In the final Scott’s Species for 2021, Western Angler editor Scott Coghlan casts his eye (or fly!) at rainbow trout.
Species: Rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss
Eating: 3 stars
ID: Rainbows have a prominent pink stripe down their silver side.
Rainbow trout are an introduced species in Australia, with the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) and Recfishwest stocking trout across the South West and Peel regions each year.
They are largely a freshwater fish, although they can survive in a saltwater environment and have been to known to run to the ocean at the Donnelly River.
Trout can grow to big sizes elsewhere in the world. For example, the massive canal fish in New Zealand, but here in WA the biggest they get is about 4kg.
Most that are caught will be much smaller, from 30-50cm long, and weighing up to 2kg.
Pemberton is the heart of trout fishing in WA and is where most of our fish are bred at DPIRD’s hatchery before being released.
Every years hundreds of thousands of trout are released into WA waterways, from tiny fingerlings to big ex-broodstock fish, the latter providing most of the large fish captures locally.
They can be found in rivers, streams and impoundments across the South West and Peel regions.
Interestingly, our WA trout have evolved to become more heat tolerant than those in other parts of the world.
Rainbows love fast running water and will often be found around rapids in rivers and streams, or where water runs into dams.
They are an aggressive fish, known to take a fly, lure, spinner or bait.
Sometimes they strike because they are chasing prey, but other times they appear to do so because they are territorial.
Rainbow trout will usually jump when hooked. The key to consistent trout success when fishing rivers is working out where the fish will be holding and getting your offering into that area.
Put the lure or fly in the right spot enough times and you should catch fish. This is a skill that is learned from time spent trout fishing, as you eventually see a pattern emerging.
In rivers, they generally pick spots where food will be funneled past and ideally where they can hold out of the main current, such as behind a rock or log.
If you are lucky enough to be on the water when there is an insect hatch on, especially impoundment fishing, then you will experience a different side to trout fishing, as they will rise repeatedly and gorge themselves on the food on the surface, making dry fly an option.
There aren’t many classical trout fishing locations in WA where anglers can wade and sight cast to fish, with Pemberton having a couple that can be fished that way when water levels are suitable.
Rather, WA trout fishers need to be persistent and ingenious, finding ways to get lures or flies to fish.
Take it from me, fly fishing in many river and stream locations in WA is extremely difficult, as it is difficult to access the water and even harder to back cast, but it can usually be done.
In many spots, spinning tackle is much more feasible and enjoyable. Floating hardbody minnow lures are my preference when spinning, as you can float them down with the current to access areas that are not able to be cast to.
Some of our smaller streams are so heavily overgrown the only way to fish them is to poke the rod through the scrub and then drop the lure down and let it drift downstream.
Upstream fly fishing is impossible in most areas, so similar tactics on fly are often used.
Obviously, dam fishing is much easier, especially for newcomers to trout fishing, and it can be very productive, either casting from the bank or fishing from a boat or canoe.
Trout will happily take trolled lures. I have fond memories of the glory days of Waroona Dam, when it fished sensationally for fat rainbow trout.
For fly fishing I can’t go past a weighted Woolly Bugger as the fly of choice, or a Mrs Simpson when impoundment fishing.
Occasionally I will use a nymph and opt for wet flies 99 per cent of the time, very rarely getting to try a dry.
For lures, there are plenty of bibbed minnows that will work, and oddly enough the best colouration seems to be rainbow trout. Bladed spinners also work well.
If bait is your preference then it’s hard to go past worms! If spinning, light gear is all that is needed to subdue them, and tackle of 2-4kg will normally be ample.
For fly fishing, a 6-weight would be a good starting point, although lighter outfits can make for a lot of fun on smaller fish.
Pemberton offers a great range of locations to try on the Lefroy Brook, Treen Brook and Warren River, as well as Big Brook Dam.
The Donnelly River is also a good fishery, while the upper reaches of the Collie River has been stocked heavily in recent years.
Harvey Dam is probably our most popular fishery these days, offering rainbows as well as brown trout and redfin perch.
The annual Troutfest, held by Recfishwest in partnership with the Shire of Waroona, sees thousands of trout released into Drakesbrook Weir each year.
Also, Recfishwest hosts Fish in the ‘Burbs at Austin Lakes Estate, South Yunderup, stocking rainbows at a safe and accessible lake in the middle of surburbia to give more fishers access to the joys of trout angling.
These are just a few of the more popular locations and the rewards are there for those keen to explore.
While they appeal to many people on the plate, I’m not one of the people who loves eating rainbow trout and prefer to catch and release.