Common Carp (Cyprinus carpio) are one fish often overlooked by Pyramid Lake anglers. These fish were introduced to western Nevada in 1881 by the first Nevada Fish Commissioner in a cooperative program with the US Fish Commission. They became established in the Truckee River to the dismay of locals who blamed them for mudding up the waters and outcompeting more valuable native fish. Due to the moderate salinity of Pyramid Lake, these fish seldom wander far from the mouth of the river or the extreme south end of the lake. Most anglers have shunned these fish until the mid-1980's when some prominent fly anglers began to promote the sporting ability of these fish. Today there is a growing number of anglers who seek opportunities to catch big carp. As witnessed by the photos of the carp on this page, Pyramid Lake has some monster carp and most likely has a potential state record carp. Check out the 19 pound carp featured on this web page. That fish would have put up a memorable fight. Recommended gear for fly fishing for carp is an 8 weight rod with floating line and 2x to 3x fluorocarbon leaders.
Typically, carp will not hit lures. Bait fishing is not allowed on the lake or the Truckee River. These Nevada bonefish can be caught with flies if feeding carp are located. Anglers should be aware that the area in a 1000 foot radius of the mouth of the river is closed.
The first challenge for the trophy carp angler is to find schools of carp along the shoreline. If the carp are not actively feeding, they cannot be caught. In the mornings and again late in the afternoon carp can be located feeding on the bottom for midges, shrimp or small aquatic insects. This feeding behavior is called tailing, as their tails are often seen near the surface. With a careful approach, it is not difficult to get within casting range of the fish. These fish will eagerly suck up small flies like hairs ears, snail patterns or wooly buggers cast in front of them. Watch the direction the fish are moving and cast 2 to 3 feet in front of the fish. The takes are very slight and it is helpful to use an indicator to pick up on the bite. Set your indicator 1 ½ times the depth you are fishing. For example, if you are fishing in 3 feet of water, set your indicator 4 to 4 ½ feet above your fly. Any slight movement signals a take and it's time to tighten up your line and get ready to hang on for a wild ride. It is important to have plenty of 20 pound test backing on a reel with a good drag as these fish will repeatedly take all the fly line off the reel before they can be landed. A large net will be helpful in landing your mega carp.
There is another feeding behavior, common to carp, called,"cluping". Carp in schools are called," shoals". When a shoal of carp is cluping on the surface, they are sucking whatever is caught in the surface film. This material could be emerging midges, cottonwood seeds or even floating algae. While feeding they may be in schools of from half a dozen fish to more than 100 fish. When large shoals of carp are feeding this way, they can be located with binoculars or heard at distances up to 100 yards. In clear water feeding carp can be difficult to approach. In a float tube it is possible to approach within casting distance. These carp will suck up anything that looks reasonably natural. A recommended pattern would be an emerging midge pupae in a size 10 with size 16 midge pupae attached to the bend of the top fly with a 3 inch dropper. Most often the carp will take the pupae hanging on the dropper and the floating emerger will indicate the strike. If a fish is hooked, don't strike hard, simply tighten up your line and the fish will dive below the shoal of carp without spooking the main school. You will have another chance of catching a fish. If the school is spooked they will dive and may not regroup for 15 to 20 minutes.To learn more about the fine art of pursuing carp locate the book, Carp on a Fly by John Berryman and by Brad Befus. This book first published in 1997 is the definitive guide to carp behavior and angling tactics.