The Giant Trout of Pyramid Lake, with Mike Anderson
Tom: Hi, and welcome to the "Orvis Fly Fishing Podcast". This is your host, Tom Rosenbauer and this week my guest is Mike Anderson, Orvis endorsed guide of the Reno Fly Shop in Reno, Nevada and we're gonna be talking about Pyramid Lake, this place I'd never fished so I was especially interested in what it's like. And in the interview, you'll learn do they really fish from stepladders and are there really giant fish and are these native fish that have been reintroduced to Pyramid Lake and lots of other things, especially about how to catch them. So, hope you enjoy the interview with Mike. He's really knowledgeable on that area of the country. And we'll talk about the Truckee River a little bit too.
But first, the Fly Box. And the Fly Box is where you ask questions and I try to answer them. I try to help if I can. If I can't help, then I try to find an answer or I don't answer them. If I really can't find an answer or if there is no answer, then I don't answer them.
Anyway, you can send a question to the Fly Box by sending it to
Anyway, now the Fly Box. First question is from Mark from Florida. Many hopper and terrestrial patterns call for knotting rubber legs or similar leg material. How do you keep the knot from coming unraveled? I've tried a drop of superglue and head cement and simply tying the knot tighter, none of which works. Looking for other suggestions. Well, Mark, I don't have that problem with my legs and I suspect that it's probably not what you're doing but it's material you're using. Perhaps the material that you are using just doesn't knot. It may be too flexible or too stiff and it doesn't knot well. But honestly, I don't have any trouble with knotting my rubber legs. I tie an overhand knot and I pull it as tight as I can without breaking the material. Sometimes it breaks. And leave it there. I don't think you should need a drop of superglue or head cement on there. So maybe find a different type of rubber leg and see if that helps.
Here's an email from Griffin from Tennessee. Thank you for your effort and advocacy for accessible and responsible angling. I appreciate your non-elitist and curious approach. As my priest says, zealots create rebels. I have two questions. I am a fly fisher first but I enjoy taking part in other outdoor pursuits as well, namely hunting white-tailed deer, turkeys, ducks, etc. I am picking up fly tying and would like to be able to incorporate some of the materials from these harvests, bucktails, turkey and duck feathers and so on. What kind of materials from harvested animals do you recommend keeping and how do you go about cleaning and preparing these materials for use and storage?
My second question is regarding thread size. Thread in 140 denure...I don't know how to talk about thread size as a unit, is much more workable in my brief experience but at what point do I need to do move down to the 70 denure thread and is the main concern weight, buoyancy, appearance or a combination of these factors?
Okay, Griffin. Well, first of all, you can use nearly any part, any hair or feather from those animals you harvest but the more common ones...because you may find a feather on a turkey that makes a really cool wet fly or a really cool beetle or something like that. So, you know, I recommend keeping a few from every part of the bird. But for the most part, white-tailed deer, the tail, the bucktail of course and turkeys, the primary wing quills aren't of that much use. You might get some buyouts off of them but the secondary wind quills, the ones that are further in on the wing, the more rounded ones are good for tying muddler minnows and wing cases on nymphs and things like that. And then some of the body feathers although I have bags of turkey feathers from turkeys that I've harvested that I never use. And I may someday find a use for them but, you know, just put them in a bag and maybe someday you'll find a use for them or somebody will come up with a really special pattern that requires that.
Now on ducks, there are a number of useful feathers. First of all, the CDC, which are located right around the preen gland just above the tail, on the upper part of the body...you can feel that little nub. And then you wanna pull out all those little fluffy feathers off there, off the preen gland. So that's valuable. And then the flying feathers, typically on males but sometimes on females, the flying feathers up underneath the...kind of under the shoulder of the birds, the longer beautifully colored feathers from wood duck, mallard or teal, gadwall, nearly any duck, even hooded mergansers, those have got some beautiful feathers for tying wings on traditional wet flies and dry flies. And then the wind quills themselves.
So, with the bucktail, you just wanna cut the tail off with a pair of tin snips or something. And, you know, there's a lot of useful hair on a whitetail deer for bass bugs and Campari [SP] duns and sparkle duns. The only problem is that you have to clean that hide yourself and the hair...the hide often is fairly greasy and it's kinda messy and then it gets stiff when it dries. If you can tan or have the hide tanned, that's gonna be much better. It's gonna keep the bugs, the insects that eat parts of animals out of your fly-tying materials and it's gonna be a lot easier to work with once that hide is tanned. If the hide is not tanned, you can save it but you're gonna...it's gonna be messy. I would recommend that you buy your deer hair from a fly shop. It's not that expensive. Bucktails are easy. Just cut the tail off. And then ducks, snip the wings off with tin snips or something like that and then pull the flank feathers off, pull the CDC feathers off. You can take some breast feathers too but there isn't much use for them.
And then the feathers themselves, you can just...as soon as they're dry, just lay them out and as soon as they're dry, just put them in a Ziplock bag. You don't need to do anything special. If you really wanna be fussy about it, you can wash them in a little soap and water and then rinse them and dry them off but you really don't...I don't. You really don't need to. Anything with some flesh on it like a bucktail or the wings, the best way to handle it easily is to just dip the fleshy part that's exposed into borax or salt or borax and salt and just let it sit somewhere where the mice can't get to it and insects can't get to it, maybe in a shoebox in a warm, dry place until it gets stiff and dry. And then again you can just put those in a Ziplock bag. The bucktail, you probably wanna clean. You probably wanna wash that with soap and water because it can get kinda dirty and greasy. But the duck wings, once they're dry and stiff, just put them in a Ziplock bag and you're good to go.
So that's basically how to handle some of those parts that you might find. Regarding threads, 140 denure is a lot easier to work with because it doesn't break as easily but you're gonna find on smaller flies, once you get down to smaller flies, you're gonna find that your head gets crowded when you try to finish off the head of the fly. The thread kinda goes down into the eye and gets really thick and you're also gonna find on certain flies that the 140 denure just builds up too much and leaves you with too thick of a body or a thorax area. So, it's not weight, buoyancy or appearance. Really, it's bulk that the 70 denure is gonna help you avoid a lot of bulk in your flies. Weight is not a real concern. A few extra turns of thread is not much of a concern in dry flies.
Ted: Hi, Tom. Ted calling from Oakland with a general question for you. What would your advice be for a more intermediate angler who's, you know, been fishing for 10 plus years, ties their own flies, talks to their fly shops frequently and, you know, has a casting pond close by? Is there any particular, you know, area that you think yields more success on the water? Is it, you know, time at the bench? Just getting particular flies in your box? Is it working on your cast at the casting pond? You can't, you know, account for mending or presentation but...yeah. Or is it just talking to folks at the local shops, guides and so forth? When you're at that place, is there a particular area that you think is the most effective or kinda just give equal weight to time...working on your casting time, working at the bench and time, you know, talking to your local shops about conditions?
I know there's certainly not a definite answer but I'd be curious to get some of your thoughts and I hope you're well.
Tom: So, Ted, advice I hear sometimes from people which is pretty good is to just get better at the basics, get better at your casting. As you suggested, get better at your casting. Get better at being able to tie your knots quickly and efficiently and, you know, knots that hold. You don't need to learn a lot of new knots but the knots that you use, learn to tie them better. And tying more flies I think is always gonna help you. It's gonna make you better at fly tying. But one of the things that I would recommend to become a better angler other than just getting better at the basics is to learn more about fish habits and habitat and behavior. I think that the more we know about what compels a fish to feed and to take our fly and what their lifecycle's like and where they like to live and what kinda water temperatures they like, I think that's gonna really pay off in the long run.
