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JAN/FEB 2021, OUR 25TH YEAR
 
 
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PYRAMID LAKE, NEVADA, and OTHER EXPLORATIONS DURING TIMES of COVID
 
 
Story and photos by Larry Turner
 

“Feed a little line and coax it back with a few twitches,” recommended my brother-in-law Rob, as I reeled in a robust strike while fly fishing for native cutthroat in Nevada’s Pyramid Lake, December, 2020. I heeded his advice and then ‘wham!’ It struck with a vengeance and I quickly set the hook. The battle lasted 10 minutes or so. Friend Jacque Maye netted the fish and right away we freed it from the barbless hook, took a few pics and then released it back into the aqua green water. We repeated this well-choreographed dance throughout the next two days, though photos were not always taken. While Jacque played Santa Claus at nearby Fallon Naval Station, Rob and I experienced this magnificent fishery just before serious times of COVID-19.

Now, like everyone all over the globe, I’ve been staying closer to my own home in Oregon during the pandemic. Fortunately, I have such a large backyard that social distancing is a piece of cake for me because that is largely how I live my life. Reno is a five hour drive through the Big Open and Pyramid Lake is easily reached, as it lies northeast, approximately 30 miles from where I stayed at Reno’s Peppermill Resort. As I write these words the first vaccines have been released to the public for COVID-19 vaccinations. Sometime later in 2021, our country and world should have the upper-hand against this dreadful virus and life can get back to normal. During my stay at the Peppermill for three evenings (thanks to the kindness of my sis LeAnne and her husband Rob), masks were required at all times except for dining and drinking. It was fascinating to see movie images on screens throughout the Peppermill displayed by Joe Ness, (https://www.peppermillreno.com/blog/windows-of-the-world/). I had been Joe’s guide earlier in 2020 when he and his film crew were in the Klamath and Tulelake Basins.

PYRAMID LAKE, NEVADA

  Pyramid Lake, Nevada   Pyramid Lake, Nevada  
         
 
  Pyramid Lake, Nevada   Pyramid Lake, Nevada  
         
  Pyramid Lake, Nevada   Pyramid Lake, Nevada  
         
  Pyramid Lake, Nevada   Pyramid Lake, Nevada  
         
  Pyramid Lake, Nevada   Pyramid Lake, Nevada  
         
  Pyramid Lake, Nevada   Pyramid Lake, Nevada  
         
  Pyramid Lake, Nevada   Pyramid Lake, Nevada  
         
  Pyramid Lake, Nevada   Pyramid Lake, Nevada  
         
  Pyramid Lake, Nevada   Fishing on Pyramid Lake  
         
  Pyramid Lake, Nevada   Pyramid Lake, Nevada  
         
  Pyramid Lake, Nevada   Pyramid Lake, Nevada  
         
Pyramid Lake, which many consider the most beautiful desert lake in North America, is part of the Paiute Tribal Land where fishing and other activities on and around the lake are regulated by the native Paiutes. Though famous for scenery, it is even more famous for fishing the ancient (2 million years old) Lahontan cutthroat trout, so named by the distinctive red coloration on the lower jaw. People throughout North America and around the world have fished Pyramid, including Clark Gable and Gary Cooper.

The unique endorheic (no outlet) of Pyramid Lake is famous for the ladder fisherman. Anglers wade out and place ladders of different shapes/sizes/designs into the waters near the beach to raise themselves up, allowing them to cast easier and farther. They cast barbless hooks with spin and fly reels/rods in hopes of coaxing large Lahontan cutthroats from the deep waters where they live below the drop-offs that surround the shoreline shallows. (Barbless hooks are required by regulation.) Such ‘fishing by ladder’ was my first experience at Pyramid Lake years ago. However, we recently fished via boat. Fishing costs $24 a day. Permits can be picked up online at https://plpt.nagfa.net/online/ and at the Sutcliffe ranger station. Only two fish between 17-20 inches and one over 24 inches can be kept. However, we turned back everything we caught. The LCT (Lahontan Cutthroat) actively feed on the endangered Tui chub and the Cui-ui lake sucker. We used fly patterns tied by Rob and swore not to reveal his methods. Pyramid’s fishery is vibrant, led by active stocking from Paiute, state and federal hatcheries.

Fishing Pyramid is exciting, but equally exciting there are the scenery and photography opportunities. One day Rob and I motored to the Needles Rock site at the north end of Pyramid Lake where I photographed an active geyser and numerous tufa formations. The Pyramid-naming comes from a tufa or calcium carbonate formation on the lake that is naturally structured like a pyramid. South of Pyramid Lake, in California, is Mono Lake, world-famous for its tufa formations. One of the things that I dearly love about Pyramid is that there are no resorts, condos, congested housing, suburbs, etc. around the lake. The Paiute Tribe plans to keep it that way. Traveling on and around the lake, you get a deep feeling of wilderness. “I never get tired fishing and boating on this lake,” says Rob. “It reminds me of fishing New Zealand’s south island. Every day is unique and eventful.”

