Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I recently was fortunate to make the acquaintance of Ned. A great guy and one of the most knowledgeable people on geography, creeks, streams, native trout and their conservation that I have had the pleasure of sharing a long drive and fishing trip with. Getting to the story of the 12th though, many folks that have looked at the illustrations in Behnke's book showing the distribution of redband trout of the Northern Great Basin have realized that the orange shaded range of the Upper Klamath Lake Basin redband trout extends south from Oregon into a remote section of Northern California. Putting two and two together, those familiar with the California Heritage Trout Challenge also realize that this fish IS NOT included in the list of qualifying fish for the Heritage Trout Challenge. In fact, I had even discussed the idea with Dave Lentz at DFG some five years ago. Ned, however, coming to the same conclusion, advanced the quest through research and was able to identify published confirmations of the Upper Klamath Lakes Basin Redbands occurring in California. Hearing this, I quickly volunteered to go with him to check it out and the DFG asked if we could collect fin samples.

North of Shasta.

Ned fishing a section of the creek.

Unfortunately we discovered that these waters that were confirmed to have redbands in the 70's are now inhabited by brown trout. This was disappointing to say the least (and made for challenging fishing). As most fly fisherman are aware, brown trout in meadow steams are spooky and typically tough to catch. Furthermore, streams that harbor browns have considerably less fish density than comparable streams with bows, redbands or cutthroat. Suffice to say, the catching was tough. Finally, though, Ned hooked a brown and then several more followed. We sampled a few miles of the upper sections of the creek and caught 8 or so browns. As our optimism for finding redbands waned, we came to this spot with one of the best holes we'd seen.

And here it was that I hooked this specimen on a small streamer right under the falls.

Is this a redband? A planter bow? If a redband, what kind? It is tough to say. We took a fin clip and sent it to DFG but, unfortunately, this was the only fish we caught that was not a brown, which puts the ratio of browns at 10:1. For now, I'll leave the comparison and identification to the reader.

The fish below is an archetype Upper Klamath Redband from the Oregon State Native Fish Investigations Project.

My fish looks right to me, but only genetic analysis can say for sure. The problem is that typically a genetic sampling requires clips from 40 fish and we could only provide one. Hopefully DFG and the lab at UC Davis can confirm with just one sample. In the mean time, I would say that the idea of a 12th native trout swimming in California waters is alive and well. Ned and I were blocked from the upper most headwaters of this particular creek by a locked gate on a forest service road. Further study revealed an alternate route to the uppermost stretches and springs. Perhaps the browns aren't there yet, or perhaps there is a barrier. Only further exploration and testing can say for sure.


  1. Awesome stuff, I hope others take native species so seriously. We face the same challenge in OK with smallmouth, the difference being I think you could actually catch a number of fish on a good day in OK.

  2. Great post. As you say, there is no way to know by visuals if you're right or not - but if you are in the right basin, catching the general right species, well, things are looking pretty good.

    Your inclination to find the headwaters is a good one - browns generally prefer the slower-moving sections over the turbulent pocket water. A trip back is a good idea.

  3. Wonderful Trip Dave although the outcome was not what I had hoped. I really think you got one! You look at the picture of your fish and Tomelleri's print of the Goose Lake Redband and they're almost identical. Other prints of the UKL Redband are striking in similarity. #12 is yours in my book! Next time I will find one.


  4. Anything I would say would be a duplicate of what others have said above. Nice post.

    The Average Joe Fisherman

  5. Nice post. Any word back from DFG? Trip planned for the headwaters?

    Blue River Fly Company

  6. The word back was that one fish is not enough to sample. They thought it looked ok. Maybe a trip to the headwaters or other nearby streams that look promising will happen this summer. Consensus among the cognoscenti is that they (the redbands) likely are in California and just need to be identified via DNA testing with a valid sample size.