Spring-time in the Montana high country means no tourists, no bugs, and eager fish. This beautiful mountain lake cutthroat was caught using a damsel pattern and was released to swim another day.
When I was about 9 years old, my family moved to the outer edge of Alexandria, Louisiana. The area was unique in that it was built just before the sub-division era, yet the area was not a part of the old town either. Luckily, for me and my older brother Chuck, there was a nice sized lake just behind our house. All we had to do was cut through the neighbor’s backyard, cross one street, go through another neighbor’s yard and bingo, we were at the lake.
When we moved into our new home, dad forbid us to go to the lake. We were sternly told, if we were caught at the lake, we would be dealt a serious whipping. Keep in mind, this was in the day of liberal use of a belt or other disciplinarian instruments. Being typical boys, we couldn’t wait for Dad to go to work so we could check out our new digs at the lake.
From the moment we laid eyes on her clear water and huge bass cruising the shorelines, we were hooked. I lost count of the “ass-whippings” we received as a result of our hard headed defiance. Our love for the lake and fishing was so powerful we could not pull ourselves away, even knowing a serious whipping was a certainty.
Most days, we would fish with the best intentions of being home before dooms hour, that being Dad’s punctual arrival home at 5:30. By 5:00 our casting became frantic….”gotta catch one more bass.” At 5:30 sharp, Dads whistle rang through the air with the dread of an air-raid siren. I would look at Chuck, he would look at me, and we both would say, “Oh crap.” We quickly gathered our gear and headed home with much trepidation.
Each time, we took our licks like men, knowing full well, tomorrow we would go back. Dad should have seen the light. Hell, there was a clear path beaten through the yards heading off toward the lake.
I can’t remember exactly when dad surrendered. I think we were about thirteen or fourteen. After one particularly serious “ass-whooping,” I stood tall before my dad and said, “You might as well give us permission to go because we are going anyway.” By then it was obvious I could take the best of what he could dish out and would gladly do so for a good fishing trip….He finally saw the light. He had two incurable anglers for sons ….he relented.
From that day on we fished without worry. We even managed to persuade him to let us night fish and frog hunt on the lake. He quickly became keen on the frog legs as well as an abundant supply of large bream and bass fillets.
We “generally” respected his request to be home before dark. We weren’t disobedient children, we simply could not help ourselves. We had to fish….it was in our blood and some sixty some odd years later, it still is.
I’ll see you on the water Chuck….I love you brother!
We drove the truck onto the beach of Pyramid Lake while it was still dark. Several campers were already parked on the beach, but there were no signs of movement from the dark interior of the trailers. The four of us quietly exited the truck with our waders and Goretex jackets swishing as we gathered our gear. We donned headlamps and secured stripping baskets, gloves, and our fly rods before we finally pulled our ladders out of the back of the truck. Pyramid Lake is a lake in western Nevada known for big Lahontan cutthroats where fishermen perch on top of a ladder and fish the lake’s large drop off.
With headlamps bobbing in the darkness, we waddled our ladder out into the dark lake, feeling the water rise from our boots, past our knees and then to our mid section. Knowing the lake floor makes a sudden drop, we positioned our ladders and waited patiently for the earth to spin a bit more so that the sun could fight off the darkness of night. Waiting with fly rods in hand, other headlights started to appear on the beach, and within moments, more fishermen were walking ladders into the dark water.
The dark sky turned gray and fly rods were put to use, heaving heavy shooting heads and flies into the choppy water. Within moments the first of our group raised a bent fly rod high into the air. We all admired the pulsing line and the eruption on the water’s surface as a heavy Lahontan cutthroat thrashed its way into the net.
In truth we are all there looking for a big fish, and although we never laid a hand on any of the big 10 pounders, we each held very respectable fish. But as much as Pyramid Lake is about the lake, there is also something socially binding about the ladder line. We stand like soldiers in a formation. Your comrades to the right and left hold the line and continue to throw flies in to the biting wind and all pray for the tug of a fish and the glory that comes with it. Fishing at Pyramid Lake is truly an experience, not only for the shot at a big fish, but for the friendships built on the ladders