Manifesting a Monster Cutthroat


My good friend Jerry. Happy as always happy

An old friend of mine named Jerry stopped by to visit me the other day.  Jerry is a local lake trout and brown trout fisherman who I would consider a little bit of a local legend in northern Nevada.  He is the type of legend that people talk about, but no one really knows his name.  Simply put, Jerry is known as the "Bigfoot of trophy trout fishermen in the Sierra Nevada."  You see, he is the type of guy who is always fishing in mountain lakes in the worst possible conditions.  For instance, I would get reports from people who would drive their snowmobiles up to Stampede Reservoir located in northern California to learn about the lake conditions and also find out when the roads might be plowed in order to find out when I might be able to fish the lake.  To my great surprise, I would hear reports that there was already someone on the lake even though the roads had two feet of snow on them.  Over the years, I would continue to receive reports of a light green truck with a camper shell parked near the dam.  Near the truck would also be a trail down to the lake where the fisherman had been winching his boat back and forth to the water.  For years I wondered who was this brave hearted soul.  I will admit that a few times I risked life and limb just to fish Stampede Reservoir on the day that the lake was supposed to have thawed out.  I would arrive at the lake to find this mystery fisherman already there.  Curiously, I would troll my boat over near him with hopes of asking him how the fishing was and to finally meet this mountain man.  Each and every time I got close he would waive with a smile and turn his boat away from me.  I got the message loud a clear that this was not the time to talk but rather to fish.  Not wanting to intrude on his personal fishing space, I simply headed to the other side of the lake.  This was the ritual that we practiced over the years and the unidentified fisherman’s legend grew.

First sign of snow and Jerry hits the mountian

One stormy winter day a good friend of mine was fishing at Stampede.  Due to the weather conditions, he swamped his boat and was forced to beach it. With no help in site he had no other choice than leave his boat and all of his fishing gear and tackle behind at the lake.  My friend faced a four hour hike around the lake at sunset or suffer hypothermia.  The next day a storm rolled in and my friend feared that all of his fishing gear, lures, motor, etc. would be lost by the time that he would be able to return to Stampede which was most likely after things thawed out the following spring. To my friend’s surprise he received a phone call from a fellow fisherman advising that he found my friend’s boat at Stampede along with all of his fishing gear inside.  My friend recalls the good Samaritan stating, “I ran your boat registration through Fish and Game and they gave me your phone number.  I grabbed all your stuff and dried out all of your tackle if you'd like to swing by my house in Reno, I would be happy to give it to you!"  As my friend was telling me this unbelievable story, I couldn’t help but wonder if the good Samaritan was the same fisherman that I often referred to in my mind as “Bigfoot.” My friend retrieved his personal belongings from the good Samaritan (who refused to accept any compensation from my friend as his token of appreciation) who I later learned is named Jerry Rosebush.

The following year I was pro-staffing for a few companies.  A good friend of mine, Mark Wiza, and I signed up to work a booth together at Cabela’s that would show case the fishing products that we were currently testing.  A nice gentlemen walked up to our booth which was set up with brochures, products, and a photo album of trophy fish.  Mark inquired about the kind of fish the gentlemen liked to fish for, trout, salmon, bass?  The gentleman politely replied, "Browns and lake trout." As most conversations regarding Brown trout go, Mark asked if the gentleman had ever caught any big ones. The gentleman casually smiled and said, “yes” and left it at that.  Flipping through Mark’s photo album the gentleman stopped on one photo and pointed to a Brown Bagger patch that was on Mark’s jacket and said grinning from ear to ear, "I have one of those."  For those of you who don’t know, the patch is associated with an exclusive Brown trout club.  To become a member of the Club (known as the Brown Baggers) one needs to have caught two west coast Brown trout weighing over 10 pounds. This is an incredibly hard accomplishment to achieve.  Mark and the gentleman became instant friends.  Mark then introduced me to the gentlemen stating, "Brad, I would like to introduce you to Jerry Rosebush."  The name instantly clicked in my head and I asked if the gentlemen owned a light green truck and inquired if he fished Stampede in the middle of winter.  The gentlemen confirmed my suspicions and I finally met the local legend.
Over the years, Jerry and I have become good friends.  We talk every month or so about fishing and life in general.  One day out of the blue I received a phone call from Jerry.  I was so surprised when he asked me if I would take him fishing.  I thought to myself, “Heck yeah, I would love to fish with this local legend!”  But with my busy life, I could only sneak out for a half day trip to show him the rundown.  Nevertheless, I was super happy.  Jerry told me that he wanted to catch a 15 to 20 pound cutthroat trout with a fly rod.  He then informed me that he knew I could put him on one.  But his final request hit home as I learned that Jerry expected this small task to be accomplished in one day’s time.  Nervously I replied, "Jerry I would love to take you fishing and I will do everything possible to put you on a trophy cutthroat trout.  I can't guarantee anything but I will do my best to put you on a big fish."  Jerry replied, " Brad, I know you can put me on my dream cutthroat. I have read on the internet that you catch them all the time.  I also watch your YouTube videos posted on the internet. You can't kid me because you do it all the time."  Now there was something in the way that Jerry said “Internet” that took me by surprise. He pronounced the word in three syllable, “In-ter-net.” It was as if Jerry was describing something new, fresh, and innocent. You remember the good ole days when you first gained online access to the internet through dial-up and the enormous wealth of knowledge that was suddenly at our fingertips?  Do you also remember the never ending waiting period that it took for the pages to load?  Ok, so the Millennium generation won't remember how slow those days of online data transfers were, but I do.  When I first began surfing the internet, I was fascinated at how much information was available online.  Now, 20 years later, Jerry was convinced that everything he watched and read on the internet was true.  I felt that same way 20 years earlier.  Jerry thought that if he read it on the internet, that information was a bona fide fact and he was convinced that I was going to help him get his trophy fish.  The truth of the matter is that I would do everything in my power to put Jerry on a monster cutthroat.

