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golden trout fishing locations

How to Find Golden Trout Fishing Locations

The golden trout is considered to be an almost mythical fish, mainly because of its appearance and the limited golden trout fishing locations in the world. Considered one of the most beautiful fish types, most of its tail and body are golden yellow with a red blaze on its gill plates and belly.

While it’s difficult to find and catch golden trout, it can be done. To successfully catch one, tenkara fishermen have to match their flies to the type of food that is easily accessible to these trout in their high altitudes. From my experience, goldens rarely seem to feed top water and I've had good luck with muddler minnows, wooly buggers, and even Copper Johns! The key is to fish them all like streamers and give it plenty of action!

Want to catch a golden trout this year? Keep reading to learn the best places to find these fish — and check off that bucket list fish. 

The Best Golden Trout Fishing Locations

A rare breed indeed, golden trout is native to only the Kern River basin in Tulare, as well as the Kern Counties in California. However, this trout has also been introduced to areas in Idaho, Washington, and Wyoming and reportedly western Pennsylvania before they became a protected species in California and their export was banned. It is believed that these populations have hybridized with the other trout in the area, though.

Because of their limited distribution and interesting appearance, a golden trout is considered to be the most beautiful fish an angler will ever catch, but also the hardest. According to most anglers, the best spot to catch golden trout is, by far, the Cotton Wood Lakes in California. These lakes also tend to be more accessible than other locations, though you can’t fish for golden trout here until after July 1st. 

You will need to do some backpacking and hiking in order to catch golden trout in the Cotton Wood Lakes, though. Anglers will have to hike more than six miles until they reach the area where they can be fished for. But that’s the whole experience about recharging in nature!

If you’re looking for a more challenging experience, catching golden trout in the South Fork Kern River in California will be your cup of tea. It’s less accessible than the Cotton Wood Lakes and you have to really backpack to get to your destination. But for experienced backpackers and anglers, it’s a really wonderful experience. 

If you wish to fish for large goldens my recommendation is the Wind River Range in Wyoming. Note that the cooks lake area and titcomb basin have been known to produce amazing goldens. I caught this golden below in that same area. Other lakes have been rumored to have had goldens stocked in them however poor records were kept/lost and it’s a bit of a lottery to find them. One thing you’ll notice when you do locate them is they have an almost blue back color and from my experience they tend to hang in tail water and plunge pools where feeding is easy! ;)

Q: What is the best fly for Golden Trout?

A: Golden trout tend to feed on nymphs, minnows, terrestrials and other abundant food sources found in high altitudes. From my experience using muddler minnows, wooly buggers and even copper johns jigged has the best success! Honestly if you’re without those options, anything flashy that can be fished in a streamer pattern will usually get them feeding.

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