Is there a more beautiful or popular fish? Depicted on corporate logos, ball caps and gas station signs, the rainbow trout is the ideal symbol, combining beauty and sport. The rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) is favored by fly fishers because of its beautiful coloration—for which it’s named—and its fighting ability. Wild rainbow trout typically have olive-colored backs, tails peppered with dark spots, and silvery sides that look as if they’ve been painted pink and crimson.
The rainbow trout is actually a member of the Pacific salmon family, and has been stocked on six continents. It can be found in freshwater streams, rivers and lakes, also in saltwater bays and open ocean as steelhead (the sea-run form of the fish, which returns to freshwater to spawn).
Trout prefer cold, well-oxygenated moderately moving creeks and streams with plenty of cover and pools, although they also do well in food-rich backcountry lakes and rivers.
Rainbow size generally relates to the size of the water they can be found in, as well as the available forage base. Smaller creeks are usually home to smaller fish, while bigger rainbows inhabit bigger watersheds. Generally speaking, a three-year-old rainbow trout in a general trout stream grows to 12 inches but can exceed 20 inches if food is abundant and water temperatures are stable throughout the year.