Also, I do happen to have a book on this very subject called "Fly Fishing Your Trout, Taking Your Fishing to The Next Level" and that goes into detail on a lot of different things that you may wanna do to take your fishing to the next level.
Here is an email from Robert from Arizona. Once again, I wanna thank you for the absolutely fantastic content and topic of the podcast. I appreciate that you do read all of my emails and have responded to a few of them over the years. The insight has helped elevate my game and has brought awareness to various issues, one of which I wanna discuss here. Plus, I have a question for you on intermediate sinking lines. On a recent podcast, a listener had a complaint about the number of newbies and the great inconvenience caused to him and a number of people entering the sport and the number of roof racks on SUVs. I see the increase in new participants as a positive although I recognize with new numbers comes more fishing pressure. When I'm not chasing trout, I work for a global engineering firm that designs everything from large power and water infrastructure projects down to advanced tech facilities. Across the spectrum of our engineering teams is a recognition of the balance of energy and water use and the overall impact our projects have in the environment.
At a recent corporate conference, I encountered a few dozen of my coworkers that fly fish. From the highly experienced to the newbies that got a fly rod last week. The conversation between our employees and their love of the outdoors is driving the conversation in sustainable infrastructure solutions we develop for these facilities. We left the conference with a newfound energy to do the right thing as well as a promise to set up various trips to our local waters for teambuilding.
My point is that the more individuals who go out and experience fly fishing, even for a short time until the fad leads to something else, come away with an awareness of our environment and the need to change it for the better. Greater numbers in our sport will have positive impact through education efforts which Orvis TU and many other organizations do. With that in mind, I welcome anyone into the sport and share the message of environmental responsibility even if it's only for a short time until they pick up the next fad, hobby. Awareness of our environment matters and fly fishing is one way to understand the impact firsthand. Welcome to the newbies. Please enjoy responsibly and those of us already in the sport will help guide you.
Well, that's very nice. Appreciate that thought, Robert. Off my soapbox and onto my question. In fishing more the mountain lakes this summer, I need to get a sinking line for my six weight Clearwater. I went with an intermediate sink line because I do fish some streams where I need to get a little deeper in the water column and thought this would be the flexible solution. And honestly, I just replaced almost every appliance in the house due to age and didn't wanna spend more than I had to. I brought my eight-year-old daughter, Maddie, with me to pick up the line and she asked me why I went with the in-between versus buying a full sink line and new floating line. Great question and I fumbled through an answer. Not really buying my response, she told me that I should've purchased the full sinking line for the lakes and a floating line for the streams. When I asked her why she'd noted that she wants...when I asked her why, she noted that she once overheard me say the road of life is paved with flat squirrels that couldn't make a decision. So, should I have listened to her and gone with a full sink line? When is an intermediate line best used versus a full sink? I said this would be a great question for Mr. Tom and his podcast.
She also told me I should watch your videos more often because you catch a lot more fish than I do. Thanks for everything you and Orvis do for the sport. Well, first of all, Robert, you only see the fish that I catch on the video and you don't know how many days it took us to catch that fish. So, tell Maddie that I'm probably no better than you are. I just have a camera around a lot more. But regarding that intermediate sink...your intermediate line, yeah. I would...I'm gonna have to agree with Maddie on this one. You know, an intermediate line, it really...in the lake, it really depends. It depends on how deep you wanna fish. An intermediate line is great for fishing moderately deep, like, you know, up to four feet deep and in really shallow water where you wanna retrieve your fly under the surface but it doesn't sink very fast. It doesn't sink very fast and often you're gonna find an intermediate line is not gonna get you down fast enough and is not gonna keep your fly in that strike zone for as long. And I don't find much use for an intermediate line in the stream. I would think if you swing a lot of soft tackles and wet flies in a stream, sometimes an intermediate will help a little bit to get that fly down but it's really not good enough for fishing big streamers and heavy water.
And so, I think you would've been better off with a full sinking line and a new floating line. But, you know, it really depends on the depth and the depth of the lakes you're fishing and the speed of the water where you're fishing your nymphs as streamers in the streams.
Here's an email from Bill. Thank you so much for answering my question a few months back. It puts my mind at ease knowing that fish mostly shrug off flies that get broke off in their mouths and has renewed my adherence to crimping barbs on my flies. Here is my question. I have an oldish rod that I just love. It's my go-to rod for most of the streams I fish and has likely caught more fish than all my other rods combined. The problem is the tip section ferrule has gotten a little loose and I'm concerned that it might slip off during fishing. Is there a way to tighten up the ferrule?
Rick, there's no way to tighten up that ferrule. I assume it's a graphite rod you're talking about. There's really no way to tighten up that ferrule. The one thing that might help is to put some wax and not a lot of wax but just a very thin coat of paraffin on the male part of the ferrule and then probably wipe most of it off. And that little bit of stickiness may help that tip section from coming loose. But, you know, sometimes after lots and lots and lots of use, ferrules do loosen up, they do wear ever so slightly and over time, it may have gotten too loose. So, if it's an Orvis rod, you can send it back and we can fix it for you. If it's another manufacturer, I'm not sure. You'd have to check with that manufacturer. So, try a little wax but if that doesn't work, I think you're gonna have to get yourself a new tip section.
Josh: Hi, Tom. This is Josh from Madison, Wisconsin. I called because I really enjoyed the podcast you did a few months ago on bamboo rod making and I've been thinking about getting a bamboo rod for some time now. And I enjoyed hearing about how you made it but there were a couple of things about bamboo rods that didn't get covered that I was hoping I could ask about. First, the bamboo rods are typically much shorter than a conventional graphite rod that I'm used to using, sort of eight and a half or nine-foot rods. And you didn't really talk much about the length of the bamboo rod and how do you scale, like...what would a seven-foot six rod...you know, how does that feel compared to what I'm used to? So, they're gonna be shorter and how does that affect your thinking when buying one and using one?
And then second, they...I've noticed they come in fewer segments than, you know, a four-piece nine-foot rod. And how do you travel with a bamboo rod and do you find limitations in traveling with them or if you get a three piece that's seven and a half foot, maybe it works out to be about the same. So those were the two things, sort of practical things about using bamboo rods that I was wondering if you could comment on. Thanks much. Bye.
Tom: Josh, you know, bamboo rods are heavier and they're heavier throughout their lengths because they're solid. And so generally these days they're made shorter because they're just not practical to make them much longer than eight or eight and a half feet. You can make a longer bamboo rod but it's gonna be really, really heavy. And it's just not gonna be easy to fish. So, most people...what most people do is they just use their bamboo rods for situations where they don't have to make long casts, really long casts or they don't have to hold a lot of line off the water. And that's, you know, that's what...most people reserve them for those kinda things. I mean, there are people that are fishing two handed, you know, two handed rod, bamboo rods but boy, they're heavy. And they're heavy and slow.
Yeah, they don't come in shorter sections. You can generally walk on an airplane with a rod in its tube. However, you need to check that very carefully with the airline before you do because I know some airlines won't let you bring on a rod tube. The safest thing to do probably is to not use a metal rod tube because that could be a weapon but maybe put the bamboo rod in its rod sack and put it in a cardboard tube or something like that so that you can maybe stick it in the overhead and it'll still protect it but people won't accuse you of using it as a weapon. But again, it's always best to check with the airline, especially when you're traveling internationally. They don't...so they don't come in shorter sections. It's just...bamboo doesn't lend itself as well to multi, multi piece rods. Generally, two or three piece is maximum for bamboo rods. But you can travel with them and I see people traveling with them all the time. But I'd leave the aluminum tube at home just in case.
