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, and McCloud River (this trout), 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.
McCloud River Redbands are an even closer link to cutthroats than most redbands, as they often exhibit a cutthroat slash. They have a distinct crimson stripe along the lateral line, olive to bronze coloration on their backs, and are heavily spotted above the lateral line.