Monday, July 22, 2013

How to catch golden trout

Also featured in the Flyfisher's Guide to Southwest Montana's Mountain Lakes

How do you catch golden trout? The same way you catch any other trout, except that you usually have to try harder.
There is consensus that they are not dumb (internet forums, fishing friends, and the guys at the lake with us), and in my experience, they only like your fly once. Then the trout go away for awhile and comeback savvier, having convened with their brethren about what is actually food. This constant evolution is impressive, making this gorgeous quarry even more special.

The first challenge in catching golden trout is determining which lakes hold them. In Montana, that's not terribly difficult through the MFISH database. Some popular destinations are Lightning Lake, Cave Lake, the Hidden Lakes (Gallatin Range) and the Golden Trout Lakes. In Wyoming, however, they don't offer stocking records on their website. Particularly in the Wind River Range, lakes that hold goldens are often valuable hushed-up local secrets. A good Googling can help, but befriending a Wyomingite is most helpful. Elsewhere, I don't know.

We caught this guy at code-name Gazed Acids Lagoon. Traveling sedges were the dominant hatch and the trout were eating them.
The second challenge is getting there - it basically always requires a high-elevation uphill hike. Golden trout rarely live below 9,000 feet and there aren't many roads that high. Some hikes are harder than others - the trek to Lightning Lake (one of the most popular destinations for goldens) is notoriously ridiculous.
The final challenge is getting them to eat. You'd probably guess that they're easy-ish to catch since they get fished relatively sparsely, but that is not the case. Throw the box at them until you find something that works, then throw the box at them again until you find something else. I've heard of people catching them on Muddlers, scuds, midge larvae, and I've only ever caught them on dry flies -the Goddard Caddis and Bloom's Parachute Flying Ant.

As the heat continues, mountain lakes become inviting options. They're great for exercise and scenery, and rare fish like goldens, pure-strain cutthroat, and grayling. Catching a golden trout is something most fly anglers will never do, so it's always an honor to have one in the net. Go while you can!

Cruisin' on a Saturday afternoon.


qdog said...

That cruiser photo is awesome.

Joshua Bergan said...

Thanks! Kinda makes you want to cast at your monitor, right?

Lester Kish said...

Like the cruiser too. Can see the glint in it's eye. Of course, he can see the angler as well. They're a neat and special fish.

Joshua Bergan said...

Thanks. I think we were able to stand still and blend in with the trees on the shore pretty well. If you laid your cast out first and waited for one to come by, you had a shot standing right there. Sometimes they spooked, but not every time.

Kevin Frank said...

I love when the water is that clear. I used to see some creeks like that in the Sierra's. The water was so clear it looked like dry ground until you got right up to it.

Joshua Bergan said...

Agreed. And that's sans polarizer.

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