Here's an email from Quinn from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Like everyone else who writes in, I wanna thank you for everything you and Orvis do for the fly-fishing community and the conservation of the spaces and species we wall love. I have two quick questions I would love to hear your thoughts on. Question one, I am very fortunate to live in a part of the world where we can target bull trout. I live within a one-hour drive from three rivers where you can catch some readily. In my brief experience targeting them, I have noticed that like all predatory trout, they love streamers. I've had most of my success throwing white and olive Sex Dungeons along with pink and white Dalai Lamas. I currently have a nine and a half foot six weight rod that I use with a sink tip that works great at getting the flies down in the whitewater pools the bulls love riding in. I've only fished this six weight and since this is a type of fishing I really enjoy, I'm just wondering if the six weight is the ideal rod for that situation. Would a seven or eight be better at handling those heavy articulated flies?
Question two. I'm turning 30 in January and since we had our first snow storm this past weekend, I'm looking at doing a midwinter fishing trip somewhere warm to escape the Canadian winter. I unfortunately don't have the budget to hire a guide so I'm looking for something DIY friendly. I'm totally open to suggestions. Just ideally somewhere without snow. So, if you have any recommendations you could make for southern U.S. fishing trips, I'm all ears. Thanks for taking the time to read this. Hopefully I hear back from you on the show. Thanks again for everything.
Well, Quinn, regarding those big fly...you didn't say how big those flies were but I imagine if you're fishing for bull trout, they're pretty good size. And a six weight will throw them but you're probably gonna struggle. So, I would use a seven or an eight ideally. If you're gonna throw a lot of those, I think the nine and a half or a six will do it but...it'll get the fly out there but may not do it on long casts and it's gonna be tiring because you're gonna really have to push it. So, I would go with a seven or an eight on those if you can afford it and if you can justify a new rod.
Regarding your second question, you know, I'm not really a travel agent and I hesitate to mention places but there's certainly a couple of places coming to mind. One would be the San Juan down in New Mexico. That is generally without snow. And then the White River in Arkansas. Those are two places that have really hefty trout populations and are quite a bit warmer. You might also look at some of the streams although you could find snow. There are some other streams in North Carolina in the Smokeys. You know, at lower altitudes, you probably won't find any snow. So those are just a couple of suggestions but don't hold me to it.
Here's another email and I don't know who it's from. Hi, Tom. Quick question. Is fishing the seams that most effectively push bugs through not the best tactic for targeting steelhead? Are there more desirable places for these fish to hold considering they are not necessarily feeding but being territorial? I fish Lake Erie tribs if it makes a difference. Thanks for the podcast and tight lines. Matt.
Oh, it's Matt. It's from Matt. So Matt, no, I think the...fishing the seams is also a good idea for steelhead. You have to understand what steelhead are doing. They're moving up through a river system and they wanna be close to the main current. They wanna be close to the highway but they don't wanna expend a ton of energy. So, they're gonna be in places like tail outs and pools, the seams at the head of pools and then the seams all the way down through the pool. They're probably not gonna be found in the really stagnant, slow water and they're not gonna be found in the super-fast water. So, seams are...I would say seams are still a good thing to look for when you're targeting steelhead. So good luck.
Here's an email from...I don't know this name either. Hello, I am 12 years old and live in BC Canada. I have two questions. I recently just got a new fly reel. With my old one, I wanna get a sinking line as I fish a lot of still water. I have a nine-foot six weight rod and I'm wondering what line I should get. I'm gonna be fishing mostly streamers for trout. My second question is I have access to lots of sewing thread. I cannot afford lots of fly-tying thread so I'm wondering if I could use this as a substitute. Thanks for all you and Orvis do for the sport and have a good day.
Well, you know, I think that I would get...and in the case of that, if you're fishing streamers for trout, again it really depends on how wide and how fast and how deep your rivers are. If your rivers are not terribly deep, then I would go with a sink tip line for fishing streamers. I know a lot of my streamer fishing buddies love the bank shot sink tip line or a standard sink tip line. Depending on how big your streamers are, the bank shot's good for the real, real big flies and the standard sink tip is better for the, you know, more conventionally sized streamers, size, you know, 6 through 10. And then if you're fishing a relatively big river and it's fast and heavy, I would go with a depth charge line and for that rod, probably a 130-grain depth charge line would be a good one.
Regarding sewing thread, you know, when I started out fly tying about your age, I used sewing thread too and it'll work. You're gonna find that it's not quite as strong per diameter as fly tying thread and you're also gonna find it's pretty bulky. It's going to build up the heads on your flies. So, sewing thread will be okay for streamers and bigger nymphs. When you get down into the smaller flies, I think you're gonna have trouble with the sewing thread. So, you can use it but you're gonna be much better off getting a couple...you know, if you just get a spool of...one spool of black and one spool of white fly-tying thread, you can generally color the white thread any color you want with a waterproof marker. So, you might wanna go that route.
Here's an email from Ken from Ohio. For years I've had problems with my double surgeon's knot. I know how to tie it having watched many videos and read books about but I still seem to have problems with breakage of the knot. Tying a 4X leader to a 5X tip usually results in breakage above the knot at the 4X point even if the drop or fly is snagged and is on the 6X tippet. I would think it would break at the smaller line area. I keep figuring it was old tip and old leaders, abrasion or something else. I do lube with spit before tightening. On a recent trip to Yellowstone, I upgraded myself to fluorocarbon tippets and leaders, brand-new and stronger. Surely, I have solved the problem. Watch out for bison. Nope, same thing happened on a nice rainbow, 4X leader broke at the 5X tippet. Say the 4X broke because there's no sign of the knot which I think would be present if the 5X had broken.
Ken, you know, there's kind of a misunderstanding with the double surgeon's knot. First of all, you might try a triple surgeon's knot. That's what I use. I go three times around. And I think it works better than the double. I think it's a little stronger. But the surgeon's knot is easy to tie but tricky to tighten. When you tighten that surgeon's knot, you need to make sure that as you're tightening, you're holding all four ends, so both long ends and both short ends tightly in your fingers and when you tighten that surgeon's knot down, you wanna make sure that all those barrels, all those coils tighten evenly. If you're tightening it and you see one or two strands that are kinda slipping out of that and they're not tightening as much as the other strands, the knot will break. So, I think that paying attention...sounds like you're doing everything right but tightening it...and I think that paying attention to making sure that that knot snugs down evenly by holding all four ends at the same time will make your surgeon's knots a lot stronger.
Here's an email from Tod in Albuquerque. Thanks for all the detailed and thorough answers to my questions and those from the rest of the fly-fishing community. We're generally told to try to keep fish upstream when fighting them if possible. However, what are we supposed to do if we're swinging flies downstream of us or have a long drift downstream where we are standing? Are there special fish fighting techniques we need to employ in these situations?
