burning barbecue pit on the deck while Goodman sliced and diced lemons and potatoes and whipped up a concoction of rosemary, freshly picked wild thyme (which grew nearby), and other spices.
Sitting around the fire with new friends enjoying our savory feast, I caught myself analyzing what had made this outing so extraordinary. Maybe it was the rush from our adventures, the time spent soaking up the rich heritage of this stunning desert lake, the opportunity to watch two fellow travelers thoughtfully demonstrate their crafts before my eyes, or simply the perfect medley of all those experiences combined. A day at Pyramid Lake is just one of many happy surprises to be found in the Silver State.
As a major outdoor enthusiast and all-things-Nevada lover, Sydney Martinez is TravelNevada’s content manager. Since graduating from the University of Nevada, Reno with a photojournalism degree, she often is dubbed a professional tourist as she works to uncover the untouched streams and roads less traveled to teach people how to do Nevada.