Introduction – Trout fishing 101
Trout are one the most popular freshwater angling species in the US with 7.8m US anglers fishing for trout a year according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Fishing for trout in the cool-water lakes and river waters in which they are found – whether that’s with a lure or fly or natural bait – is one of the great angling experiences.
In regions where populations are sustainable, and the regulations allow it, they are also a good eating fish.
Trout are a very beautiful fish with a variety of different hues and markings and once hooked, they put up a decent fight.
It’s fair to say though, trout aren’t always an easy fish to catch and fooling the larger specimens requires stealth, patience and intelligence – along with the right gear.
With this trout fishing tips article, we are providing all the info an angler needs to learn about trout fishing for beginners and how to catch trout in their local waters.
Typical Trout waters in the US
Trout are found in clean, clear and cool (50–60 °F or 10–16 °C) lakes, rivers and streams. That typically means northern and southern latitudes well away from the tropics, although they can be found in the very highest mountain regions closer to the equator, such as in Ecuador or Peru.
The US has excellent trout fishing throughout from the Rockies to the Pacific Northwest and even California and Nevada. There’s also great trout fishing in the northeast in New York, Vermont, Michigan and New Hampshire and right down into North Carolina. A little further afield, Alaska is a top destination for wild trout and salmon fishing.
Top trout fishing states and a signature water or two in each are listed below:
- Montana (Bighorn River, Blackfoot River)
- Idaho (Henry’s Fork River)
- Michigan (Ausable River, Manistee River)
- New York (Ausable River)
- Colorado (Frying Pan River)
- Utah (Green River)
- Wyoming (Green River)
- Pennsylvania (Yellow Breeches Creek)
- Arkansas (White River)
- North Carolina (French Broad River)
- California (Truckee River)
- Alaska (Russian River)
- Nevada (Truckee River)
- New Hampshire (Connecticut River)
- Vermont (Connecticut River)
- Oregon (Deschutes River)
Other top countries for trout fishing
Along with our top trout fishing tips – which we’ll get to shortly – I wanted to include some top destinations for trout fishing outside North America too:
The best place in the world to fish for trophy sized brown and rainbow trout.
The island state of Tasmania has some of the finest brown trout fishing in the world in remote lakes and rivers
Patagonia in South America (which straddles both countries) is one of my favourite regions to fish for trout. Cool clear rivers and lakes teem with willing rainbows and browns and the occasional brook trout.
France, Spain, Slovenia and Italy all offer excellent brown trout fishing in the more mountainous regions.
The northern Island of Hokkaido offers excellent rainbow trout fishing as well for sea-run char and taimen, and Pacific salmon species
Kamchatka and Siberia offer excellent – if expensive and remote – fishing for trout, taimen and Atlantic and Pacific salmon species
Norway, Finland and Iceland offer brilliant fishing for salmon, trout and char
Types of trout
Depending where you want to draw the line between species that are quite similar, there are more than 30 species of trout.
For those wanting to learn more about a fair chunk of these species, and how to catch them, I can’t recommend fly fishing author and friend Greg French’s book The Last Wild Trout highly enough.
But for simplicity’s sake, we can basically deal with five main species groups:
The smartest, largest and arguably most sort after trout species
Athletic, beautiful and comparatively easy to catch
Prolific and aggressive species found through the Rockies and certain other regions
A diverse group including Bull Trout, Lake Trout and Brook Trout and char species
The world’s largest trout species found in remote regions of Asia such as Mongolia, Russia and far northern Japan
Trout fishing tips
Having looked at trout waters, types of trout and where trout are form, it’s on to the actual trout fishing tips including
- Trout behaviour
- Best times to fish for trout
- Best lures for trout
- Trout food
- Preferred structure for trout
- Gear for trout fishing
Best seasons to fish for trout
Spring, Summer and Fall are the best seasons to target trout. Although they can be caught throughout winter, their metabolism slows and they are more tricky to catch
Best times of day to fish for trout
Periods of low light – ie dawn and dusk – are the best times to target trout. This is a top trout fishing tip. Further to that, on last light the fabled evening rise occurs on many waters where the trout come to the surface to feed on hatching insects – it’s a fly fisher’s paradise. However, in blue-ribbon sight-fishing waters in New Zealand, Tasmania and other clearwater fishing destinations its vital to have the sun overhead to spot the trout.
Trout diets are very diverse ranging from aquatic invertebrates such as caddis flies, stone flies, damsel and dragonflies and mayflies right through to snails, worms, shrimp and other fish. Other prey items including terresterial insects (grasshoppers, ants, cicadas etc) right through to mice. They can feed very selectively at times honing in on one particular food. The key to success is giving them what they want at these times – whether that’s the natural bait or an imitation in the form of a fly or lure. That’s where the trout fishing tip “Match the Hatch” is a good one. It comes from fly fishermen having to precisely imitate the size and type of insect that is hatching from the water.
Keys for a trout’s holding location are access to food, shelter (deeper water or structure), oxygenated water and a suitable water temperature.
Gear for trout
As trout are not the largest nor the strongest species around, trout gear tends to be light tackle – small reels (usually spinning reels as opposed to baitcasting reels), shorter rods and light lines. It’s a finesse form of fishing. Fly fishing (my favourite form of trout fishing by far) is a very successful and popular way to target trout and utilises specialised fly fishing tackle.
How to catch trout – trout fishing basics
Best lures for trout
Walking the banks or wading is a very successful way to catch trout in both lakes and rivers. Always use your eyes and ears to detect the movement of trout you can target with a quick and accurate cast.
Sometimes in lake fishing a boat, kayak, float tube, pontoon boat or other type of aquacraft can be a real advantage to get you to the right spots, especially if you have an electric motor (sometimes called a trolling motor) for stealth. A fish finder can also be a help on larger waters.
While not the most exciting method of catching trout, trolling can be very effective.
The other main sport fishing technique for targeting trout, fly fishing is harder to learn by virtue of the casting motion and the complexity of it. But for those who persevere it is the most effective, diverse and enjoyable way to target trout by a big margin.
Fly fishers use artificial flies – usually constructed using feathers and natural and synthetic threads/yarns and other fly tying materials – to imitate particular aquatic creatures or insects that a trout is feeding on at that particular time.
These are divided into two types – wet flies and dry flies. Wet flies sink and are subsurface imitations. Dry flies float in the surface film and imitate insects that are hatching out of the water (mayflies, caddis etc) or have fallen in (grasshoppers, beetles, bugs etc).
Because these imitations typically weigh very little, fly fishers use a long graphite fly rod and a thick opaque fly line to cast their flies. The weight is contained in the line itself, to which is attached a transparent section known as the leader that prevents spooking fish in the immediate area where the fly lands.
Check out this video for the rhythmic form of casting required to deliver the fly to its target.
Regulations, licences and conservation
At Tackle Village we are all about encouraging sport fishing. That doesn’t always mean catch-and-release fishing, but in many waters it does.
It really means only taking what you need and only keeping fish in waters where there is either sufficient natural recruitment or stocking to maintain a stable trout population. And it means always following fishing regulations and obtaining the correct licence.
The team at Reserve America have a really handy web page where you can enter the state in which you are fishing and it will take you to page where you can buy a license and read the relevant fishing regulations.
So, welcome to the world of trout fishing. Hopefully this article has given you a run down of the trout fishing basics and some useful trout fishing tips. For many of you, I have no doubt your early beginnings in trout fishing will be the first step in a journey that takes you to some of the most beautiful places on earth, wherever you live.
To put it simply, trout only live in beautiful places and fooling them is rarely easy but always engrossing.