Sunday, July 01, 2007

california golden trout

I wrote a bit about the Golden Trout Wilderness in the last post. Here's a picture of the New Balance Cowboy. I wasn't kidding. Well, about the fact that he was wearing sneakers at least.

The Golden Trout Wilderness is in the southern Sierra Nevada and contains the first "big" mountains going north in California. Mt. Whitney, over 14,000ft, is just a few miles north of the wilderness. Golden Trout is part of Inyo National Forest and borders Sequoia National Park to the northwest and maybe Kings Canyon National Park as well. Lot of land down there.

The Kern River, South Fork of the Kern, and Golden Trout Creek flow through the wilderness. It is in these watersheds that the Golden Trout evolved from a northern Rainbow trout species that eventually gave rise to many other local endemics as far south as central Mexico in western Mountains. Golden trout, Oncorhynchus aquabonita (the species name means pretty water and some people actually say that it is a subspecies of rainbow trout, the name thus being O. mykiss var. aquabonita), is one of three local endemics in the southern Sierra. There is another species of Golden Trout, the little Kern Golden and then the Kern River Rainbow as well. Productive place. Here's a decent webpage that overviews the natural history of the Kern Plateau.

The Golden Trout was mostly wiped out of its native range through habitat degradation and hybridization with stocked rainbow trout except for one tributary (stringer?) to Golden Trout Creek, Volcano Creek. In the last several years (decades in some cases) non-native fishes have been removed and trout from Volcano Creek have been planted. California "markets" the Goldens, their state fish, as "Find some California gold!" I think it's more like "Catch some California Magma!" You know, Volcano creek and all? Liquid hot magma?

These fish are small and incredibly easy to catch. Just let your line lay in the water for 2 minutes while you do something else and you'll probably catch one. The hard thing is catching one over five or so inches. I found that using a large fly, size 12 or 10 is a good way to avoid the very small ones. I caught Goldens out of Mulkey Creek, South Fork of the Kern, and Golden Trout Creek, the latter having a resident (native?) population? I think there was some hybridization with Rainbows there but much less than the other rivers and they didn't have to do as much work to restore the population?

Click for bigger.

These guys were spawning I think. Very pretty bellys.

In Mulkey Meadows looking east. About ten miles that way and you drop seven thousand vertical feet into the desert. Click for bigger.

Click these 2 for bigger.

This is looking southwest in Tunnel Meadow. That's Kern Peak (11,510') in the distance. Pretty much the first big mountain going north. Click for bigger.

This is Golden Trout Creek, looking northeast. In the very far distance you can see the ridge leading to Cirque Peak (12,900'), maybe Cirque Peak itself?, and ultimately to Mt.Whitney I think.

The biggest Golden I caught. From Golden Trout Creek in an unnamed meadow below Tunnel Meadow and the place where Golden Trout Creek and South Fork of the Kern come within less then 1/4 mile of each other. Click for bigger.

Closer to Kern Peak now, with Red Hill in the middle ground. Lots of volcanoes. Click for bigger.

There were old growth Spruce everywhere. This is near Bullfrog Meadow.

The trusty, wrinkly palace in Bullfrog Meadow.

These look like frog legs.


erika said...

I don't think Oregon is on your itinerary, but re fly fishing in general, have you ever read The River Why? It's a sweet little book.


D Hanks said...

The trout are georgous, as well as the scenery. Just got back from the pacific nw and had a great time. No backcountry, only frontcountry but still nice. Also got to visit with Maureen. Good to see her and catchup. Looking forward to your next entry.


Matthew D Dunn said...

Erika: I haven't read that book. And I drove through Oregon where all gas stations are full serve. Like Jersey.

Daniel: I passed through Portland a couple nights ago. Where were you? When were you there? We're on the Olympic peninsula now at the Quinault Lodge. Pretty cool here.

Anonymous said...

hey matt, you should have called me! how did you like Portland? Did you get to sample any good brews while in town? It was great seeing Daniel and meeting Sara.

Happy 4th.


D Hanks said...


We were in Portland on the 1st of July (Sunday). I can't believe you were close by. That's pretty crazy.

And by the way Matt (and Erika) I've not read The River Why but I've heard good things and it's on my list to read (along with about three million other things).

What do you think of the Olympic Peninsula? I think it rocks. If you get a chance you should check out Port Townsend. It's a pretty cool little town. I think the only chain type store they have is a Safeway. Not even a Starbucks.