On Sunday March 15th I was packed and ready to roll out for 17 days on the road. JG, who I have fished with more than anyone, was all set to join me on leg #1 of many. Just as I was getting into the vehicle I get the dreaded “call”, JG can’t make it. JG is as reliable of a fishing buddy as there is, I can only remember 1 other trip in 9 years of fishing together where something unavoidable came up. So I left at 4 in the afternoon and I was on my own until Thursday.
On the road again
The plan was to drive to Tonopah, NV, spend the night and get to Pyramid Monday morning around 8 or 9. As I pulled into Vegas around 9 PM, I was right on schedule. I have done the Phoenix to Vegas drive so many times it feels routine and I was only 200 miles from Tonopah.
By this time I was pretty lost in my thoughts of expectations for this trip and the year ahead. Thinking of all the great people, friends and places I will get to travel to this year. I had many emotions flooding through from excitement to fear to homesickness, that the next 70 miles seemed to pass instantaneously. As I pulled through Beatty and saw the next gas 67 miles sign, I said “Oh I can make that on a quarter tank, no problem”.
Well 67 miles later I was running on fumes as the drive from Beatty to Goldfield is straight up hill. I was relieved to see the city limits sign for Goldfield. As I pulled into this town straight out of the late 1800s at midnight, there was not a light to be seen. Both Ma and Pa gas stations were closed, not to open until 8 A.M. It was another 26 miles to Tonopah and there was no way I wanted to risk running out of gas between the two towns. The temp sign on the bank in Goldfield read 25 degrees and it was starting to snow. My mind started to race thinking of the TV show “I Shouldn’t Be Alive”, as well as just about every horror movie I have ever seen and I was hoping not to end up like that. I sat in the truck at the gas station for a good 30 minutes just trying to figure out what I should do.
I eventually decided to see if I could get the internet on my phone and try to get some gas from the local sheriff. The phone worked and I got the number for the Esmeralda County Sheriff. I called the number and kind voice named Carol answered the phone. I let her know the situation and she said in a very country accent, “Sure you come right on down Kevin, I’ll have ole Frank meet you at back and we’ll get you back on the road.” I pull around to the back of the old courthouse(which was 100 yards from where I had been parked the last 45 minutes) and there is Sheriff Frank. “Hey Kevin, just need your license, registration and POI to make sure no one is looking for you and we will get you some gas. So how did you know about our free gas program?” Apparently you can get 5 gallons once a year for free. I say I had no idea there was a free gas program and he chuckles and says it must be my lucky day.
I walk into the courthouse and as I do Carol is there to greet me with a warm cup of coffee. She sees my Sage hat and says she is a big fly fisher and we talk fishing for the next 10 minutes as Frank makes sure I am not wanted. Well, I checked out OK(whew) and Frank tells me to follow him around to the pump. He said all the squad cars had dead batteries, so he was in his wife’s Honda, I offer to jump a squad car for him, but he says not to worry about it. We get around back, he says the gauge is broken on the pump, but he will tell me when I have the 5 gallons. We get to talking some more and a few minutes later he says “that should be about 5 gallons”. He wishes me luck on the trip and off I go, with almost a full tank of gas.
Here is a shot of Goldfield during the day on my drive home
At this point it is 1:30 in the morning and I am wide awake. I push through until Fallon and crash for 6 hours, finally arriving at Pyramid at 10 AM Monday morning.
I arrived to wind and waves, sunshine and 70 degrees. I was hoping a certain southern beach would be open, but there were 6 or 7 ladders on it. I thought that was a good sign, ladders typically mean fish are there. I was just more in the mood to fish alone, so I headed up and hit another favorite beach. Fished for an hour with no love, so decided to head back down and check the other beach again. It was empty so I got out and was immediately into fish. I fished until 3 and hooked 15, landed 10 fish. Pyramid was back. After checking into Crosbys I headed back out for the evening bite and landed another 4 fish. 14 fish, which matched my total for 6 days in 2009. Yes, Pyramid was back. I managed a couple 5 lbs fish, but no big fish.
Tuesday and Wednesday were extremely calm and warm, the fishing slowed down considerably. I got 6 on Tuesday and 7 on Weds, but I was also not fishing very hard. I would hit the early morning bite from 5:30-8:30, head back and have breakfast. I would head back out around 11 AM and just bounce around from beach to beach, checking things out and talking to lots of people. I had lunch around 2 and fished the evening bite for a couple of hours. I knew to make it through the whole time I would have to have a slower pace.
My friend Chris Oster and his brother showed up on Tuesday afternoon, they were camped in a trailer at Pelican. It had only been a couple of days, but it was good to have a familiar face to fish with. I also met up with Les and Lenore off and on throughout the trip. They used to live in Phoenix, but moved to Reno a couple years ago and they were kind of my adopted family for my 17 days in Sutcliffe. I spent hours hanging out on the beach with Les going over different theories and observations about the lake. I learned a lot from him and thank him for his time.
