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Trout Fishing In The West - A Natives Inside Scoop-Part 3

Updated on May 22, 2015

Rainbow, German, Cutthroat Trout Characteristics

Trout species are distinctly different while being very similar at the same time. In the following article I will tell of my experience and observation of several different trout species. This is part 3 of the trout fishing the west series I started. I originally planned on writing a single article on the subject but soon found out that I can't shut up about fishing. I hope you at least get a giggle out of one of my stories or better success fishing for trout.

The differences in the way trout species behave and feed are like night and day. It is so strange when two trout species inhabit the same waters and have access to the same food stuffs but feed totally different from one another. The water I frequent have a lot of different trout species as well as other species like catfish, bass, walleye, and others. I really focus on trout for the most part and that is where most my knowledge is based.

I will start with German Brown vs. Rainbow as these are the main species I go after and also probably the most popular. This comparison is based on river trout and that is important to state here as lake trout are completely different. I also will base this first comparison on native fish or wild trout rather than hatchery trout. I will explain a little about what I mean by "wild trout" as you might not be able to tell. The truth is unless you are a fish meristics expert you probably can't tell much about a fishes lineage, but it is not important.

I call wild trout the fish that have spent years in the water way and have completely converted to life in the wild. So a hatchery trout that miraculously survives two or more years in the wild now does not act at all like a hatchery fish. Poor hatchery fish only know feeding time and must adapt or die if they manage to avoid being caught the first year. A trout with a good pink flesh inside usually signifies to me that this fish has been feeding on meat and the the natural food stuffs in that environment. I have never opened up a hatchery trout and found pink flesh and you know when you are in planters because it is too easy to catch em, definitely not adapted yet.

The first difference I notice in German is that they seem to be one and done. You get one crack at it and never see that fish again. Rainbow can tend to hang in there a little longer and you may get two or three chances at a particular fish. German are much more skittish than rainbow and seem to be kind of paranoid. When you decide you really want a german you better not make a sound and you better set that hook right the first time. These things are true of rainbow but It seems that they are just a little less skittish.

When the fight is on these to species act very different and require a different strategy. You hook into a brown he is going down into the rocks and fast. You have to keep a brown up or you're going to lose the fish for sure. Rainbow will go down to but I find that they do a lot more running than diving. You still have to keep this fish up but your are going to play side to side a lot. Rainbow like to break the water surface and give a little tail walk where german seem to put straight muscle straight the rocks. I personally haven't had any brown put on a surface show and usually have a prolonged dragging sub-surface fight.

Rainbow usually kick off feeding in the morning and the evening with some midday action. Brown do similar patterns, if they are the smaller fish. The big brown trout really like to feed at night using the darkness to aid in stealth so they can ambush crayfish, mice, and birds. Don't laugh because these fish definitely eat these things and a good mouse fly is a must at midnight when you are going for a fifteen pounder. I have rarely caught rainbow after dark and the evening bite usually stops like someone through a switch.

I was having a good day cleaning up on fiery rainbows and just had a ball. The evening bite shut down and I sat on a rock to eat and get my headlight on. I heard some clicking and clacking noises right when it turned really dark. I was curious so I started scanning the water with my light and there he was. A HUGE brown crashing his head into and under rock piles stirring up crayfish, this fish was nowhere to be found as I was in this spot for the last five hours. No I didn't catch him, could not get my gear together fast enough or quietly enough, one bang of my gear on the rock and that fish was history.

Using the descriptions of the brown and rainbow I will talk about other individual trout and you can compare for yourself. Some people know about tiger trout and their reputation for a furious fight. A tiger trout is a hybrid trout from hatcheries for planting specifically for the enjoyment of sport fishermen. This is a crossbred brook/brown beast that will try to rip your pole right out of your hand, awesome. These fish are sterile and would take over as the dominant fish quickly. They are also a really pretty fish with an amazing mix of colors from the two species. Now these fish are in their own world and feed and strike at anytime on a variety of different baits. I have no idea of their behavior as every encounter has been completely different with the only common thing being that they are aggressive and put up a great fight.

