by Fly Fisherman

Voracious and vigorous, the rainbow is considered the top western trout. It will garner a few additional votes from anglers about the Great Lakes where its "Steelhead" runs up the rivers from the lakes and is giving anglers a taste of a new angle to trouting in that area.

Native to the Western Rockies, principally the Sierra Nevadas, the rainbow has been successfully transplanted throughout the country. It is the hatchery pet, the fastest growing trout of all and the least troublesome to bring to planting size. The rainbow is not as hardy as the brown trout but is able to withstand warmer waters than can the brook trout or the cutthroat and is a welcome addition to any "Natives" the numerous trout regions have left. A strong spectacular fighter it jumps and leaps with abandon, with maddening regularity, particularly at the terminus of light sporting tackle. The rainbow loves fast, white water and favors the larger streams but is an eager and satisfying opponent when hooked up in the large cold water lakes.
The rainbow family of trout is divided into seventeen groupings with four distinct varieties. They are salmo irideus (the trout so widely distributed and the best known), salmo shasta (a variation of irideus yet definitely another branch), salmo gairdnerii (the steelhead or sea-run rainbow), and salmo roosevelti, aguabonita and whitei (the scientific names for the well-known and beautiful golden trout). Then follows salmo kamloops, stonei, gilberti (Kern River rainbow), rosei, crescentic, beardsleei, bathycaeto, declivifrous, evermanni (the dwarf), rivularis and nelsoni.

The steelhead is the regular migratory sea-run rainbow. Fresh from the salt water it is sharply silvery with hardly a trace of the lavender pink side stripe, which is the main feature of the rainbow family. The stripe, however, becomes constantly more visible as the steelhead travels up stream to spawn. It is found in all coastal, all year, streams from Northern California to Alaska. Only in recent years has its range been forced northward in California. The trickles that once were forceful rainy season rivers from Santa Monica north saw the annual steelhead run and only in rare instances now are these fighting fish caught in the infrequently formed estuaries.

The golden trout is comfortable only in real cold water, high altitude streams and lakes. It was first discovered in Volcano Creek (now Golden Trout Creek) near Mount Whitney in the Sierra Nevadas. The golden has taken well to hatchery transfers when planted in waters suitable to its taste and fancy. Rarely is it found in streams or lakes lower than 8000 feet in altitude. The golden is one of the most beautiful and picturesque of all trout and much the finest of the rainbow clan.
Many years ago the rainbow was regarded as an early spring spawner but civilization, I suppose, has affected these habits. Its spawning period now encompasses the whole year with the exception only of late summer and early fall. Perhaps in a few more of its generations it will bridge that gap too.
Lake Pend Oreille, in Idaho, has produced, at this writing the largest rainbow caught with hook and line. It weighed 37 pounds. Residents in that locality state that there are larger ones in this beautiful lake ready and waiting to be matched with an ambitious sporting angler.

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