That's a name you don't forget. I remember reading thru a fishing book as a young kid and seeing the painting of one portrayed as jumping from the river, drawn with a certain look of enthusiasm in the eyes as if to reflect it's given name. It was a pleasure to actually interact with these interesting trout (char) the other day and over the years in the northwest.
According to legend, the name was given to the fish in the 1800's at Soda Springs Resort (Mt Shasta, CA). It was borrowed from a female character in a Charles Dicken's book who loved to wear brightly spotted dresses. The woman saw the fish in a creel and proclaimed it to be a "regular Dolly Varden".
On the Skagit River, Andre felt the fly stop in the swing and realized it was not a rock. The rod took a bend and pumped just as guide Ed Ward and I looked down the bank. I proclaimed "Andre's into a fish of some kind" and we both made way toward him. In about 3 steps we knew it was not a steelhead but just the same I put the rod down and hustled to capture a photo. Andre has been retaining this magnificent 17-18" dolly using a light touch, forming a "cage" with his fingers inthe icy water as the fish swam forward against it. This way he did not need to retain it by squeezing it or other means. I hustled the 75 yards or so along a cobble shoreline to where he was, pulled the camera from it's deeply buried position in my vest just as the dolly rushed off along the shallows and made it's way into the main channel without a click. Sure wish I had the image to insert right <here> Andre!
This beautiful fish is native to this area and Alaska, and has been introduced to CA (where is was allegedly named). Ed told us that it spawns at very high elevations in streams with rapid ascents. They are also anadramous and have been known to exceed 30 inches and ten pounds.
It was historically considered to be a young salmon killer and was once fished for bounty in Alaska like the Columbia squawfish. The truth is they were yet another species succeeding on the salmon wealth before the state of that population plummeted with the encroachment of humans. Only fools could blame a pretty little fish for that IMHO.