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Backpacker Magazine – November 2011

Ultimate Adventure Handbook: Catch a Golden Trout

Cast for beautiful fish that live in beautiful lakes.

by: Kelly Bastone

Learning curve (++*) Yes, you can cast for trout anywhere. But for anglers who want to hook a life-list memory in a stunning alpine setting, landing a pure golden in its native Sierra habitat is not like any other trout, anywhere. Head to California’s Golden Trout Wilderness and bring a camera.

*(+) = Low effort, low risk  (+++++) = Get a lesson and life insurance

» Goldens tend to be small—four to 10 inches is typical—so Guy Jean, a fly-fishing guide based in Kernville, California, deliberately uses bigger flies to “weed out” the tiniest fish, which can’t fit a size 12 hook into their mouths.

» The best fishing is usually June or early July. That’s when the biggest goldens leave the deep water to spawn. In creeks, fish a size 14 egg pattern, with a little weight on the leader to keep the fly sub-surface.

» After spawning ends, goldens go for dry flies in basic stimulator patterns (Jean favors the Parachute Adams, Elkhair Caddis, and H&L Variant). Like all wild, high-mountain trout, goldens are wary of drag and require a delicate presentation: Use a six-foot, 5x or 6x tippet on a 10- or 12-foot leader. 

» Find the biggest goldens in lakes, where you should try a pheasant tail nymph. Let it settle on the lakebed, then give it a tiny twitch to entice trout.


Top spots
» California Hike to Golden Trout Creek (10 miles one way); rainbow trout, which breed with goldens, haven’t been introduced there. For bigger fish, try Chicken Spring Lake (4 miles) or Cottonwood Lakes, which sit in a gorgeous basin with private casting (get GPS data and waypoints for a 30-miler at Contact:

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Nov 23, 2012

Pyramid Lake, Wind River Range Wyoming, in the shadow of Mount Hooker,has Goldens in the 8-12" range. Be there early July for the spawn. We tickled a few and had tasty thick, steaks that night.

Jim Kirk
Nov 17, 2012

Off trail areas in the John Muir winderness (north of Kings Canyon NP)offer many golden opportunities.

Nov 15, 2012

FYI Fish were removed from Chicken Spring Lake (and several others in the area) as the introduced fish were eating yellow legged frogs.

Jan 13, 2012

There are so many trout in the Sierra streams you can't throw a rock in the water without hitting on. I've stood in one spot and seen dozens just looking for something to eat.


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