Yeah, Tod, that's a tricky one. The first thing you probably wanna do is if the line's tight and you're swinging a fly, don't set the hook. Just let the fish set the hook itself and it'll hopefully lodge in the corner of its mouth which is a better spot. Often by...if the fish is directly downstream on a tight line and you set the hook, you can often pull it out of the fish's mouth. Of course, if you're dead drifting something, you let it get downstream of you, then you just wanna set the hook normally. Fighting those fish because you're directly upstream of the fish and the mouth is pointing at you is tricky and if you can, try to use some side pressure. And the best thing to do is try to lead that fish into slower water, generally on your side of the river because you're standing...probably standing in the slower water. But try to move the fish sideways into the slower water and then if you can, walk down to the fish while keeping a tight line or just try to bring it back up through that. If you can't wade down, then try to just bring it back up through that slower water. You know, the more tension you have on that line...other than Stank, you wanna stay tight to the fish but an awful lot of tension can pull the hook straight out of a fish if it's fighting downstream of you.
But, you know, you're gonna lose more fish when you're fishing downstream. You're not gonna get as good a hooks at and you're gonna lose more fish. So just be prepared for that.
Here's an email from Winston from Santa Barbara, California. Too far north for an appreciable population of corbina and about 40 years too late for the steelhead that used to run in the Ventura, Santa Ynez and Santa Maria rivers. I'd say I'm a proficient angler when it comes to trout streams in the inner mountain west where I spent my first years in the area looking for trout in the coastal ranges only to find dry stream beds or populations too fragile to justify wetting a line. I finally got around to saltwater fishing mostly for surf perch and the odd yellowfin croaker or juvenile halibut. It's been slow-going. Here are my questions. Everything I find online recommends fishing at high tide, usually explained by saying the water is deepest then. That doesn't make sense to me because at low tide I can walk farther down the beach so it seems like my fly would end up in water that's the same depth. Is there a better explanation for why fishing high tide is optimal?
Two, we get a strong current that parallels the coast. It's strong enough at times that I wondered if drifting a sand crab under an indicator or swinging streamers in the current would be a worthwhile method. Do you think it could work? Number three, do changes in air temperature and pressure affect ocean fishing as much as they do in lakes, rivers and streams? Seems like the ocean is a big place that the effects of local weather pattern would be less significant. Appreciate you taking the time to read through this and thanks for the always informative podcast.
Well, Winston, you know, I'd be very careful of someone saying always fish at high tide or always fish at low tide because certain beaches and certain areas fish better at high tide. Certain fish better at low tide. Certain fish better at mid-tide. And it really depends on the slope and the bottom structure of a particular area. Now what happens usually is at low tide, the fish are gonna cruise that edge. And yeah, you could walk out to the end of the drop-off and there should be fish cruising that edge off the drop-off and they should be feeding on stuff that's getting washed back into the deeper water. But then, at high tide...and this is probably the cast where you're fishing. The fish that might be inaccessible, they might out in really deep water at low tide where you can't reach them, those fish will move into the shallows because at high tide, the water is going to cover some areas that were dry at low tide and those areas are gonna be full of shrimp and crabs and bait fish that live in tidal pools. And at high tide, the fish can finally get up into those and they will move quite a distance to move up right tight to the shoreline and in the shallows there or what were shallows before.
So oftentimes in certain beaches, in certain places at high tide, things are gonna be better. But, you know, there's no solid rule about fishing high tide or low tide. It's always going to vary with the bottom structure and with inflows and outflows of estuaries and lots of other kinds of variables.
Regarding the current, your question two, yeah. I definitely would swing streamers in the current. I think that'd be a great way. I do it for striped bass here all the time, swinging just like you would a steelhead fly. And it can be a lot of fun and it works. And I would try drifting a sand crab under an indicator. Give it a try. I think it's a cool idea. And I don't think many people do it but I think it might be worth a shot because those fish are gonna be in that current eating shrimp and crabs that are getting washed down in there. So, I would definitely give it a try.
And your question number three about air temperature and pressure, I don't know anything about pressure. I can't believe that barometric pressure by itself affects fish much because when they move up down the water column, they go through a lot more changes in pressure than the weather can ever give us. However, and air temperature...air temperature in the ocean is not as big of a factor unless you have big exposed tidal flats that can warm up because you've got a giant piece of water and water gives up its heat or absorbs heat at a very, very slow rate. Water's one of the best insulators there is. So yeah, the changes in air temperature are not gonna change the fishing that much. Again, unless there's a lot of estuaries and rivers dumping in or there are a lot of exposed tidal flats, the air temperature is not gonna change things as much as it would in a lake or a river.
Jared: Hi, Tom. I have two questions for you. My name is Jared. I'm calling from ugly Missoula, Montana as you have noted with one of your guests recently. The first question is about losing fish based on hook size. I've been losing kinda disproportionately more fish on a rubber legs lately that has a larger hook than other flies. So, I'm curious if you've heard of this or experienced this where if the hook is larger, it allows the fish to kinda squirm off more easy.
So that's my first question. My second question has to do with rod weights. And the question is generally about rod weights across manufacturers but the instances I'm thinking about are within Orvis. So, I just bought the 4 weight 10-foot Recon which is a really great rod. But I was looking at it on the shelf, comparing the 10 foot to the 9 foot and it just seems that the 10 foot, the extra foot is essentially the part of the butt near the handle and that part just is the tapper of 9 foot extended. And so, it seems that it's just thicker down there. And so even though they're both 4 weight, it seems like the 10 foot maybe could handle more weight. And then I'm looking for a streamer rod in the Helios series and I like a more moderate action rod so I'm kinda leaning more towards the F line. But people around the shops here seems to think that the more moderate action on an F means that it can't handle as big of a fish even though they would say both be a six-weight rod. People think that the D would be able to handle a bigger fish than the F. So, some people think that there seems to be a relationship between, you know, the speed of a rod and how big of a fish it can handle. And I understand that it'd probably take longer to bring in a fish on a softer rod but I'm just curious generally how these weights of rods are considered given all this information.
Thanks for everything you do for the sport and answering questions from people like me.
Tom: So, Jared, I'm a little bit at a loss to tell you why you're losing more fish on a larger hook. Generally, larger hooks are gonna hold fish better than smaller hooks. But larger hooks do have larger wire diameter and unless your point is super, super sharp, sometimes you just catch the fish with the tip of that point and it doesn't really...the barb or...the barb. The bend of the hook doesn't really embed itself in the fish. So, make sure you have a good hook set. Make sure your hooks are sharp. The other thing is you didn't say if those rubber legs were weighted. If the rubber legs are very heavily weighted, then...again, a heavily weighted fly can be shaken loose by a fish a lot easier than a fly without a lot of weight on. So, if you've got a lot of lead on those rubber legs or you've got a couple of beads on those rubber legs, yeah, the fish could shake them easier. That's all I can think of. Sharp hooks and a little bit better hook set with those bigger hooks.
Regarding your question on rods, a 10-foot 4 weight is not just a 9-foot 4 weight with an extra foot added in the butt section. They're designed from the bottom up. So, they're not gonna be exactly the same, for one thing. The diameter of the butt is gonna be different. Because the whole rod works together and it's...oh, the physicists or the engineers say it's a cantilever beam and that's beyond me to understand the physics of a cantilever beam but basically the flex goes through the whole rod and when you make a 10-foot rod, you have to make it totally different than a 9-foot rod. I don't think that an F... I don't think that a D, Helios 3D can handle bigger fish better than a Helios 3F. All rods that go through the Orvis rod shop have to go through breakage tests, multiple, multiple breakage tests and they're all tested to the extreme way beyond what anyone would normally...the pressure that anyone would normally put a rod under. So, both of those rods are gonna have to pass that breakage test and they both tested at about the same.