The time soon came for Jerry and I to plan our fishing trip.  I asked Jerry what type of fly gear he owns and he replied “None.”  So I prodded further and Jerry happily replied, " I don't have anything, but I have money so I thought I would buy whatever is necessary and figure out how everything works as we go.”  I knew Jerry was determined to catch a trophy cutthroat on a fly rod so I was a little surprised to hear this news.  I mean, I’m a good angler, but I’m not a miracle worker and at this point I’m thinking to myself I just took on more than I can chew.  The vote of confidence that Jerry has in me is astounding and the pressure was mounting with all that I need to do in only a half day’s time.  Jerry must have seen the wheels turning inside my head as these thoughts are running around inside my head.  Smiling, he adds, "I have a little secret...I have known Dave at Mark Fore and Strike for years and Dave told me that he will get me all of the gear that I need before we go fishing.  I will practice casting that way all we have to do is go out and fish on the day of the trip."

Jerry and I set a date to go fishing a week out.  Jerry went off to purchase everything needed for catching a Pyramid Lake piggy and I started the planning process.  I am blessed to have a huge network of friends who fish Pyramid Lake.  I gather and review all of the weekly fly fishing trends, weather, wind direction, moon phase, and times for dusk and dawn.  After digesting all of these factors we decided to fish on a Friday afternoon starting at 1:00 p.m. until about an hour after dusk (approximately 6:00 p.m.).  On that particular day, the waxing crescent moon would be directly overhead at 4:10 p.m., the wind was going to build from the west between 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and then switch directions to the northeast. The afternoon bite should be perfect for monster cutthroat entering the shallow water where we could access them with our fly rods.  The time of day for our trip was perfect, but now the question is which beach at Pyramid Lake will give us the most success?  Picking the perfect spot to fly fish is always a little bit of a gamble.  I decided to pick the south nets because the wind changing directions was a major factor not to mention that the drop off into deep water was 50 to 80 feet from the shore line so this beach suited us the best for what we wanted to accomplish.

We arrived at the Lake on time with the wind blowing in our face as we watched good size waves rolling into the beach.  Jerry quickly put on his wadders and started sorting through his new fly gear.  As he opened a box containing several choices of flies, he overwhelmingly asked, “Which flies should I tie on?”  I explained to my frantic buddy that he was only going to strip one fly and to pick whichever fly he wanted to try first.  Jerry looked at me puzzled and questioned why I had two flies tied on my line instead of just one.  I assured Jerry that it is easier to learn how to cast with one fly on the line at a time.  We picked a spot on the beach to dry cast our lines.  My instruction began with teaching Jerry how to perform the “10 and 2 double haul” cast and then it dawned on me.  I know how to cast my own fly rod but having to explain the technique to someone else was a different story.  We spent 10 to 15 minutes on the beach going over different techniques for retrieving the line as we fumbled through my poor casting lessens.

I decided to set up Jerry’s fly rod differently than most fly fishermen would chose to set up their rods.  I attached a non weighted fly to a 4 foot length of 17 pound fishing line.  An ultra short leader was then attached to 30 feet of fast sink shooting head.  The shooting head then was tied to 100 feet of 30 pound running line which then was attached to backing.  There are a couple of reasons why I decided to set up Jerry’s fly rod in this manner.  The 4 foot length of 17 pound fishing line would help in a couple of ways.  The short length will cut down on the number of wind knots. The fast sink shooting head would cut its way though the sand and the dust that is kicked up by the shooting head will actually be an advantage in attracting hungry trout.  The cutthroats at Pyramid Lake are not line shy and I felt that this set up gave him a really good chance of landing a cutthroat up to 20 pounds.

