Feature Article: Golden Trout

Late season golden trout possible IGFA record

BY MIKE STEVENS/WON Staff WriterPublished: Nov 27, 2019

EASTERN SIERRA — The idea of squeezing one more Eastern Sierra fishing trip in before the buzzer sounds on the general season on Nov. 15 is nothing new to hard-core trout heads. Some actually do it, others toss it around and end up not going — promising to make it happen next year — but it’s very unlikely anyone has ever made the charge and landed a trophy backcountry golden trout that could set a new IGFA record.

This guy did.

THIS MONSTER GOLDEN TROUT fell for a small Zebra Midge fly delivered by a 4-weight Redington Hydrogen rod and 4-pound RIO tippet.

Huntington Beach angler Roman Hipolito headed north on Highway 395 for one last dance before the season ended. He and his brother backpacked to an unnamed lake in search of golden trout, and the wind was taken out of their sails when they arrived at their destination only to find it completely frozen over. The duo followed a ridge to a neighboring lake, and they didn’t have to scramble down to the water’s edge before finding what they were looking for.

“From the ridge, I spotted what at first glance looked like a carp cruising the surface, thick-bodied, long, and much larger than the goldens I’d seen before,” said Hipolito. “I stalked that fish and beautifully presented a nymph on a long cast which it immediately turned on and took with such force, it would have broken my 4-pound tippet had I had a firmer grip on my flyline."

From there it became a 15-minute battle that ended in heartbreak when the hook pulled at the net which Hipolito told WON “was way too small for a fish of that caliber.”

“Hardened by the experience, we hiked out, drove home and were fixated on it for a few days before jumping on the opportunity to go back up,” he added.

This time flying solo a couple days before the season ended, Hipolito headed back up to the lake and once again found the golden torpedo cruising the surface. He landed the zebra midge a few yards ahead of its path, and the fish didn’t even have to change course to take the fly. After another lengthy battle which included wrapping the tip around boulders and downed trees, Hipolito landed the fish and got a real look at its size.

seasonenderSEASON ENDER — After hooking and losing this monster backcountry golden, Roman Hipolito shot back up Highway 395 (from Huntington Beach) a few days later and landed it a few days before the general season ended. He is submitting the 4.72-pound trout to the IGFA as a possible 4-pound tippet line-class record.

The big golden was 57 centimeters long and tipped the scale at 4.72 pounds. That puts it at 4 pounds and around 11 or 12 ounces. The IGFA tippet-class world record for 4-pound tippet is 4 pounds, 9 ounces, so if everything checks out, he’s looking at a new record.

“It would have qualified as the new all-tackle length world record if I had the official IGFA measuring board,” he said.

Those run $50 and are only available online and directly from the IGFA, so, there aren’t going to be many anglers anticipating a shot at a record enough to pack one of those things out.

Native only to the upper Kern River basin, golden trout are California’s official state freshwater fish. Only found at high altitude, they have a short feeding season (post-thaw and pre-freeze), so they don’t get very big. The world record went 11 pounds even and was caught in Wyoming in 1948. That’s where a total of eight IGFA records were set for goldens including conventional and fly-fishing line class high marks. A 6 pounder was caught in the Bishop backcountry by Brandon Parker in 2009, and that fish stands as the top IGFA fish for 6-pound line and conventional tackle. Like Hipolito, Parker was tight-lipped with the lake’s location and for good reason.

As for the gear details, Hipolito was fishing with a 4-weight Redington Hydrogen rod, RIO Gold flyline and RIO 4-pound tippet material. The first time the fish was hooked, it was on a black stonefly followed by the Zebra Midge on the return trip.

Look for an update on the record status of this fish in a future issue of Western Outdoor News.

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