It didn’t take six punishing hours in the saddle—but it did take a three-hour, round-
trip hike (straight up, both ways) to reach the 40-acre lake located at 9000 feet in the
Gallatin National Forest near Big Sky, MT, where, if you’ve never caught (or even seen)
a golden trout, you can take your shot. Loaded down with bear spray, drinking water
and flying ant patterns, photographer Dan Root, Lone Mountain Ranch guide Jake
Messinger and I made the trudge up the mountain hoping we’d avoid grizzly bears and
There are plenty of gorgeous trout in this world—handsome Alaskan leopard ‘bows,
the truly excellent redband rainbows of eastern Washington and Oregon, buttery and
elegant brown trout from all over. But there is one trout that’s beauty is almost mystical.
That trout is the elusive golden trout. Open the thesaurus and go to the word “gorgeous.”
All the synonyms apply. This trout has “wow” factor. This trout doesn’t seem real. This
trout is beyond description.
These were not huge fish—12 inches was a big fella—but it’s hard to get huge in a tiny,
blood-numbing lake a mile and a half above sea level. Yet as most fly anglers know, size
really doesn’t matter when you’re just so damn good lookin’.