Now, the F is going to be a little less stiff in the butt. So, you may have a little bit longer fight and you may have to put more pressure on that fish with the F version with a big fish but you can because the F version is a little bit more flexible. So, I don't think there's any fish fighting advantage between the D and the F. You really wanna choose a D and the F based on the kinda casting you're gonna be doing. And F is more of a finesse and it's gonna be more concentrated toward delicacy, slightly lower line speed and little bit smoother, more progressive action. The D is gonna be a little bit stiffer, a little bit better with really big flies, long casts in the wind. They'll both cast short and long pretty well. But the D is gonna have a little bit advantage when you have some really extreme conditions.
All right. That is the Fly Box for this week. Let's go talk to Mike about fishing at Pyramid Lake and do they really fish from ladders.
All right. So, my guest today is Mike Anderson. Mike is Head Guide at the Reno Fly Shop. This is an Orvis endorsed operation, right, Mike?
Mike: Yes, we are.
Tom: Orvis endorsed operation. And where do you guys guide in the Reno area?
Mike: Yeah, we're fortunate that we have the Truckee River for the summer and Pyramid Lake all winter.
Tom: Pyramid Lake. So, Pyramid Lake doesn't...I don't know anything about Pyramid Lake other than people fish on stepladders. That's all...I've never been there. And, you know, so it stays open all winter?
Mike: Yeah, so we do get cold enough to where we do have some local reservoirs that will freeze over but it's salty and alkaline so that keeps it from freezing and it's large enough to where we get enough wave action to keep it from freezing over.
Tom: Aha, okay. Gotta be pretty brutal fishing out in the middle of winter, though, on a stepladder.
Mike: It can be, yeah. It hurts some days. That's for sure.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah, but it probably keeps the crowds down too that time of year.
Mike: Yeah, sometimes.
Tom: So, we're gonna talk about Pyramid Lake and it's...I find it a really fascinating story because it's a... you know, it's a reintroduction of a native trout that...was it thought to be extinct?
Mike: Yeah, so it was completely extirpated, extinct in the lake in the early 1940s.
Tom: And that was because of overfishing? Was it because of environmental issues? What was the reason it was extirpated?
Mike: Yeah, there were a few reasons. The main one was Derby Dam which was a diversion dam that was put in in 1903. And it'd send water out of the Truckee River out to a reservoir in kinda middle eastern Nevada. And it dropped the lake's total depth by 80 feet when they introduced that. And so, it was blocking the Lahontan cutthroat from their spawning grounds. And that lower section of the river was dry for a very long time and that's ultimately...combined with overfishing that, yeah, removed the fish from the lake.
Tom: Now, has that been mitigated? Can the cutthroat now spawn in that area?
Mike: Yeah, there are some more dams now downstream of Derby that are not passable but they do have plans in the very near future...like, Numana Dam is one of them to where they are going to create a fish passage for that. And then the Marble Bluff Dam is the federal hatchery site for the Pilot Peak cutthroat and that's the strain that was originally in the lake that was rediscovered in the 1970s. And the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service does push fish above Marble Bluff Dam and then also above Numana and then the Derby Dam was refitted with a fish passage in both directions. The latest was just in 2020. They finished the downstream passage for these fish.
Tom: And the fish passage actually works, huh?
Mike: Yeah. Yeah. From everything that I've heard, it works just fine.
Tom: Aha. Because they don't always work, as we found out in many places. They don't always work too well.
Mike: Yeah, the original fish passage of Derby Dam too, it was destroyed about four years after they created it. So, they actually recreated the upstream fish passage in 2002, 2004, somewhere around there.
Tom: So, tell us about this rediscovery, this mystery and how the fish got back into the lake. It's a pretty cool story.
Mike: Yeah, so like I said, they were extirpated from the lake in about the 1940s. It was always thought and obviously this holds true that the fish were put on railway cars and sent all over Northern Nevada, parts of Utah and just kinda thrown into any water source that they could find because they grew big, all of that good stuff. They were a good food source. And so, in 1970, a biologist by the name of Robert Behnke discovered cutthroat trout on what's called Pilot Peak which is a peak on the border of Nevada and Utah and he felt that they were special. We do have two other native cutthroat species in Northern Nevada and he was wise enough to identify that these were not them. And it was only until the 1990s when DNA research had finally reached its ability to have those fish found by Robert Behnke to be genetically sourced to a 41-pound cutthroat which is the record out of Pyramid Lake. And that 41 pounder is in the Carson City Museum for posterity reasons and all that but they did a genetic test to it and it is pretty much the original strain.
Tom: Wow. And no dilution at all, the DNA? It was considered pure Lahontan.
Mike: Yeah, so Mary Peacock is one of the forebearers of the biological research of the Lahontan cutthroat trout and she was the one who actually did the study in the 1990s and I think her direct quote is, "We found the big guys." Or it was something like that. So, I don't have a number for you but it's pure enough to make her happy. So that's a good sign.
Tom: And so how did they get back in the lake?
Mike: So, the Federal Wildlife does have a stocking program. Like I said, they will egg and milt the Lahontan cutthroat right there just...I think it's, like, three or four miles right up the river at Marble Bluff Dam. And then they are taken to a hatchery in Gardnerville, Nevada which is about...probably about two hours south of the lake. And then they're reared there. The first stocking of the Pilot Peak cutthroat back into Pyramid Lake was in 2006 with 14,000 individuals. So that was the beginning.
Tom: And what percentage of the fish that are in the lake now are wild spawned and what percentage are hatchery? Do you have any idea?
Mike: No, we don't have any data just yet for that. We have seen anecdotally fish that are of the Pilot Peak size that do have an adipose fin. So that's one thing that I should clarify too. There are two strains of Lahontan cutthroat trout in Pyramid Lake.
Mike: In the 1970s, the Paiute Tribe started putting in Summit Lake strain of Lahontan cutthroat trout. And they are...they still have their adipose fin. And then like I said, in 2007, the Pilot Peaks started coming in. And the Federal Fish and Wildlife service does adipose clip the Pilot Peaks. So, as we get more and more wild production, we'll start to have a little harder time differentiating between the two as we get wild Pilot Peaks that have an adipose. But that's the easiest way to kinda separate the two different strains at the moment.
Tom: And is there any difference in size or behavior over those two strains?
Mike: A little bit, yeah. The Pilot Peak strain does tend to get to the much larger size. It's not uncommon to have a Summit Lake fish reach about 7, 8, maybe 10 plus pounds. But typically, if you're catching a trout that's 10, 15, 20 plus, you are looking at a Pilot Peak strain.
Tom: That's a big trout.
Mike: Yeah, over three feet for some of these fish.
Tom: Oh, my God. No wonder people brave the winter conditions.
Tom: Wow. So, this is a great success story of fish that was totally gone from a lake, a native fish that's been brought back and provides some great recreational opportunities, right?
Mike: Yeah, and it's a really cool emerging fishery too. So, we've really seen the size of these fish and overall length and weight just increase over the years. When I first started guiding the lake, one of my least favorite questions is, is there a 30 pounder in the lake. And I don't know. But as we get further and further, I know of a fish last year that was 27 and a bit. So, and we're only allowed to fish the west shore of Pyramid Lake. So, we're maybe covering 1% of the water. So, I'm a little more confident to say yes, there's probably a 30-pound Lahontan cutthroat trout somewhere in the lake.
Tom: You're only allowed to fish the west shore. Why is that?
Mike: Yeah, so the lake is on the Paiute reservation. And the eastern shore is for Paiutes only.
