First and foremost when I approach a gem of a small stream in golden trout wilderness stealth is key. A low profile and soft walk are key to keep the fish from spooking never to be seen again. They are best approached from behind, in the water, facing upstream.
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Golden’s are voracious, wild, and always willing to take a buggy dry fly! Long, light tippet is key. You’ll be rewarded every cast.
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Conservation is really important, these fish aren’t out of the water more than a few seconds, hands are always wet before they’re touched, and I always throw barbless hooks. Losing a fish is always a little frustrating but we all want these fish to survive to fight another day.
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Another beauty that ate the Hi-vis Elk Hair Caddis from Eddy Outfitters.
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Lake fishing for Golden’s requires different tactics altogether.
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Photo by Nathan Sidoti
What’s really cool about high alpine lakes is there are so many different ways to fish them. Some have inlets and outlets that are a blast because the fish are stacked up in them, especially on warm days. Use the same tactics you would for a small stream!
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Streamers: I recommend putting on an intermediate sinking line or a sink tip and cast/roll cast into deeper sections of the lake. Usually, a slow retrieve (long strip, pause, long strip pause) is my go to. Bigger fish tend to hang out in the deeper sections of the lake especially in the middle of the day (due to the midday heat).
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Sight Fishing: My favorite tactic is sight fishing. Fish in lakes tend to cruise the shorelines looking for food. A calm not windy day is the best. As you’re walking the shoreline keep an eye out for rising fish or fish eating off the bottom just below the surface. You’d be surprised, they’re often everywhere!
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This one was happy to take a white Elk Hair Caddis. “Another one bites the leech”. This one was a sucker for the leech on the cruise, he absolutely smashed it!
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Being able to adapt: It really comes down to being able to adapt to the changing conditions. Weather, cloud cover, available food all play a factor in being a successful fly fisherman. (Don’t be lazy like we all are, change flies, colors and don’t be afraid to lift a rock and see what’s in the water).
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Golden trout should be on your bucket list, the beauty that surrounds them is well worth the trip alone. Not to mention everyone is just as beautiful as the last, it’s like catching a wild painting over and over again. Hope you find success in your next adventure chasing down the rare California Golden Trout!

Anthony Jenca is an avid fisherman based out of Arizona. Give him a follow at @intothewildwego to keep up with his backcountry adventures.

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