By Mikey Wier
August 25, 2015
Recently I had the opportunity to spend a little time in the Kern River drainage and Golden Trout Wilderness. In addition to documenting some meadow restoration projects Cal Trout is involved with, I spent a few days trying to document two of California’s unique native trout species that are endemic to this area.
First on the list was the Little Kern Golden Trout. These fish are native to the North Fork of the Kern River also known as the Little Kern. They look like a cross between classic Volcano Creek Goldens and Kern River Rainbows. Due to cross breeding with rainbows in the lower reaches and main stem, the fish with the most pure genetics are tucked away high in the remote tributaries.
With limited time, I decided to try a hike into Clicks Creek on the western edge of the Golden Trout Wilderness. There were some fires burning in the area so the air was very smokey. I first encountered a few fish in a series of 5 very small pools on the south fork of Clicks Creek. The pools were completely disconnected from each other and there was no flow above or below for miles. There were 2 to 3 fish in each pool and, though it looked pretty dismal, the temperatures were low enough that they seemed like they would survive until winter. Each pool had a large rock or some kind of woody debris, like a fallen tree, that provided nooks for the trout to tuck up and avoid predators. All these pools, however, were subjected directly to cattle, which were grazing in the area.
I didn’t encounter flowing water for a few more miles down the canyon. The trail descended quickly into the steep canyon and I didn’t come to the main creek until around mile 4. There I found some flowing water and a lot of nice little granite plunge pools full of happy Little Kern Golden Trout. I spent most of the day just filming the fish both from above and below the water’s surface. They were pretty skittish for how far in they were. There were few signs of people and angling. I managed to get some decent photos and videos of a few willing specimens. After filming for several hours I took out the rod and caught one fish to get a close up photo. It was a long hike out and I reached the car after dark but the mission was a success.