I did have a first on Wednesday evening. I started to get very subtle takes, where my indicator would barely move. I would give my indicator a twitch and it would twitch back. I set the hook several times with no luck. Finally after a couple minutes, I get a solid hook up and this fish makes a big run, then just stops. I reel it in thinking it is a good Lahontan, but as I see it in the shallow I notice the lips. 4 years coming up to the lake and it is the first time for the native Cui ui Sucker.
I was planning on sleeping in Thursday morning, as the group was arriving later in the day and I knew I would need the rest. I was woken up by Micah calling telling me there was a wind advisory on the lake today. On most other lakes, it would be time to roll over and catch some Zzzzs. On Pyramid it means it is time to go fishing. I headed out and the fishing was on fire. I was sharing the beach with one other guy I did not know and after I landed my 10th fish in about an hour, he decided to give bobber fishing a try. He borrowed a couple flies and we had an incredible morning. He landed a 7 and an 8lbs fish, I landed an 8 and a handful of 5s. By the time I had to leave to go pick up Brandon from the airport at 10 AM I had already landed well over 20 fish.
The first group started to arrive that afternoon and I could not wait to get back out there after the morning. Ron, Dan, Brandon and I headed back out around 4. All of us caught several fish that evening. With the rest of the crew arriving that night and next morning things were looking good.
Ron with fish on
Friday came with light winds and decent fishing. Andrew had the hot ladder and lead the way with 11 fish, Brandon got 9 and there were lots of people with 4-7 fish. Almost everyone in the group had caught fish day 1, some with the biggest trout of their lives.
Andrew was the man on Friday
Brandon was whacking them too
This is day 6 now, I am starting to feel like I am dialed in and the man on this lake. I get out and hook 3 fish first thing Saturday and am starting to get a little cocky. I then hook a big fish, it made a big run and popped off. It felt like the biggest fish I hooked thus far. When that fish popped off, my karma, mojo, whatever you want to call it went away with the fish. The next 24 hours I could not buy a fish. I changed tactics, flies, went back to yarn indicators, hats, sunglasses, drink, you name it I messed with it. It did not matter. I had angered the gods of the Pyramid in some way. This sport keeps you humble, that is for sure. I always chuckle when I run into some of the big egos in this sport, every time I start thinking I am the man, I am brought back down to earth every time. If you have a big ego, you must not fish a lot, because man it can kick your butt on certain days.
Saturday night is Hoe Down night at Crosbys Lodge in Sutcliffe. We enjoyed an awesome rib dinner cooked up by Jarred and the spectacle that is Karaoke night in Sutcliffe. You have to be there to appreciate it. Buck brought down the house as always. It is a one of a kind experience and you must be in the right frame of mind to truly enjoy it.
The other thing I love about fishing is there is always tomorrow. I was picking up coffee at Crosby Sunday morning and saw the ugliest hat I have ever seen. Now I am about as superstitious as they come and had brought 8 “lucky” fishing hats with me, but this is a hat I knew could bring the mojo back. The weather was calling for winds to pick up all day, so hopes were high.
Sunday started out slow, but steady and got better all day. Everything was building for a power hour to end the day and several peoples trip. The big fish had eluded us, so I was hoping for someone to get a nice fish as well. The power hour arrived around 5:30 and many fish were caught, lots of doubles. Then Jeremy hooked into a really good fish and after a few days of shakers everyone gathered around to see it. Josh netted it and there was much celebration. At one point when the fish flopped out of a net it took on the appearance of a rugby scrum, but that fish was not going anywhere. It was a solid 8lbs fish. See, sing Karaoke with Buck, buy a goofy hat and the Pyramid rewards you.
Monday was the last day for group 1. Ron and Dan had already left, Jeremy, Andrew, Dave and Don were leaving at noon and only 7 of us were left in the afternoon. The day started out very consistent and everyone who was leaving caught a few fish to send them on their way. Within 30 minutes of them leaving all hell broke loose and hundreds of fish started to cruise through the shallows. Josh and Dana were hot, landing 30+ fish each and hooking countless others. I would say the 7 of us caught close to 150 fish in 4 hours. No big fish though, all these fish were in the 2-5lbs range. At one point there were 6 out of 7 ladders hooked up at the same time, I would have taken a picture as I was the one who was not hooked up, but I had no camera and really wanted to have everyone on the beach hooked up at once. I am not sure if I have ever had so much fun and been so exhausted all at once. I was really starting to feel the effects of 8 days. The sand, wind and sun had me hacking up a lung. So at 5 O’clock I had to get off that ladder. It was a great day and great way to end leg #2.
