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California Sierra Golden Trout

California Sierra Golden Trout
Date: Saturday, June 12 @ 22:07:58 PDT
Topic: Fly Fishing - Trout Species

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Few fish are as colorful — or as hard to get to — as California’s state fish, the golden trout. Tim Linehan and TU California's Jamie Hunter saddle their horses for a mule-train pack trip into the Sierra Mountain's John Muir Wilderness to see the effect of backcountry cattle grazing on the Golden Trout population. Amid some of the High Sierra’s most stunning scenery, they catch plenty of golden trout in crystal clear glacial lakes and streams. Our guide was Mike Long, of Golden Trout Outfitters.


"Mention California and most people think of smog, traffic jams and malls. But the John Muir Wilderness Area located in the high Sierras, is about as far from any stop light as you can get. The air is clean up there, and at times I felt like I was looking down on the rest of the world. Being in a wilderness area always instills in me a feeling of hope, and I like knowing there will never be any roads, will never be any houses or pizza joints, or condos."

or the problems facing these native fish. Populations of golden trout are also facing threats of hybridization from introduced species. In certain areas, stream barriers are being placed to prevent the mixing of golden trout and non-native species.


We fished for golden trout in several high mountain lakes and streams, all in the John Muir Wilderness Area, about 80 miles ENE of Fresno, California. When we say high, I mean high: several of these lakes are over 11,000 feet above sea level. Among the waters fished were Three Island Lake, Lou Beverly, Medley Chain, and streams in the Bear Creek Drainage. For information on planning a trip, see contacts below.


Golden Trout: Oncorhynchus mykiss aguabonitaThe specific name of the golden trout, "aguabonita" translates to "beautiful waters", and that is where they are found. Originally native to the high Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, golden trout have been introduced to a number of high altitude mountain lakes throughout Western North America. Golden trout are appropriately named; these trout are as rare and precious as their namesake. Closely related to rainbow trout, the golden trout has fewer spots on the body, and these are mostly located in the tail region. The body itself is lighter with a yellowish cast. The gill covers, belly, and fins are reddish, and there is a bright red splash of color on the sides. The fins may have white on the tips. Golden trout are adapted to cold, alpine lakes and streams. Growth is slow, mainly due to the cold temperatures and low productivity of the lakes they inhabit. Golden trout populations are not very high in these lakes, and catch and release angling is strongly encouraged.


ROD: Sage 490-3 SP, 9 foot rod for 4-weight line, three pieces REEL: Abel Super Series 4FLIES:The waters where golden trout live are fairly low in food, so they can’t afford to be picky. We had great luck with Schroeder’s Hoppers, as well as standard nymphs and attractor dry flies like Humpies, small Stimulators and Royal Wulffs.


The water in these high altitude streams and lakes was so clear that the fish could take as long as they liked to look at your fly. Although pattern wasn’t very important, getting a drag-free drift was vital in the tiny streams. Since we had to sneak around and keep a low profile, putting the fly in the right spot, and keeping the fly from skating across the water, were real challenges. In the show, you can see how Jamie Hunter, my TU friend from California, had trouble getting a good drift on one of the smaller streams. As soon as he got the fly drifting naturally (by throwing more slack in the line and keeping his rod high to keep line off the water) a beautiful fish came right up and smacked the fly!