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Home / Fishing / Articles

ArticlesFeatured Columnist : Georges Corner

Jed Welsh - Brown Trout 
of the Eastern Sierra

By George Van Zant

While fishing around the various lakes in the Eastern Sierra I have noticed how a brown trout can differ in color from one area to another. I know that all animals in nature take on an appearance which reflects what they have derived from their habitat. A Red Diamondback rattlesnake is actually dark brown in the southern desert and turns more reddish as it reaches up into areas north of the desert. Deer, Elk and antelope can be different colored
as they occur in different locations. So goes it with fish. California halibut take on the appearance of the bottom that they lay on. In mud they look like their habitat of dark mud and at Catalina they are lightly speckled and resemble the gravel bottom that prevails. Most all fish control their colors. Trout really change their appearance during their spawning period as with the salmon. But with the browns I have noticed subtle differences other than spawning changes.

When I was a kid during the late 1930šs and forties my dad and I fished the creeks around Lone Pine. Once my dad caught a 35 inch brown trout out of Lone Pine Creek that the local papers named as a loch leven trout. This was popular name for a brown trout during those days, a name that has since been virtually forgotten. As a matter of fact I had all but forgotten about it until Jed told me this story.

In Scotland there was series of lakes that the Scots simply named lake one, lake two, lake three, etc. The most popular lake was Lake number eleven. The Scottish lingo for the lake was "Loch Leven" It was from this lake that the Scottish brown trout were planted in the Eastern Sierras. We didnšt call it a brown trout we called it a Loch Leven .. Loch actually means "lake" and eleven means the number eleven. So in essence, a fisherman fished in Lake
number "eleven". 

Jed tells the story of how the brown trout got to us here in the USA and how two strains were accidentally developed. An ocean tanker bound for the USA with a load of German brown trout stopped over in Scotland where they put on board a load of Scottish brown trout. The Scottish browns were very light in color and speckled profusely over most of their body with red spots. The German browns were much darker and lacked the abundance of spots that the Scottish browns possessed. Somehow they got together on the ship and spawned a new brown trout. So as the years passed a future generation, female brown, could produce both strains. The"loch leven" trout was identified as the brilliant red speckled one and those others were the German strain. The name "loch leven" has since disappeared from the angling circles and I havenšt heard the name in years. Yet, you can catch a brown trout in Lake Crowley and it will sometimes differ greatly in appearence from a brown out of Lake Mary. Many of them are so yellow and brilliantly red speckled you wonder if any of the German species ever made it. If my dad was alive he wouldnšt know the term brown trout. To him all trout that werenšt rainbows were loch levenšs. Maybe hešs right!


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