A Complete Guide to Fishing for Trout

Brown Trout

Brown Trout I caught on the Gallatin River
Brown Trout I caught on the Gallatin River

Fishing for Trout

The first fish I ever caught was a trout, and I'm certain that many veteran anglers would say the same. Trout are a great target species for many reasons. For one, they are available in all 50 states, in both wild and stocked populations. Also, the gear and experience necessary to get started is minimal. Trout put up a solid fight, are apt to bite nearly year round, and taste delicious, especially when smoked. For all these reasons and more, thousands of anglers, both novice and experienced go fishing for trout every year.

In the course of this article I intend on explaining how to get set up, and how to catch trout. By the end, you will know everything you need to know to catch trout. If you already are an experienced trout angler, I'm sure you'll pick up some extra tips throughout the article to further increase your trout catching success.

Trout Identification Guide

Source

Species of Trout

Admittedly, there are actually hundreds of kinds of trout. Some of the most common are: Rainbow trout, Brown trout, Cutthroat trout, and Brook trout (not actually a trout). From these, there are hundreds of cross-bred species and sub-species, some particular to single rivers or streams. For the sake of simplicity, I'll be using the term "trout" fairly loosely, as much of the same information pertains to all species. When species specific information arises, I will be more particular about which I am talking about.

Gear for Trout Fishing

While you won't need to shell out the small fortune many anglers pay, you will need some basic gear when fishing for trout. Depending on your commitment to the sport, you can get by as cheap as 30 bucks or so, but if you want a solid starting set up that will preform well and last a long time, expect to pay closer to $100 for everything. It may seem like a lot of money to go fishing, but believe me, $100 up front is far cheaper than making 8 trips to the sporting good store and discovering by trial and error what you do need and what you don't.

All of my gear suggestions are simply that, suggestions. They will provide the best trout fishing experience, but if you find a killer deal on a slightly heavier rod, or slightly smaller real, feel free to fudge my suggested numbers a little.

  • Rod: 6 - 7' Medium-Light Weight, Medium to Fast Action
  • Reel: Spinning Reel, 4 Ball Bearing minimum, 100 yds 6lb test minimum
  • Line: 4 or 6 lb Monofilament, enough to fill the reel spool (often the guys at the sporting good store can do this for you, and if you buy a rod and reel from them, ask for free line, it usually works)

Those are the basics. As far as brands go, everyone has their favorites. You can't go wrong with Shimano. For a more in depth look at beginning trout set ups, check out Getting Started: Basic Trout Fishing Gear!

Next you'll need some basic tackle. For bait fishing you'll need:

  • Egg Sinkers: 1/4 oz
  • Split Shot: Size 6 - 8
  • Swivels: Size 10, barrel or snap
  • Leader Line: 4 lb Monofiliment
  • Hooks: Size 10 single egg
  • Hooks: Size 6 baitholder
  • Bobber or Float: 1" round, or comparable foam float
  • Bait: Powerbait, worms, salmon eggs etc. Read more at Top 5 Best Trout Baits


So that's all for bait fishing gear. If you plan on using lures you'll want a variety of choices. Some favorites are:

  • Spinners
  • Rapalas
  • Flatfish
  • Spoons
  • Wedding Rings

For a complete run-down of my favorite top producing trout fishing lures, check out my Top 5 Best Trout Lures!


Finally, some last little things that you'll need:

  • Fishing License
  • A copy of your local fishing regulations
  • A tackle box or tray to organize your gear
  • A net for landing fish (helpful but not necessary)
  • Polarized Sunglasses (Reduce glare allowing you to see fish underwater)

Sinking Bait Trout Rig

Floating Bait Trout Rig

Lure Rig

Split shot are optional, either to get more casting distance or to sink the lure deeper. Be aware adding split shot may affect the lures action.
Split shot are optional, either to get more casting distance or to sink the lure deeper. Be aware adding split shot may affect the lures action.

How to Catch Trout

If I felt so inspired, I could carry on this section for an entire book, and maybe someday I will, but for now, I'll try to keep it concise. I'll summarize trout fishing techniques in three categories: Bait fishing, Lure fishing, and Trolling.

Bait Fishing

Bait fishing refers to static fishing. You present the trout with a bait, either live, dead, or artificial, and wait for a strike. If you know where the fish are, it can be very productive. If not, you may not get a nibble all day.

Bait fishing for trout can further be simplified into two more sub categories: Floating baits and sinking baits. In general, all natural baits sink. Moreover, assume all baits sink unless it is specifically labels on the bait that it floats (only artificial generally). If you bait sinks, suspend it under the surface using a float or bobber. See Sinking Bait Trout Rig. If the bait you choose to use floats, suspend it over the bottom. See Floating Bait Trout Rig. The type of bait and presentation you choose to use is vary much subject to the conditions. A general rule is: Use sinking baits near the surface during the early morning and evening, and floating baits deep during mid day. You can read more about my favorite trout baits here.

Lure Fishing

Lure fishing involves casting a trout lure out into the lake, and reeling is back. Different lures exhibit different behavior in the water, meaning it is good to have a variety to target fish in their various moods. Lure fishing is effective for covering a large amount of water in a small amount of time. It is also more active that bait fishing, and I think more fun. Most lures are heavy enough that you do not need any additional weight, simply tie one one, cast, retrieve, and repeat until you have a fish. Since each lure behaves differently in the water, experiment with retrieval speeds until you find the sweet spot for the lure, you'll know it when you see it.