Tom: Aha, okay. Okay.
Tom: And tell me what it's like fishing for these fish because again, I've never done it. So, I've just seen. I was seeing pictures and read articles about it. So, tell me what a day would be like doing this kind of fishing.
Mike: Yeah. So, it's a daunting lake to look at. It's 29 miles long by 8 miles wide at its widest. So, it's massive. It's 350 feet deep roughly at its deepest. So, it can be a little daunting when you first get out there. It's a desert lake. There's maybe five trees on the entire lake.
Mike: But what we do have are really cool limestone tufa structures, is what they're called, tufa rocks and that's what creates the pyramid and all of the rocks that we will fish from when we're not fishing on ladders. But typically, we roll out pretty early in the morning. We'll fish north or south depending on the time of the year. And some spots, you do need a ladder. The really interesting thing about Pyramid Lake too is that it does have very dramatic drop-offs from shore. So, we really don't have a shoal. You'll have the shoreline and sometimes if you take another step when it's dark and you're not really paying attention, you're in 15 feet of water immediately. And so yeah, it can be a little...it can throw you off your guard just a little bit. But that's where the fish feed. They feed very much, like you would assume, like an orca does where they kinda herd bait into these drop-off shallower areas and then that's where they feed from.
Tom: Do people fish from boats in the Pyramid...aha.
Mike: Yeah, they do fish from boats. Pyramid, though, is a...it can get very dangerous very quick on the lake. It's not terribly uncommon to have some deaths in boating. We very luckily have not had one in a few years but it does happen to where people bring out just too small of a water craft and do end up getting capsized. So that's typically gonna be what we would call more in the early season which would be the open which is October 1 until probably the end of October. And then again in late season. Probably May till it closes again June 30th, it would be your boat [inaudible 00:57:18] time.
Tom: So, when does the fishing close there? I assume that...
Mike: June 30th.
Tom: June 30th till October?
Mike: And then October 1 is the opener.
Tom: Aha, and that's to protect the spawners?
Mike: No, so they'll spawn in April, April, May. That is because the surface temperature of the water gets 68, 70 plus. So that way they're not pulling fish out from deep.
Tom: Oh, okay. Okay. So, what do you do? What kinda tackle do you use and how do you fish for these fish?
Mike: Yeah, and this is where if you've ever fished, which I know you have...you fished still waters before. This is where everything kinda diverges and it becomes its own little monster here. The rods that we use when we're throwing a sinking line are gonna be seven to nine weights, somewhere in there. A lot of that is to handle the size of the fish but a lot of that is to be able to cast in the wind. It's not uncommon to have 40 plus mile an hour winds out there. And then the line we use is one that you're probably very familiar with too. It's one that you would use for striker fishing in the California delta. So, a full sinking 30-foot shooting head, anywhere from 6 to 8 inch per second sink with an intermediate running line is typically our go-to.
Tom: So that's the depth charge line?
Mike: Yeah, exactly, the depth charge.
Tom: Yeah, I fished a few of those in my time.
Mike: I'm sure.
Tom: And so, what kinda flies and what do you do? Is it sight...are you looking for fish? Is it sight fishing? Is it blind fishing?
Mike: Yeah, it's all blind fishing. One thing that I always encourage people out at Pyramid Lake is bring a stripping basket if you're using your sinking line just to get you even that little bit further of a cast. But if you can cast 60, 80 feet, you will have just a better shot at catching fish. Typically, our leaders are gonna be little hard to describe but from the end of your shooting head we'll go about 2 feet of probably about 15-pound fluorocarbon. And then from there, I'll do a triple surgeon's knot and I'll add from there about 6 feet of 12, sometimes even 15 pound [inaudible 00:59:41] And we're using attractor flies on that first tag. We'll use...booby flies are a really popular one. Beetle flies, tadpoles. So, all of these attractor flies have a little bit of floatation built in and that just keeps that fly riding two to three inches off the bottom, right, for a trout to really grab them.
Mike: And then typically that trailing fly is going to be some kinda streamer pattern. You know, a strong hooked woolly buggers, any kind of, like, a little bait fish pattern is pretty typical out there.
Tom: Do you tie these in line or do you tie them on a separate dropper?
Mike: I do everything off of a dropper. Just [inaudible 01:00:23] that slide that has a little bit of foam so that it can dance around as it likes.
Tom: Aha, okay. And so, you just cast out as far as you can cast and strip back?
Mike: So, the key out there...that's why I really like those depth charge lines, because they sink about six to eight inches a second.
Mike: And one thing is the fish will hold during certain times of year at certain depths. So right now, with a nice, cold snap, our fish are gonna be holding anywhere from probably 15 to 10 feet. So, if you have a six inch or...yeah, six inch a second sink line, if you count it down 20, 23 seconds, your fly's gonna be roughly at that 10 to 12 inch or 12-foot mark. And that's when you would start your retrieve. That's another good thing about those shooting head sinking lines is that once they get to depth, they roughly stay at that same depth until they get much closer to you as you're stripping them in.
Tom: Okay, yeah. And then do you ever fish nymphs or dry flies for that matter?
Mike: Yeah. Yeah, so that's the second way that we fish, is with an indicator without the naked style as Phil Riley has shown. Typically, we're going to do a switch rod for that. So, like, a 7 weight 11-foot Mission would be perfect for that. And then the leader kind of varies depending on the time of year. Earlier in the season, the fish are deeper. Later in the season, they get a little shallower. So, my leader in the fall is going to be longer. I'm gonna start off with probably a nine-foot 0X tapered leader to a tippet ring or a swivel. And then from there I'm going to add anywhere from four to six feet of probably right around 2X fluorocarbons. And I like my nymphs and... balanced leeches are huge out here too. The balanced leech has really kinda changed the game as far as indicator fishing goes out here. And so, I like to keep my flies roughly three feet apart with a midge on the bottom and then a leech above that off of a tag.
And then you just use the indicator to spot in the depth and anywhere from, you know, 15 and up so...
Tom: So, you must be using those indicators that pop off, the one that will...
Mike: Yeah, if you're fishing alone, a flip indicator is definitely going to be the way to go. On my guided trips, I just use an airlock because obviously I can scoop the net and have my clients walk backwards a little bit.
Tom: Aha, aha. And so, they don't have to bring that indicator into the guides?
Mike: Correct, yes.
Tom: So, what is the fight like in, you know, a 15-pound cutthroat?
Mike: You know, it's...this is where, like, the fish are very much their own personality. Sometimes you hook a 15 pounder and you'll know immediately. Not because they go for a really fast run but because your rod has a really deep flex and it pulses woom-boom and that's...they're just this giant three-foot fish headshake.
Mike: And then sometimes you get an eight pounder that'll tear you straight to your backing and it's, you know, a four- or five-minute fight. So, it kinda depends. It's pretty hard to land those larger cutthroats, especially if you get them above that 15 pound, up into the 20s.
Tom: I can imagine.
Mike: A lot of the times it's a lazy start to where you'll get those deep headshakes and then as you're getting them in, they see the net and then good luck. They're gonna take off, take you to your backing. But it's exciting and that's one thing that makes Pyramid Lake so special, is that any cast can be a 10 plus pound trout pretty much any time of the year.
Tom: Wow. And how...you know, on an average day, how many fish is someone gonna hook fishing in Pyramid? I know it's tough to describe an average day but, you know...
