A Lahontan Cutthroat Trout Encounter
Wild Fish Wild Places 03.08.12
The hefty Lahontan cutthroat trout hit the Sierra Spoon moments after Denis killed our motor to retrieve the fish that had just struck his rod. The strike on my side of the boat immediately popped the trolling line out of the down-rigger clip, and when I picked up the rod, I could feel the shaking head of a very large trout. I had hooked into him on a chartreuse-colored Sierra Spoon set on a down-rigger at about twenty feet of depth. As I cranked away on the reel, I began to see a subsurface form of my very large fish emerge from the depths of the dark, pre-sunrise waters. I gasped in surprise as the details of its contours came into view; this was no average fish.
Despite his deep knowledge of Pyramid Lake, I knew that even Denis was surprised at our double hook-up a few short minutes into our first morning. When my fish finally surfaced, Denis looked up from removing the Tasmanian Devil hook from his fish’s mouth and laughed in disbelief. The deeply-colored cutthroat was adorned in pre-spawn splendor.
Once the fish caught sight of our boat, he lost all reservation and battled desperately to dive down into the lake’s deep waters. For a moment I was certain that I would lose the fish. He heaved his way under out boat, struggling to find a snag to break me off. I leaned over the boat, precariously extending the rod and feverishly cranked on the reel in a desperate attempt to keep the line out of our prop.
The fish turned to race back at me and I scrambled to reel in the slack. “Get the net!” I yelled at Denis. “Don’t have one!” he replied, “Guess I’ll have to tail him.” I worked the large trout toward the back of the boat, careful to avoid the ladder. The fish turned from the boat and Denis leaned over, arm extended toward the fish’s tail. I held my breath during the agonizing second of uncertainty as Denis worked his hand closer to the fish, eventually grasping the tail. My line slackened as he hauled in the fish, cradled it with his other hand, and finally heaved it from the water.
For a moment the stillness of the lake settled over us and the world seemed to pause at the perfection of what was happening. The ten pound fish held still as water dripped off of its shimmering flanks. Then both of us erupted as we realized what had happened: We had landed a trophy Lahontan trout.
We were all smiles and laughs as we snapped a quick photo before releasing the creature back into its watery home. As I reset my rod in the down-rigger, I laughed to myself at the irony of fishing. It would have made a perfectly poetic ending to our trip if the trophy trout had come after a long week of fishing, but in the first few minutes of our first day, it had made the entire trip wonderful regardless of any further outcomes. I had no idea about what else the Pyramid Lake waters might have in store for us, but I knew that on this fish alone, I could return home from the trip completely satisfied.