I thought I had a trophy brook trout on the line as I got this fish closer to shore.
But it’s not a Brook Trout; it’s the most beautiful Rainbow Trout I have every seen, one unlike any I’ve ever seen before. The extensive spotting, grayish belly (instead of white), intense red stripe, and bright red patches on the gill plates (which the iPhone has destroyed by using sRGB, I tried restoring it in part). I wonder if it is some kind of hybrid, say with a “cut bow” (cutthroat X rainbow), but I don’t see the red/orange slash below the jaw, so I have to guess it’s just a genetically unusual rainbow, perhaps naturally spawned, since it bears little resemblance to the rainbow trout stocked by CA DFG.
Update: a wildlife biologist at the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife confirms that this is some genetic variant and that different variants have been stocked in this lake. Personally I would like to see more of this beautiful variant.
You are correct that is a very beautiful RT. I like seeing fish on snow too. We have stocked a great variety of RT strains over the years and I am sure Saddlebag has gotten quite a few varieties. This one has some great color and the spots are very similar to Brook Trout vermiculation’s.
Indeed, the color and vermiculation made me think I had a trophy Brook Trout on the line until I landed it. A few days after in an entirely different area (creek), I observed rainbows with similar coloration, including faint white edges to the fins—very confusing trying to distinguish them from Brook Trout in the water (I was not fishing that day). But the red lateral stripe tends to remove any doubt, and most of the Brook Trout were in spawning colors or fading spawning colors.
This 19-inch 3.5 pound beauty came out of Saddlebag Lake.
This image below made with the ProCamera app in raw/DNG. I had much better luck in rendering as desired.
Below is an about 12-inch Brook Trout in full spawning colors. It hit my worm unexpectedly, probably trying to protect its redd. I returned it unharmed to the water and it sped off.