Mike: Yeah, sure. One thing I would encourage your listeners to do too is to go to renoflyshop.com. I wrote an article a few years back. It's on our blog portion. And it breaks down the Pyramid Lake season into three separate parts. And that really...the lake fish is different during these three seasons. So, like, early season as the water's getting colder, you may get five or six shots a day, especially as we get more towards Thanksgiving and the colder water. You are looking at the larger fish. And then specially through the middle portion of the season which would be Thanksgiving to, say, mid-January, you still have the same roughly catch rate, probably about five shots a day but the quality goes up. So that's a lot of the times where we start to really see those larger fish. We really start catching 10, 15, 20 plus pounders.
And then in the late season which would be mid-January all the way to the end of the season, that's going to be more of your numbers time. The smaller fish start to get active as the water warms. The fish will start to get into spawn mode by April and that's where it's not uncommon to have 20 plus fish days with hopefully a couple of larger fish in there.
Tom: That's a pretty amazing day.
Tom: And what's the air temperature like throughout the season there?
Mike: Yeah, so when the lake opened this year on October 1, it was 72 degrees and it was pretty warm. But during the winter, middle season and late season, it's not uncommon for the high to be in the 20s. So, it can be pretty frigid. We do a lot of fish for an hour, go sit in the truck for 20 minutes and warm back up. That kinda stuff. So yeah.
Tom: What do you do for ice in the guides, which is, you know, a common problem this time of year and it's gonna get worse? But do you have any special tricks for keeping guys from icing up? Because you obviously fish some pretty frigid temperatures.
Mike: Yeah. A lot of the times we'll just dunk the rods after every cast. You just dunk them in the water. And especially if you're retrieving flies. You wanna have most of the rod in the water, probably the first...at least the first section of your fly rod in the water while you're retrieving just to make sure that line is staying low. It's more reels that if they start freezing up, starts to be an issue. And again, we'll just dunk the entire rod under the water when they do start to freeze. That's the best way to get them uniced.
Tom: So, you don't put any kind of oil or spray or anything on your guides to keep them from icing up?
Mike: No, nothing like that. There is a regulation at the lake too that you can't use any scent attracting stuff.
Mike: And I just don't want to get confused with, "Oh, what are you doing?" "I'm icing my guides," and, you know, have an issue with that. So typically dunking them is going to be the best bet. And the water is salty too. So that keeps it from freezing a little bit better as well.
Tom: What is the salinity of that water like compared to the ocean in most places? Is it kinda brackish or is it really saline?
Mike: Yeah, it's enough that at the end of the day you should probably wash your gear. I did look up the actual salt rating and it's anywhere from two to five grams per liter. So, it's pretty salty. I don't know what the ocean is but it's...you can taste it if you accidentally get some in your mouth.
Tom: Okay. And what...you talk about regulate...what are the regulations? Is it all catch and release? Can fish be harvested there?
Mike: Yeah, so you can keep two fish a day that are 17 to 20 inches. That is from nose to fork of tail. And then you can keep one that is over 25 inches. Again, nose from fork to tail. Like, a few other notable regulations. Barbless hooks, maximum two hooks on a line. They're really sticklers for that. And then obviously you can only fish the western shore. Yeah.
Tom: Who manages that, the state Fish and Game or is it federal?
Mike: It is the tribe, the Paiute tribe who manages it.
Tom: Oh, okay. So, they have...they provide the wardens and they do all the checking of licenses and regulations and things?
Mike: Correct, yes.
Tom: Aha, okay.
Mike: You have, yeah, tribal rangers.
Tom: So, the tribe owns the entire lake? Is that what it...
Mike: Yeah, they own the lake plus quite a bit on the eastern side.
Tom: Okay. Is it...do you need a tribal permit to fish there?
Mike: Correct. So, when you go up to Pyramid Lake, you no longer have to worry about having a Nevada state license or anything like that. It's just your tribal license on the reservation.
Tom: Just your tribal...okay, okay. And sounds like they patrol it pretty regularly. Sounds like they enforce it pretty well.
Mike: Yeah. So, if I'm out there seven days, I'll probably get checked three or four of them.
Tom: Oh, no kidding? Wow.
Mike: Oh, yeah.
Tom: That's fantastic. That's great. That's great. Do you see a lot of fish harvested?
Mike: Not a ton. More kinda this time of year where you do have more boat anglers, more of the conventional fisherman from shore more likely to harvest. Another regulation that was just imposed...I think it was about two years ago. Just increases your fish handling practices which I really love this regulation. You can no longer land a trout basically without a net. That was...it was terrible. It happened all the time where people would drag them on shore, unhook them, you know, kick them back into the water. So that's a new regulation where it just increases the fish handling practices as well.
Tom: Oh, that's great. That's great. And I imagine that...
Mike: And one thing too...oh, go ahead.
Tom: No, sorry, go ahead.
Mike: Whenever we weigh a fish...because that's one thing that we always get asked is how do you weigh the fish. We never obviously put a Boga grip or any type of scale on the mouth or the gill or anything like that. We'll hang the fish in the net, weigh the net and the fish, subtract the net and that's the best way to keep that fish nice and healthy while still getting a good record of its weight.
Tom: Yeah, yeah. I imagine people wanna know if they're catching trout that big. They wanna know how much it weighs.
So, is it a busy area? I mean, you know, I assume when the weather is nice, it's busier but is it a crowded area or is there plenty of room to fish there?
Mike: So, there's a lot of marquis spots out at Pyramid Lake and they do get fished heavily. It's not uncommon if you're there a Friday to a Monday to where you'll be in a lineup of 40, 50 other anglers and they're separated by, you know, 30, 40 feet. That does happen quite a bit. Most people are pretty, pretty nice about it, though. You can ask, you know, can I put my ladder in here. Is this too close, is this too far? And most people are amenable to that.
Tom: Well, I've heard that it's kind of a social fishing too that people, you know, laugh and joke and compare notes and so on. So, sounds like it's kinda interesting.
Mike: Yeah, you have a fun vibe and depending on what part of the lake you're on too, you'll hit different crews, different friend groups and you'll get a different experience depending on what part...what time of the year you're fishing, that's for sure.
Tom: And I imagine it doesn't really matter because you're fishing so deep that, you know, you're not gonna spook...people close together aren't gonna spook the fish or anything like that because the fish are, you know, gonna be pretty, pretty far down and probably not disturbed by lots of people on the shore.
Mike: So, it's actually interesting too. So, when we talk about the lake having its different seasons, the fish go from deep water to shallow water back to deep water. And when I say shallow water, it's not uncommon to see fish in a foot of water cruising the shore. And that's why we use ladders in a couple of spots out there. When you have a dramatic drop-off like I talked about earlier, you don't really need a ladder there, right. But there are certain beaches where you can walk out 200 feet and the drop-off is another 10, 15 feet past you. And that's where we use the ladders. Gets you up out of the water which can be cold, gets you up out of the waves and it's not uncommon that when you have the ladder set up where you have a fish go behind you and your ladder. And it's actually something that I've done quite often is if I notice a lot of fish coming behind the ladder as in the line of anglers is pushed out too far and the fish wanna be shallower, to actually cast backward towards shore and that can be pretty effective too, especially in that later season when the fish get very shallow.
Tom: So, you do have some sight fishing when the fish are shallow, I assume, right?
