The first time I saw a Palomino trout was on a trip to Colorado. Being that I call the Catskills of NY my stomping grounds, Palominos aren’t something I had ever seen besides a few Instagram posts. I was mesmerized by this odd-looking trout but was reduced to just getting a few glances from afar since no one could catch it. My curiosity got the best of me and I started doing some research on the Palomino and how I could catch one.
The Palomino trout or the Oncorhynchus mykiss are the results of Rainbow trout cross-breeding with West Virginia Golden trout (not to be confused with the California native Golden Trout). It is stated by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat commissions: “The golden rainbow trout originated from a single rainbow trout that was spawned in the fall of 1954 in West Virginia. The trout’s body color was a chimera of golden and normally pigmented tissue. When this fish was crossed with a normally pigmented rainbow trout, the offspring (what we have come to refer to as palomino rainbow trout) were lighter in color.”
It is argued that palomino and golden rainbow trout are two different fish in some circles. Some say the palomino is lighter in color than the golden rainbow trout or just not as healthy looking. Depending on where you are in the United States you may hear them also being called “lightning trout.” I have even heard people refer to them as “banana trout.” But no matter the name of or the location, they are all technically just a product of a fish hatchery rainbow trout.
Palomino trout tend to grow very quickly and it is said are stronger than your typical rainbow trout. I have read they Can grow 30 plus inches and as heavy as 13lbs, this being the Pennsylvania state record. From Experience I can say the Palomino I caught fought harder than any rainbow trout in that size range I had ever caught before. Unlike another famous hybrid the tiger trout, palomino trout can reproduce. There isn’t a lot of information on the reproduction of Palomino trout out there as far as them successfully reproducing in the wild. Supposedly the offspring outside of hatcheries tend not to do very well. I’d imagine being highly visible from day one is a bit of an inconvenience.
These trout are part of large stocking programs in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Maryland. Most of the stockings take place early in the fishing season and most of these bright yellow trout are caught by beginning to mid-summer. Being that they stand out so much in a river or lake, you can imagine they are fished to pretty heavily. I spoke with a guide recently that told me he will have clients see one and spend the entire day trying to catch it. West Virginia stocks palominos pretty heavily. They even have an entire week dedicated to palomino trout stocking, “Gold Rush!” I have read that the fishing pressure down there isn’t as intense as some of the other stockings that happen across the country and you may have a better chance at catching one of these unnaturally beautiful trout.
Finding and catching a palomino are two different things entirely. Being born a bright yellow they may as well have a target on their back. Being such easy targets these trout learn quickly to be very wary and smarten up fast. I bet these fish see more variations of fly patterns than any other trout on the planet. They can be incredibly picky eaters. I have watched in amazement as palominos reject a fly box worth of flies. Hatchery fish are usually pretty easy to catch when they are fresh from the hatchery, I am sure palominos are the same at first. One would assume anything that looks like a food pellet would do the trick. A mop fly or some other sort of junk fly will probably get the job done the first few days after stocking. My approach to the Palomino I caught a few weeks ago was to throw something I was sure it had never seen before on some 6x fluorocarbon tippet. My hybrid perdigon/copper John worked like a charm!
If you are looking to add a Palomino trout to your list you might just wanna start here.
Article and photos from Landon Brasseur, an avid angler based in upstate New York. He spends most of his time fly fishing the small creeks of the Catskills for trophy trout. Give him a follow on Instagram at @lbrasseur.