Illustration by Steven Schalla, FlyFishingtheSierra.com, used with permission
Redband is the common name for native-strain rainbow trout which live east of the coastal region. They are classified as subspecies of rainbow trout, with multiple sub-variants which are not necessarily consistently described. For simplicity, we can classify Redbands as belonging to three sub-species: Columbia Basin, Great Basin (this trout), and McCloud River, lumping together the many sub-variants into three sub-classes.
Redband Trout are generally similar in appearance to rainbow trout, though each Redband subspecies has somewhat different characteristics. Genetically, Redbands represent a link between Coastal Rainbows (which were usually the source of stocked fish) and the more primitive cutthroat, with which they share some characteristics. Think of Redbands as the original-strain, interior rainbows. Today, pure Redbands are hard to find, as they’ve hybridized extensively with coastal rainbows that were stocked in the same areas.
The Great Basin Redbands generally have elliptical, purplish parr marks that remain into adulthood. They tend to have yellow-green bodies, with a pink to brick red stripe along the lateral line, and have very distinct white tips on the anal, dorsal, and pectoral fins. Their tail is more forked than a typical rainbow.