Mike: Yes, and typically too when they get that shallow, they're getting pretty close to spawn mode. By the time April hits, the fish get into spawn mode. That's where they're gonna be at their shallowest. Sometimes two feet under a bobber or three feet under a bobber where you're hanging your bugs. And at that point, they saw you well before you saw them. So, and they're the apex predator of the lake. There's nothing really that eats them except for some giant pelicans that show up towards end of April, May. So, they don't spook like your normal trout. They aren't gonna dart, take off. They're just not gonna open their mouth. And so that can make things a little frustrating because you can see hundreds of fish a day and get just a couple of bites.
Tom: Oh, interesting. Yeah, I guess if you see them from far enough away, you might be able to get a shot at them, huh?
Mike: Yeah, and typically what I'll do when they start to get that shallow...if I have a single angler, I'll just get to an area where I don't have any other anglers around and I'll have my client cast at an angle, cast 45 degrees. That way they see the fly well before they see us and that seems to help a lot. The other thing that you can do too is go to that naked style that time of year when they're in shallow water. Just use a regular floating line, do a pretty short leer, probably only about eight feet. And then cast out, start doing a very slow retrieve just keeping them moving. And that allows...A, they don't see a bobber. Your line should sink under the water a little bit so it's not sitting on the surface. And those are a couple of ways to be more effective when the fishing gets a little tougher.
Tom: Okay. Now is there a preferred type of ladder for this fishing?
Mike: So, the marquis ladder is the chair ladder that is out there now. So, it's a platform that has a boat chair on it. I typically do just a three-step ladder, something you'd get at Home Depot. Make sure it's nice and dark. Bright ladders, I do believe show the fish you from further away. So, a darker three step ladder, somewhere around four foot is perfect.
Tom: And then do you...it sounds like some people mount a boat chair on top of the ladder.
Mike: Yeah, so they have these folding metal chair contraptions where, yeah, they have mounted a boat chair on top of.
Tom: And is that a modification that the user does or do they actually sell them?
Mike: There is a person that does sell them in Carson City but most of it is just gonna be a modification that you can make yourself.
Tom: So, you can actually sit down and fish?
Mike: Exactly. Necessity is the mother of invention, for sure.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah. Well, you know, being only five foot six, I can definitely see the advantages of a ladder.
Mike: Yeah. Definitely.
Tom: There's a guy down in Cape Cod that actually drags one around on the flats and everybody laughs at him but, you know, he spots the fish and...
Mike: You know, I saw it in Hawaii a couple of years ago when I was there too. So, it's starting to become a trend.
Tom: Yeah, yeah. It's also become something to poke fun at on social media occasionally. You see those little snide remarks coming out.
Tom: But, you know, it's no different than fishing from a boat standing up, right, a kayak or a canoe or whatever? It's just not moving but you're up high above the water so you can see.
Tom: Well, I've gotta try that someday, Mike. It just sounds so different and so interesting.
Mike: Yeah. We'd love to have you out here any time.
Tom: Now what other waters do you...you guys fish the Truckee, obviously.
Tom: Another place I've never fished and heard some great things about. What's the season on the Truckee?
Mike: So, Truckee will start...I mean, it's a year-round fishery as well. We can get amazing blue winged olive hatches kind of that same time that late season of Pyramid, your February, March, April. We can get some blue winged olive hatches on an overcast day that are just incredible. Large brown trout coming up to them. Typically, after our runoff which can be kinda the end of May, early June all throughout the summer, is your prime time as long as we got [inaudible 01:18:49] of water in the winter. Does get a little bit of hot weather in August that we have to obviously be careful of. But it's an amazing fishery. It's a difficult fishery. European style nymphing. It definitely is effective on the Truckee River. And it's another trophy fishery. I had a client this last year who landed 28-inch brown euro nymphing and they love streamers. It's a fun place, for sure.
Tom: Is it mostly brown trout in the Truckee?
Mike: So, it kinda flip flops depending on our water years. Our area is on a five-to-eight-year cycle of droughts to flood. So, during the drought times, the brown trout population is going to decrease but the rainbow trout population will increase and the inverse is true as well.
Tom: Do you think that's because rainbows are more likely to shift and move around during lower water?
Mike: I think it's mostly just spawn time. So, the rainbows always have good spawns and the cutthroat historically always spawned in the spring as well. Partially because the Truckee River, before they put the dam on Lake Tahoe would probably go dry almost every year. And so, it's definitely a spring spawners delight on the Truckee River. But if we get a really big influx of water, you know, obviously it's gonna blow out reds and all of that. So that's why we see a flip flop of rainbow to brown trout.
Tom: Are there any cutthroats left in the Truckee?
Mike: So, we do see them every now and then. Like I said, the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service does a good job of getting some of these cutthroats, the larger cutthroats above Derby Dam. And then the next dam is probably 50 miles up. It's the Verdi Dam. And I've seen 12, 15-pound cutthroat all the way up there. But they don't stay in the river long. And then the Federal Wildlife Service does put the Pilot Peak strain cutthroat into the Truckee River every spring. They're not subsisting, though. They're only lasting a few months so far. Maybe a small population will over winter but it's not enough to where we have a repeatable cutthroat fishery.
Tom: And do you guys have fishing up in the small streams in the mountains as well in that area?
Mike: Oh, yeah. So, there's a lot more. It's just for guiding, the Truckee River and Pyramid Lake are the marquis places but we do have Little Truckee, Sage...and I'm gonna try not to, you know, hotspot too many places but there are a lot of...
Tom: Yeah, yeah, yeah. You don't have to mention names. That's okay. I understand.
Mike: There's a lot of water in our area, for sure.
Tom: Aha. And a lot of public water on public land and so on?
Mike: Yes, yeah, especially in Nevada. It's still mostly public land.
Tom: What are the access laws in Nevada? As far as, you know, if you're in a river and you go through private land.
Mike: So as far as the Truckee River goes, on the Nevada side, as long as you don't cross public property, they do not own the riverbed. So, you have full access for the Truckee River. Other rivers in Nevada, you do have to be a little more careful of the ownership laws.
Tom: Okay, so people can own the bottom of the river in other rivers?
Tom: But I imagine most of the small streams that you fish are on public land anyways, right?
Mike: Yes. Most of them are.
Tom: Okay. All right. Well, it sounds like a great part of the world and it's a part of my fishing education that's missing. So, there's, sounds like, some very interesting places that I know I wanna fish and I'm sure other people listening wanna fish. So yeah. They can get a hold...
Mike: Yeah, definitely.
Tom: They can get a hold of you guys at the Reno Fly Shop and you'll have an Orvis endorsed guide so you know you're gonna have a great experience. And I have been...I actually have been to the Reno Fly Shop before but years and years ago.
Mike: Oh, awesome.
Tom: Yeah. But it's been a long time since I've been there. And I never...I was there for some kind of convention in Reno and I should've gone fishing but I didn't. I don't know why I didn't because usually I try to find some excuse to sneak out fishing.
Mike: Yeah, well, you're welcome any time. Feel free to come on down.
Tom: Well, thank you, Mike. I may take you up on that. I may take you up on that.
Mike: Definitely, please do.
Tom: Yeah. And thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and giving us an idea of what fishing from a ladder might be like. And yeah, we've been talking to Mike Anderson, Head Guide at the Reno Fly Shop. Thank you, Mike, for taking the time today.
Mike: My pleasure. Thank you so much, Tom. I really appreciate it.
Tom: All righty. Take it easy.
Mike: You too. Go fishing.
Tom: Yeah, I will. Thanks for listening to the "Orvis Fly Fishing Podcast" with Tom Rosenbauer. You can be a part of the show. Have a question or a comment? Send it to us at