EXPLORING MY HOME COUNTY

  Klamath County, Oregon   Klamath County, Oregon  
         
 
  Klamath County, Oregon   Klamath County, Oregon  
         
  Klamath County, Oregon   Klamath County, Oregon  
         
  Klamath County, Oregon   Klamath County, Oregon  
         
During the COVID ‘lock-down,’ I’ve spent a lot of time in my home county of Klamath in Oregon. My county boasts the only national park in Oregon, Crater Lake, which is also America’s deepest and bluest lake. When the first November and December snows come, I often head that way after storms clear, to cross country ski and snowshoe on bluebird days. There are paths on the rim near the lodge, which is closed in the winter, where one can also easily walk. Snow-boots are recommended. Because of COVID, people are out and about like I’ve never seen before. In December I experienced my first-ever line of vehicles waiting to get to the rim as the parking lot at the rim was full. I recommend going to the park on weekdays as opposed to the busier, more populated weekends.

My cousin and I snowshoed during the last full moon. It was simply epic. Please note that when skiing or snowshoeing in the Crater Lake Area, be extra aware of snow cornices as the rim is very steep. Several years ago, a person fell to his death when climbing out on a snow cornice. To this day, the body has not been found.

Another favorite late autumn/ winter haunt in my home county is a cabin at Lake of the Woods, owned by Rob’s family. My son and I usually go there to close the place for the winter. On occasion I’ll snowshoe or cross-country ski into it in the winter, although no water is available there other than lake water or stovetop-melted snow. Fortunately, the cabin has an outhouse. There is a quietness and winter solace that is most welcoming within the human spirit, resulting from this cabin at the lake. When the lake freezes over, I love to cross-country ski on it, both day and night. During night-skiing under clear skies, the stars are sublime, and the winter quiet deafening.

DAY EXPLORATIONS IN CALIFORNIA NEAR MY BORDER HOME

  Northern California   Northern California eagle feeding baby  
         
 
  Northern California   Northern California  
         
  Northern California   Northern California  
         
  Northern California   Northern California  
         
  Northern California   Northern California  
         
  northern-california-   Northern California  
         
  Northern California   Northern California  
         
  Northern California   Northern California  
         
  Northern California   Northern California  
         
I live a mile from the California border, ten miles from Tulelake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges, and 20 miles from Lava Beds National Monument ... all three in the Golden Bear State, in the counties of Modoc (California’s least populated) and Siskiyou.

Often from my Malin, Oregon home, I’ll drive either to Tulelake or Lower Klamath to photograph and get in a daily hike. Both places teem with wildlife, especially waterfowl, shorebirds and raptors. I often see deer and coyote and more rarely, western bobcat, pronghorn antelope, elk and mountain lion. This region is the winter home to the largest concentration of bald eagles in the Lower 48 States. The longest running migratory bird festival in the world is the Winter Wings Festival (http://winterwingsfest.org/) based out of Klamath Falls. Because of COVID, it is canceled this year. Stay tuned though for next year.

Whether from Tulelake or Lower Klamath, the views of Mount Shasta are extraordinary. You are on dirt and gravel roads when visiting these places, so plan accordingly. A camera is a must! In the winter, snow geese, swans, ducks, other geese species and a variety of additional birds are abundant. Check out Tulelake, California, and Malin/Merrill/Klamath Falls for places to stay. With a self-contained camper or vehicle, you can stay just about wherever you wish. Call Tulelake NWR Headquarters at 530-667-2231 for info or visit https://www.fws.gov/refuge/tule_lake/.

Lava Beds National Monument is fascinating in the winter. There are great hiking trails, many caves to explore, and the rattlesnakes are sequestered in their winter stupor! A fire burned three quarters of this National Monument in the summer of 2020 and there are certain parts that are now closed to the public. Info can be gathered at https://www.nps.gov/labe/index.htm or by calling 530-667-8113.

Wherever you live during the COVID-19, check out your local area for outdoor activities. This is a time to explore your own home country. But, if you have broader wings, please keep in mind that there is a lot to do and see in my front and back yards.

IMPORTANT INFO:
https://pyramidlake.us/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyramid_Lake_(Nevada)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lava_Beds_National_Monument
www.discoverklamath.com
https://www.nps.gov/crla/index.htm
https://lakeofthewoodsresort.com/
541-949-8300 Lake of the Woods Resort
www.peppermillreno.com