Lahontan Cutthroat Trout Quest

By Bill Ruediger

Every year a group WestSlope Trout Unlimited Chapter anglers head to Reno, Nevada to fish for Lahontan cutthroat trout. This is stillwater (lake) fishing at its best and Pyramid Lake may very-well be the best trophy cutthroat trout fishery in the world right now.  This year we contacted a guide we used previously and ended up with a terrific fishing trip. Our guides were Ryan Dangerfield (outfitter) and Todd Keller and we couldn’t have been happier. Our group has varied in size from eight to twelve anglers (past trips). We’ve finally settled on eight people as being optimum for fishing opportunity and service. This year we had Ron Knowles, Tim Sullivan, Roger Harvey, Robin Poole, John Snively, Dennis Siegle, Bob Ruediger (my brother – who got invited when we could not find enough people to fill the group) and myself. As part of the package Ryan supplies coffee and rolls in the morning and a hot lunch (cheeseburgers or Wisconsin brats). In addition, he provides fishing chairs (these are a necessity), switch rods and flies; or you can bring your own equipment. We stay at the Nugget Hotel in Sparks.



Our first morning, we met Ryan at 5:30 am at Pyramid Lake Lodge. From there we went to one of Ryan’s secret-places a few miles away. Actually, the location is not so secret, as Ryan and Todd had to get there at 2:00 am to secure it. We started out with fish on immediately and by the end of the day we had one of the most incredible fishing experiences of our lives. The guides estimated that we caught over 150 trout. I caught at least 30 cutthroat including fish of 11, 12, 14 and 16 pounds. The sixteen-pound trout tied my personal record for the largest inland trout I’ve ever caught in my life on a fly (I caught another 16-pound cutthroat at Pyramid Lake last year). I also broke my personal record for the number of trout over 10 pounds caught in a day – 4 fish! Others in the group did equally as well, Roger Harvey caught a 17-pound fish and John Snively caught a beautiful cutthroat that went 21 pounds. An absolutely amazing fishery. John’s 21-pound Lahontan cutthroat eclipsed the largest trout our group had ever caught by 4 pounds. All the big fish were weighed – not estimated. And all the fish were released. It should be noted that in four years of going to Pyramid Lake we’ve only seen one fish killed. That was a trout caught by a young boy that was beside himself with excitement.

Bill with his 16lbs giant!


John with a 22lbs cutthroat!

The second and third days we fished were also great, our group caught about 50 trout each day. Most of the fish we caught were not large (by Pyramid Lake standards), but we did catch several over 10 pounds. On the last day I caught two 9-pound trout, either of which would be the trout of a lifetime at other locations.

Most of our fish were caught on chironomids, which are aquatic larvae of midges. Little bitty things. I’ve used these flies for over 30 years on lakes around the west, and they are often deadly. We used various colors and sizes – most were tied on barbless size 10 or 12 hooks. All of us fished with indicators and usually two flies on about 5-foot fluorocarbon leaders, but many anglers strip woolly buggers, leeches, and other flies on a sinking line. A local fisherman next to me was stripping a fly and out fished me 2-1.

Bob's 14lbs cutty

Ryan supplied us with 7wt TFO Legacy switch rods and I also used my 7wt Reddington Dually switch rod. Both were 11-feet long and provide the power to shoot the flies and indicators out to where the fish are. Switch rods are often used and are often preferred over conventional single-handed fly-rods. Either type will work. All our group except for Robin Poole used 7wt or 8wt switch rods. Ron Knowles makes his own bamboo switch rods and uses these.

Dennis with a beautiful 12lbs cutthroat

One thing is for sure, we’ll be heading back again next year.

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