Anytime trout fishing in brought up in conversation, mention of the Rainbow Trout is not far behind. The “true American trout” as its called by most fishermen, the Rainbow Trout brings about colorful imagery and excited in the minds of most anglers and rightfully so. In simple terms, it’s just a beautiful fish.
Rainbow are found worldwide and are now included in most stocking programs due to their adaptive nature and for the sole reason that they’re a extremely sought-out fish.
The rainbow is different in demeanor from most fish as well. They’re aren’t “bottom feeders” like their cousin the brown trout who tend to creep in the depths of the stream, and they don’t mimic the brook trout who tends to stay in the back waters. Rainbows feed and approach the surface with regularity and therefore they are commonly found in the open, faster waters. They’re found to be more revered than their relatives as well.
You can identify Rainbows fairly easily, especially those found in the streams of the Townsend and the Smoky Mountains. Their upper bodies are heavily matted with black spots and their backs range from dark to light olive. The abdomen is white and along the lateral line there’s a characteristic reddish pink band – a trait in which the color usually extends over the central portion of the fish’s gill covers. The rainbow has no yellow or red spots.
Rainbows apparently find security under a choppy, broken stream surface. Unlike browns, rainbows are much less oriented to physical, overhead cover. When hooked, larger browns will run for overhead cover, rainbows would rather just run and run and run to feverishly evade being hooked. Rainbow trout are also unique among the trout species in that they usually jump one or more times once hooked, a characteristic just as prevalent among bigger rainbows as among smaller ones.
Rainbows grow depending on a myriad of factors. Depending on habitat and the available food supply you’ll see the most dramatic variables in growth. For example, one-year-old rainbows will average 4 or 5 inches long; at two years approximately 6 or 7, and 9 inches long at three years. The maximum age reached by most rainbows is about seven years of age and, if they drift-feed, can weigh eight pounds or greater.
Central to the whole sport of fly fishing for trout is the demonstrated ability of rainbow and other trout to learn, remember, and to act as individuals different from the norm. These abilities demonstrate firsthand why trout are selective and why, as a result, there is no one trout fly that will tempt all of the trout all of the time.
Park resource managers continue with restoration efforts and have closed some streams and tributaries to fishing. This is an ongoing effort to ensure natural barriers such as waterfalls are adequate enough to prevent the brown and rainbow trout from migrating upstream.