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Cool-weather angling for cutthroat trout at Pyramid Lake, Northeast of Reno.

Cool-weather angling for cutthroat trout at Pyramid Lake, northeast of Reno

Tucked in among stark foothills on the Paiute Indians' reservation, Pyramid Lake offers first-rate trout fishing just 36 miles northeast of Reno. For a natural lake, it's big: about 26 miles long, 4 to 11 miles wide. With 70 miles of sandy beaches, it's a popular summer place for swimming and boating. But for anglers, the real attraction comes in October when the cutthroat trout season gets into full swing.

Last year, more than 8,000 people fished here. You can fish year-round, but the best chance to catch a big one is between October and April. The Federation of Fly Fishermen (FFF) and Cal Trout consider it trophy trout fishing.

Cutthroat keepers are 19 inches or longer, with a limit of two per day. But fish don't come easily: anglers work an average of 14 hours to catch a typical 3 1/2-pound cutthroat.

Most successful anglers use two flies: a black woolly worm at the bottom of the line with a white one tied as a dropper about 3 1/2 feet up. The technique is to cast straight out from shore and let the fly sink to a depth where it will tick a sandy shelf when retrieved. Biologists have discovered that if you drag the fly along the shelf, it mimics the action of the tui chub, a small fish that comprises a large part of the cutthroat's diet.

Anglers have also been successful at trolling with spinner lures. But boaters must exercise caution; if winds pick up, and they often do, the calm lake can suddenly churn with ocean-like waves.

October temperatures often dip into the teens in the morning before climbing into the 40s. Dress warmly with layers of clothing, and bring chest-high waders. Required Paiute fishing permits ($6 a day, $25 a year) can be purchased at the ranger station just south of Sutcliffe.

On November 17 and 18, the FFF will sponsor a Pyramid Lake Fall Trophy Trout Fishout, including a catch-and-release contest. For the novice, it's a chance to learn how experts fish the lake. For more information, write or call Bill Rusk, 17 Cathy Lane, Danville, Calif. 94527, or call (415) 837-4153.

Cutthroat comeback. The original Pyramid Lahontan cutthroat trout became extinct in the 1940s. One cause for their demise was a dam on the Truckee River blocking water to their spawning grounds.

The lake was restocked in the 1950s with Lahontan cutthroat from Walker Lake. Then in the 1970s, the Paiute Tribal Council set up four hatcheries around the lake and on the Truckee. You can now visit these hatcheries from 9 to 11 and 1 to 3 daily; or call (702) 259-2234 for an appointment.

Lodging, camping. For tackle, gasoline, and limited groceries try Crosby Lodge in Sutcliffe, open 7 to 9 daily. The lodge also has four motel rooms ($10 per person), overnight camping hookups ($8 a night), and campsites ($4 a night); call (702) 476-0104. Next closest lodging and food are in Reno.

You can also camp around the lake. Purchase camping and boating permits ($5 per permit each day, $35 for 10 days) at the Sutcliffe station.

By boat or foot, you can explore the craggy shoreline. Near the pyramid is Anaho Island, a national wildlife refuge and one of eight nesting colonies in the West for the American white pelican.

To reach the Sutcliffe station from I-80 in Sparks, take State Highway 445 (Pyramid Road) north 33 miles, then go northwest 3 miles on State 446 (Nixon Road); the signed station is the first trailer on your left. Or take State 447 from I-80 about 30 miles east of Reno. Head north 16 miles to Nixon, then about 16 miles farther on 446 to Sutcliffe.

Photo: Jutting out of the water, tufa formation gives Pyramid Lake its name. At left, bundled-up angler displays his 8 1/2-pound cutthroat with woolly worm fly still in its mouth

Photo: Pyramid Lake, less than an hour's drive from Reno, can be reached from I-80 on either State Highway 445 or 447. You can launch a boat at Pelican Point 9 miles northwest of Sutcliffe
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Date:Oct 1, 1984
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