Jimmy, Me and Dana
Josh, Greg and Dana
That is one good lookin hat
What a great group of guys and just an outstanding trip. After dropping off a few people on Tuesday morning I returned to Sutcliffe, with a full blown cold/sinus infection, took a look around and the thought of being there for a few days by myself had me packing my truck to get the hell out of town. After 9 days I just wanted to be anywhere other than at Pyramid. I thought higher elevation, hotel room with TV and of course some big trout around, would help me kick this cold before more friends arrive on Friday.
I won’t mention which direction I went, just say it is within 500 miles of Pyramid. The hotel room was nice, the fish were there. I landed 40 fish in a couple of days, fishing a few hours each days. They averaged 4lbs and my biggest was 7lbs. That is all I am going to say about that.
I was feeling better after some cool clean mountain air and a couple good nights of sleep. I rolled back to Pyramid Thursday afternoon and was feeling good about the final leg of the trip. I met up with Bruce from Idaho and fished with him for about an hour, hooking a decent 5-6lbs fish. I caught a 6lbs rainbow that morning in a totally different place and was starting to cough again, so I decided to call it an early day and go get a big dinner. Bruce apparently started getting a bunch of fish right after I left and in hindsight to what happens later I wish I would have stayed and skipped dinner.
I am not sure what happened, whether it was food poising, Sutcliffe fever or just being worn out, but the next 30 hours consisted of anything that went in came out. Travis arrived at 4:30 AM Friday morning to what must have smelled like a dead person. He was kind enough to pick up Zach and Brian from the airport that afternoon as I still could not get out of bed. Micah and the rest of my friends showed up late Friday night, I still could not muster up enough energy to leave the room.
Saturday morning finally came and I was feeling a little better, still could not eat or drink anything, but it is time to go fishing with my closest friends in the world. Some of these guys I have known for over 10 years, we have spent hundreds if not thousands of days on the water together collectively. I am lucky to have friends like them, great anglers and better people. It did not matter how I felt, I would not miss a chance to hang out with them.
The fishing was pretty good Saturday. Mike, from Canada, was into them early and often. The wind had really started to blow and it did not stop blowing for the next 4 days. The fish seemed to move away from the nymphs and the people who were stripping started to outfish the bobber fisherman. Mike was dialed into something with his line and flies. I was feeling lazy and persisted with the indicator as I was still catching fish. That afternoon a guy a couple ladders down was hooked into a nice fish and asked if we had a net. I hopped down and helped him land a solid fish in the 10lbs range I would guesstimate. I felt more karma restored and the sickness behind me as I shared a shot of Jack in celebrations of his big fish.
The next few days kind of all blended into one. We split up into smaller groups, meeting up occasionally if the fishing got hot on a beach. The numbers of fish caught decreased considerably with the heavy winds, but big fish were being caught. Team Canada(Mike) was on fire, landing an 11lbs fish on Sunday, then on Monday landing a brute which was considerably bigger than the 11 and then another fish of 9lbs. All on the strip.
While Mike was stepping out of the truck and catching 13lbers on his first cast, Zach and I decided to take a little road trip to the Pyramid on Monday. The wind was blowing 50+MPH and it appeared that the East side of lake was a bit calmer. That and I had always wanted to hook a fish at the Pyramid, something I failed to do the other times I have fished it. It was a really fun morning hanging out with Zach and it seemed like the Pyramid was blocking the wind as we had a perfect chop on the water. We both caught a couple fish right away, we were the only ones around and it was so cool to catch those fish that it made no difference to us that they were only shakers.
Zach is down there somewhere
Stone Mother looking on
We make this humble offering to the God of the Pyramid
We headed back over to the other side of lake and Zach got his Pyramid hog
After a little over 2 weeks, the final day had come. On some trips, the final day is the day where I get my biggest fish and I was hoping such would be the case again on this trip. I had hoped to have at least 1 double digit fish, but it had not happened. It would not happen this year for me, but I was extremely excited to hear that Travis finally got his 10+lbs fish(11lbs actually). Travis has caught more trout between 5-9lbs in the last couple years than just about anyone and if anyone “earned” or “deserved” this fish, it was the boy wonder. He was pulling out all sorts of tricks as usual and just will never give up. Way to go Travis(now you can shave the mustache)!!!!
You know one thing I learned this year is empathy for the people who fish this lake religiously. I saw people roll into the lake throw a line in and catch a 10lbers. I can only imagine what it would feel like to fish this lake for 50, 100, 150 days and not catch a 10lbs fish. It truly just boils down to being in the right place at the right time. It is perfect that this lake is in Nevada because the more time I spend here the more it just seems like gambling to me. Sure you need a certain level of skill which is admittedly not that high. You just need to have some luck for that big fish to cruise by as you are making your offering, then hope it does not do the death roll and break you off. Micah, Geoff, Erich and I were the original guys in our group to do this trip a few years ago. We all caught fish, but the big fish wanted nothing to do with us for some reason. It is almost like they remember you…
No 10lbers to end the trip, but I will take this as my last fish out of Pyramid in 2010
Thanks to all who joined us and all of those I met along the way…