Cutthroat trout act somewhere in between brown and rainbow. You can hook into one midday and generally on rainbow baits, They fight like a rainbow but not much surface dancing. They can also be caught in late evening but I have never caught one in the middle of the night. I don't catch many of these in rivers but, I have a great time catching big ones in the lake.These fish can also get very big up to forty pounds with reports from the early nineteen hundreds of sixty pound fish. The sixty pound stories must be true as my family was involved.

Brook trout are about as much fun as fishermen can have. They nail your bait, run, tail walk, dive, shoot, and are really pretty fish. They are generally small and you need to catch a bunch for a meal but they fight hard but not long, so you get your bait back in fast. A day of brookies is so much fun and relaxing I just can't describe it well. You are generally faced with a cold mountain stream in a beautiful meadow with the sun on your shoulders but its cool because of the mountain air, perfect. You can easily traverse from one side of the creek to the other so you can get to every hole you want to try. The brook act about the same as rainbow and get their feed on in the mornings and evenings. When taking that young kid for their first fishing day, go for the brookies and forget the lake for now. The kids will catch fish and maybe catch a bunch. The fish are small but exciting and the kids can handle them without being scared, great first fishing idea.

There are bull trout as well but I have never caught or even seen one so I won't be able to go into any detail on that. I will change gear here and talk about lake trout for the remainder. The lake trout fishing in my area is great and you can pick our poison with so many lakes in the Sierras.

The main species I will discuss are mackinaw, brown, rainbow, and cutthroat trout for lake fishing.

The mack is a very deep water trout generally preferring depths between one hundred and three hundred feet. There may be instances where this changes but for me the big ones are way down there. The mack is a fish transplant to the Sierras from the Great Lakes area. These fish are so deep that they usually get the bends after being towed up some two hundred feet and don,t seem to fight, you just hook em and haul em up. I have heard of smaller macks caught from shore but I haven't done it or seen it. You just get a lot of shiny attraction with a good sized lure way down there and drag it around until a fish gets to it, when in doubt go deeper.

Lake rainbow act both ways meaning they act like lake trout and river trout. On a boat get your bait down around 30 feet with some color on it and you should be successful. Go from the shore and a lot choices become available to you. You can throw a lure, a fly, a worm, a nasty hunk of power bait, or a bobber...personally I hate sitting around and watching my pole so I opt for active fishing like spin casting or fly.

Brown are the problem child in the lake and they do not play well with others. About all the lake brown I know of were either caught very very early in the morning or late late evening. I have not heard of any brown being taken at midday, ever. This does not mean it doesn't happen just not anyone I have ever known. The brown in a lake will also prowl the rocks for food just like they do in a river. They will also gulp a small water bird if they can swallow it. I know this blog is about trout but, I remember as a kid being warned about the size of bass in this particular water way. The ranger says they have a problem with big mouth bass eating juvenile ducks. Thought it was just a fish story until I saw one of the behemoths first hand, he surely did have a medium size duck in his gullet,HUGE.

Cutthroat trout in the lake seem to patrol the shorelines for food. They will chase feeder fish inland to run them out of wiggle room and that is exactly how they chase a lure. They also follow boats trolling with lures. This where I noticed that these trout were hitting the front of my lures like an attempt to swallow from the head first. When I have been trolling I get most of my strikes when the boat is turning like it presents an opportunity for the head fist swallow. This is a theory of mine and a guess at best but it sure does happen a lot.

The really cool thing about trout is that they are relatively the same around the world. The scots absolutely love their trout streams. The nordic people have a long tradition of trout fishing and awesome fish. New Zealand is trout fishing heaven and a definite bucket list Item. But they all pale in comparison to Montana, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Sierras to name just a few amazing places to fish. It is about the whole experience and the scenic memories then is ever really about the fish caught. Granted a fishing trip with no fish is a bummer, but it is still awesome.

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