This member of the char family got its name from a colorful, fictional character in Charles Dicken's novel Barnaby Rudge. Living up to it's name-sake this char has a rich, emerald green back that merges into a metallic slate blue on its mid-sides. The highlights cover their backs, sides, and upper belly - a spotting of deep-crimson with halos of gold or lavender.
An interesting historic note - The first recorded use of the name "Dolly Varden" for a fish species was applied to members of S. confluentus caught in the McCloud River in northern California in the early 1870s.
Dolly Varden share a close connection to bull trout - both geographically and genetically. In fact, dollies and bull trout can be hard to tell apart.
The native range of Dolly Varden splits into a southern and northern subspecies - basically north and south of the Alaska Pennisula. The southern subspecies extends down to the Puget Sound in Washington. Their less common cousins to the north extend far north of Alaska.
These char thrive in remote, untouched, coldwater streams, and lakes. They don't tolerate warmer temps that other trout and char can handle and stick to waters with temps of 55 F or lower. Similar to other trout, however, their size closely relates to the size of the waters in which they live (assuming good sources of food).
(Pictured above - A male Dolly goes into his spawning colors showing golden-yellow around his mouth and pinks along this lower fins.) Dolly Varden mature in four to five years and spawn in September or October. Dolly Varden also have a unique spawning behavior. They will reproduce evey other year after their first spawn in most cases. And in the years they do not spawn they leave saltwater in the fall and spend the winter in lakes outside their home watersheds.
Photo of California Golden Trout by P. Michael Carl © The Ecological Angler