After the casting lesson was over, we then rested our ladders on our shoulders and marked out to the Lake. The waves had already started to subside, just as what I had hoped for.  We were casting for 30 minutes when the wind started to change direction and then my rod became hot.  I began picking up fish at a consistent pace.  Jerry’s rod was cold and didn’t have any action.  I determined that the main difference was due to the casting difference between myself and Jerry.  My casts were 90 to 100 feet while Jerry’s casts were landing just past his shooting head around 30 to 40 feet.  Sorry, Jerry, you can blame your instructor for this oversight,  I thought to myself.  At the time that my rod was getting action, I realized that most of the fish were still out in deeper water which was just out of Jerry's casting range.  I reassured Jerry that he was casting far enough and if the wind continued to change, the fish should come into his range shortly.
Jerrys First cutty on a fly rod

Somewhere around 4:00 p.m. the conditions were perfect.  Although there was a slight breeze, the change in wind direction had turned the Lake to glass.  From my past experiences, the Lake would only remain calm for 30 minutes or so and then the wind would start building in the other direction.  Lucky, that would be all the time that we needed. The bite turned red hot.  Bang! Bang! Bang!  I was catching fish on almost every cast.  As I watched Jerry out of the corner of my eye, it happened.  Jerry’s rod loaded up.  “Was it big?” I asked as I watched my friend struggle to get the fly line on the reel.  " I don't know, " he hollered back.  The fish that Jerry caught ended up being a nice 25" cutthroat on his first fly rod.  Next, it was my turn.  While striping in at a very fast pace, I felt the rod load up.  “It's a good one!,” I shouted.  Jerry started to get off his ladder to help net the piggy on the other end of my line. This cutthroat was coming in fast.  I'm telling you I have had some hard fighting cutthroats, but this wasn't one of those.  The fish swam right into the net.  As soon as the fish hit the net, it went crazy.  I chucked to myself, "a little to late big fella.”  This was the fish we were looking for, 33" and 17 pounds. We spent only a few seconds doing the old grip and grin photo and then let the piggy go.  I was surprised how powerful the fish shot out of my hands and headed out into deep water.  I was not surprised to see that Jerry was already half way back to his ladder.  As I sat on the shoreline retrying my flies, I couldn’t help but reflect on the incredible fishery that we have right in the middle of the Nevada desert called Pyramid Lake. 
Grip and Grin

Jerry was into his 4th or 5th cast by the time I finally wadded back out to my fishing ladder.  My eye spotted a couple of crushing cutthroats way out, not big fish but fish none the less.  I called out to Jerry, “Get ready, the fish are coming in and they are in your casting range."  The cutthroats were heading into the shallows to feast which no longer made the casting distance for Jerry a concern with the fish coming in so close.  All of the conditions were lining up for my new fly casting friend Jerry increasing his shot at a good one.  

The cutthroats were definitely now in Jerry’s casting range.  I could see the fish in the water following my line as I stripped in.  This was the magical time that we were waiting for and I knew it wouldn't last long.  I kept looking over my shoulder at Jerry and reassuring him that he needed to stay focused all the while I am chanting in my head, “anytime now, anytime now.”  As I continued to catch fish, I noticed that they were consistently hitting right at my a ladder.  The cutthroats were in as close as the were going to get to us.  Watching Jerry, I decided to give him some advice by yelling, "start stripping a little faster."  As I’m instructing Jerry, he paused to take a second to digest exactly what I just yelled at him....... and I see his rod load up!  I could tell that this was a big fish by the bend in Jerry’s rod and by the shocked look on his face.   I instantly knew this was the fish that Jerry had drempt about catching.  I immediately reeled in my line, grabbed the net, and then rushed straight for Jerry.  With my mind racing, I’m thinking that time is of the essence and that I better get to Jerry in a hurry to net his fish.  As I stated earlier, Jerry is no stranger to catching big fish, but he has never caught a monster fish on a fly rod before.  Coaching Jerry I told him that he needed to get the extra line on the reel before it got tangled up in his fishing chair and that he needed to reel as fast as he could.  Jerry didn't need to reel, the monster on the other end of the line was taking care of any extra line between Jerry's hand and the reel.  "Ouch!” shrieked Jerry, as the friction from the line burned his fingers.  Most cutthroat trout are notorious for stripping line off the reel, but this cutthroat was meant to fly!  Not one, but two times it splashed out of the water giving us a good idea of it’s size. Jerry was battling a whale!  On it’s third jump, the cutthroat cleared the water and came down like a canon ball.  I have caught my share of trophy size cutthroat trout at Pyramid Lake and none of those fish have ever jumped like this one.
Fish on
 Unlike my past catches, Jerry’s cutthroat was hot from start to finish which fight lasted about 10 minutes or so. Once the net touched the belly of the monster, pure joy and excitement erupted from Jerry’s body. This is what we came to Pyramid Lake for.  Although our goal was to catch trout 3 feet long every time that we waded out into the water, on the average this reality doesn't always happen. That is why this story is so amazing and this experience can happen to anyone regardless of their skill level.  Pyramid Lake is a magical place. It can, at times, be very stingy and make you work extra hard for each fish. Other times, Pyramid Lake will hand you a winning lottery ticket. On this trip, Jerry’s lottery ticket paid him 18 pounds worth of cutthroat throat.
Sorry about the bad photo. The camera lens fogged up.