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In Defense of the Palomino

Gimmicky. Bananas. Unnatural. And worst of all: stockers.

Those are some of the pejorative terms used by anglers to describe a particular flavor of rainbow trout. The fish in question is, of course, the Palomino.

Otherwise known as the golden rainbow, and sometimes improperly (and abhorrently, to the chagrin of west coast anglers) referred to as a “golden trout,” this hatchery product can be found pretty much anywhere rainbow trout are stocked. The official story is that these genetically modified fish were cooked up in a West Virginia laboratory a few decades ago. I like to put on my tinfoil hat and assume that Three Mile Island had a hand in their genesis.

The neon yellow and orange fish are derided online and amongst anglers. But palominos are the ABBA of trout. You make fun of “Dancing Queen” in front of your friends, but when it is on the radio you turn  it up. When you see a palomino, you fish for it.

Don’t lie. It is okay. And here are three reasons why:

  1. Palominos are stocked fish. Stocked rainbows do some notoriously dumb stuff. They will readily take ridiculous things like cigarette butts and mop flies. How different is a  golden rainbow from a rainbow? A little bit of pigmentation – that is it. If you’re fishing for hatchery fish, what difference does the color make?  If you really think about it, the only color that matters in these put-and-take fish is how pink (or un-pink) their meat might be.
  2. Palominos are wily. Maybe they aren’t too quick-witted right out of the truck, but give them a few days and they’ll be more leader shy than any of their rainbow cousins. Why? Here is a short list: bait fishermen, herons, muskrat, osprey, snakes, eagles, snaggers, big bass, and fly fishers. They are constant targets who have to flee for their lives at all times. If you’re bright yellow in an otherwise earth-toned world, that is part of the deal. So maybe they are just paranoid from harassment, but this does add a degree of difficulty. And isn’t that what fly fishers crave?
  3. Palominos might make you happy. If you like the idea of catching a bright yellow fish, have at it. If you think they are pretty, shocking, or hilarious, go for it. They are fish, and fly fishing is about catching fish. Don’t let anyone tell you that your sense of accomplishment is less than it should be for the experience that you enjoyed.

So, any thoughts? Like them? Love them? Hate them? The palomino refuses to not be seen – what is your response?


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