Targeting World Record Cutthroat Trout on the Fly

Pyramid Lake, Nevada, is home to one of the largest trout species in the world, a fly fishing treat for anglers like our own Alysson Cwyk who had the chance to fish its waters with the guides from Pyramid Fly Co.

Last March, I was planning to host a week-long tarpon trip to Mexico. Unfortunately, due to various complicated issues, I had to postpone the trip to a later date. With a week already blocked off from work, I was determined to go on some type of fishing trip to a locale warmer than the chilly Northeast. I had met Fisher Guiding partners Capt. Rob Haggerty and Casey Anderson of Pyramid Fly Co. at the Fly Fishing Show in Edison, NJ a few weeks earlier. Their booth and their Instagram boasted photos of massive Lahontan cutthroat trout taken on the fly at Pyramid Lake, surely larger than any trout I had ever caught or even seen. I reached out and sure enough, they had some spots open.

Three weeks later, my friend Wendy and I were on a plane to Reno, NV, 8-wts in tow. After arriving late in the evening, we headed straight to our hotel room at the Golden Nugget Casino, as recommended by Capt. Rob. It was a Friday night and the place was hopping, yet we had fishing on our minds and passed out as soon as we walked into our room. The next morning I picked up the rental car back at the airport as Wendy looked for the essentials: a solid breakfast joint and a liquor store. We ended up at a fabulous, hole-in-the-wall Mexican diner, Carlillos Cocina. The plates were so big that we ended up with three meals out of our $9 breakfast, which we took along with us up to Pyramid Lake.

After leaving the diner, we picked up wine and whiskey at a nearby liquor store and hit the road. Our final destination was about an hour away from where we stayed in downtown Reno, a scenic drive of open ranges and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Upon arriving to Pyramid Lake, we picked a spot close to Crosby Lodge where we were staying, suited up in our waders, tied on some streamers and hit the water. The temperature was definitely warmer than Philadelphia, but we were still wearing down jackets, long johns, beanies and were surrounded by snow capped mountains. Two hours passed and we had nothing. We clearly didn’t know how to fish Pyramid Lake and decided to head back toward Crosby Lodge, check into our rental, heat up some of our leftovers, and pour a big glass of wine.

Our rental at Crosby Lodge was a spacious fifth-wheel camper--perfect for the two of us. We had our own rooms with the bathroom and kitchen in between our two spaces. And it was comfortable, warm, and so convenient as we could see the lake from my bedroom window.

The next morning we met with our guide Casey down at the main part of the lodge, picked up some flies and breakfast and headed down to the lake. Casey suggested we use his two-handed rods rather than the rods we had packed. I’ve been fly fishing for over 25 years and the sport continues to challenge me--two-handed rods were no exception. It took me several tries to really shoot out a solid cast, but I eventually got it and hooked into a fish. It was definitely the longest and heaviest trout I had ever caught. Its rosy cheeks matched mine (make sure to wear plenty of sunscreen while on the water at Pyramid) as I took a better look for a quick photo. We spent the rest of the sunny day casting out large chironomid patterns, hoping for a fish to strike. Casey gave us the history of the Paiute Tribe, whose lands we fished on. I caught one more trout before we headed back to our camper for the evening.

We spent the next three days going after these cutthroat, with some days being better than others. The weather had been so gorgeous (low 50s, full sun, low winds) that it kept the fish down. On the final day, we met up with my friend Heather (who just happened to be swinging through Pyramid on a road trip) and a few of her buddies, along with Pyramid Fly Co. guide Chris.  We arrived to the water to a picturesque sunrise, followed by periods of torrential downpours. But we caught fish.

If you’ve ever seen photos or video of folks fishing Pyramid Lake, you’ve likely seen a shot of someone sitting on a chair, perched on top of a ladder, several feet in the water away from shoreline. 

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Casey and Chris brought out the ladders on our final day. Again, this sport continues to challenge me. Never did I think that I would ever climb a ladder in order to give myself a little more distance in my cast. I have to say, it was odd. But I caught a fine fish from the top of the ladder chair! And Wendy landed a ton of fish on that final day. Sure, they weren’t the 25+ lbs. cutthroats we’d heard about, but they were a solid 7-9 lbs. Success.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Casey’s cooking skills. Our lunches were some of the best I’ve had on a guided fishing trip. Curry pork chops, NY strip steak, pan fried chicken thighs. It’s amazing what one can do with a propane camping stove in the back of their truck.

I highly recommend checking out Pyramid Lake and booking a trip on Fisher Guiding with the guys from Pyramid Fly Co. Fishing aside, the hospitality was superb and I’m looking forward to scheduling another trip sometime soon. In speaking with Capt. Rob recently, he says that the fishing is going very well and the next few months are “shaping up to be big fish months. The water temps are cooling down nicely.” What are you waiting for? Layer up and go fishing for the trout of your life!

Alysson Cwyk is an angler from Philadelphia, PA, and Platform Strategist for Fisher Guiding. She also serves as president of the Delaware Valley Women's Fly Fishing Association. You can follow more of Alysson’s fishing adventures on Instagram @femmeonthefly