Trolling

The third and final technique of trout fishing is trolling. Trolling is a bit of a compromise between bait fishing and lure fishing. Trolling involves casting a lure behind a boat, and then pulling the lure through the water with the boat, either with a motor or by paddling. Trolling is often done with electric motors, but canoe and kayak trolling can be especially effective as well. Once the lures are in the water, just drive/paddle around the lake until you get a bite. A word of caution: Trolling Strikes often hit hard, so either use a rod holder or make sure the rod is in your immediate possession! For more on information, read Trolling: Gear, Tackle and Tactics!

Where To Go Trout Fishing

So you have your gear, and you know what you're doing, but where will you go? Well, the resources here are limitless. If you happen to live in Washington State, just ask, and I'll give you some personal suggestions. If not, your two best resources are your local fishing store and your state's Fish and Wildlife department. As far as the local fishing store goes, the guys know where the fish are but the amount of insider information they are willing to give is likely directly proportional to the amount of gear you are buying, at least until they know you. So grab a few lures and then ask questions. As for the Fish and Wildlife Department, they are generally a fair bet year round. Other options include asking around at work if you know any fishermen, or Googleing fishing forums for your state.

Fortunately, as mentioned before, trout thrive in every state in the country, so chances are you have a lake not to far from where you live that has a decent trout population.

Fish the Mornings!

When To Go Trout Fishing

First off, make sure the lake you plan on fishing is in season. Most states have a general fishing season. That being said, most states also have fisheries that are open in the off season, and fisheries that are open year round. To check the season for the lake you plan on fishing, either call your state's Fish and Wildlife office, or read your state's fishing regulations. If the lake you were planning on fishing is currently out of season, inquire about local lakes that are in season. Fortunately, there are many year-round trout fisheries across the country.

So that sums up the time of year to fish, but what about time of day? In general, Morning and Evening are best, although trout can be caught all day long. Additionally, often Midweek is better than weekend, as the lower angler presence will have fewer of the trout spooked, and a spooked trout rarely bites.

Trout Fishing Tips

Ok, so this is where I get to list off all those little things that will help give you an edge on the lake!

  • Talk to the Locals: if you are polite, respect their space, and come across as genuinely interested, another angler will almost always lend advice. Even better, compliment their catch and pad their ego a bit, fisherman are a proud breed, and if you make them feel good about themselves, they will likely help out.
  • Go Often: Reading this will get you started, but is no replacement for actual experience
  • Learn Your Knots: A few good ones will do, just don't tie crappy knots, you'll lose fish and lose motivation
  • Sharp Hooks: Sharp hooks keep fish on the line
  • Know the Regulations: Nothing puts a damper on a fishing trip more than a ticket (I would know...)
  • Fresh Bait: If you choose to use bait, the fresher the better
  • Use Scent Liberally: and then add a little more.
  • Keep Your Line in the Water: Time spent re-baiting, untangling a knot, or worse yet, making phone call and texting, is time you aren't fishing. Make the most of the time you have and fish hard.
  • Buy Good Gear: Fishing gear really isn't something you want to go bottom-end on. You don't need top of the line, but be willing to spend a little.
  • Don't be Fooled by Ridiculous New Product: There are a lot of gimmicky fishing products, don't bother with them, they don't work. In the tackle sales industry we have a saying, "Lure companies don't build lures to catch the fish, but rather the fisherman!" don't fall for the gimmicks, it's a waste of time and money.
  • Read More: When you can't be fishing, read up: books, articles, magazines, reports etc. You never know where you'll pick up a new tip.
  • Take a Friend Fishing: Not only will you have someone to bounce new ideas off, but another rod in the water increase your chances of catching fish.
  • Adapt: If what you're doing isn't working, switch it up. Don't drown worms for 4 hours straight if you aren't getting bites, try something new!
  • Ask Questions! Leave any question in the comments box and I'll be sure and get back to you! I wanna see you catch fish!

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Comments 6 comments

Edwin Brown 3 years ago from Oregon, USA

Huntnfish, great hub. It is clear you really have a passion for trout fishing, one I too can appreciate. You have covered quite a bit of territory in your hub. Good basic information.

I have caught trout on all kinds of things, but I have always been partial to drifting bait for trout. I like using naturally occurring bait already in the stream, like crawdad tails (peeled) and caddis larvae, not to mention the old standby, worms. Also, in August, small grasshoppers are dynamite.

I think you and I could have a great conversation if we were able tosit down together and swap stories. Best of luck to you in your trout pursuits.


huntnfish profile image

huntnfish 3 years ago from Montana/Washington Author

Natural baits that are part of the trout natural diet are always a great call, plus I just feel better about natural baits than those plasticky thing haha. I'll fish just about anything, I think the next hub is going to be on Lingcod fishing, its a pretty niche fishery, but one of my favorites! (My profile pic ) No doubt we would find lots to talk about!


Edwin Brown 3 years ago from Oregon, USA

Ling cod, wow! I have caught a couple from the rocks or jetty near Newport, Oregon. Takes a bit of practice to find and lure them. My brother and nephew go and do quite well in their "secret" spots. I know what they use for bait, and I know where they go. I want to hook up with them sometime and get one of those babies for bragging rights. Great eatin', too.


jimmar profile image

jimmar 3 years ago from Michigan

Great hub. Well organizd and lots of good information. Should I assume the focus is on fishing lakes or larger rivers? I've fished brook trout in tiny streams.


Edward J. Palumbo profile image

Edward J. Palumbo 2 years ago from Tualatin, OR

Thoroughly enjoyed your writing! I recently retired and my priorities are changing. Thank you for adding fuel to my fire; it's time to dust off my ultralight spinning tackle and get out there again!


Mike Kubilius profile image

Mike Kubilius 2 years ago from Williams Lake, British Columbia

nice

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