Last Updated on July 14, 2021 by Bruce
Trout Fishing Basics
New to trout fishing? Not sure where to start or what type of tackle to purchase? Check out the tips below to get started.
Rod and Reel
Before going out and purchasing a rod and reel, consider what type of trout you are going to be fishing for. If you plan on trout fishing in smaller rivers and streams, get an ultralight or light rod. If you are going to be fishing for lake trout, you will want to get a heavier rod.
There are many rods and reel combos you can purchase as well. A great starter rod/reel combo for trout fishing is the Shakespeare One-Piece Ultra Light Ugly Combo.
For trout fishing in streams and rivers, go with a 2-4 lb. test, fluorocarbon line. Trout will have a more difficult time detecting a smaller, lighter line.
There are variety of baits you can use for trout fishing. Worms, like night crawlers, are a great all-around bait. If you plan on fishing with lures, spinners likePanther Martins and Rooster Tails are a great choice. Check out our article on seasonal fishing to determine the best type of bait to use.
Unless you are going to be fishing at a small pond or lake, you will want to invest in a good pair of waders. Having a pair of waders will allow you to cover more water so you can target structure and other places where trout are hiding.
These are not absolutely necessary, but if you plan on being on the water all day, having a pair of polarized sunglasses will reduce eyestrain. More importantly, polarized sunglasses reduce glare and allow you to see structure you wouldn’t be able to otherwise. So if you plan on wading in the water,polarized sunglasses can help you avoid slipping on a rock or stepping into a hole.
Again, this is not a must, but carrying around a tackle box can become somewhat of a burden if you are trying to cover a stream or river. Having a good vest also allows you to access easily your lures and sinkers, reducing the amount of noise you might make while on the water.
A good net is critical if you plan on catching and releasing your trout. Trout are fighters, and if you lift them out of the water by the line, you risk the chance of losing the trout or ripping the hook out. Get a net that you can attach to your vest.
Once you have your gear, you are good to go. However, fishing for trout, especially in rivers or streams, is different than fishing for other types of fish. Keep the following tips in mind when you are on the water.
Look for Structure: Like all fish, trout will hold near cover. Furthermore, trout will look for places that provide both cover and some type of current that delivers food to them. Undercut banks, fallen logs, or large rocks are prime places for holding trout.
Fish With the Current: Once you find a spot where you suspect the trout are holding, don’t just drop your bait right on their heads. Instead, cast up or across the stream and let the current take your bait to them. This will make the bait appear more natural.
These tips will get you started as a trout fisherman. Just be aware that trout fishing can become highly addictive!
How to Read Water
Although there are some differences between brown, rainbow, and other types of trout, like other fish, they look for cover, and they stay in places where food can be delivered to them. With these two things in mind, below are some areas you want to target when trout fishing.
Rocks or Boulders:If you can find rocks or boulders in the water, try fishing in the current that forms on either side of the rock. Generally, you can follow the foam to see where baits like insects are carried. Trout will hold in these areas and go after anything that comes by. If the current is especially fast-moving, try fishing behind the rock where the water is calmer.
Undercut Banks: Undercut banks can be a great place to trout fish. Undercut banks are usually formed in the bend of the river, therefore making them an ideal place for trout to hold while bait drifts by.
Fallen Trees or Logs: Logs and trees are difficult areas to fish, as the likelihood of snagging your line increases. However, these are also trout magnets, especially for brown trout. If you are fishing this type of area, cast upstream and let your bait drift as close as possible to the tree or log. If the current is not too fast, you can put some weight on your line and drop your bait next to the tree.
Deep Pools: Trout love to hold in deep pools, especially in the warmer months. If you find a deep pool, put some weight on your line and try casting up or across the stream and let your bait go right over the trout’s head. Oftentimes, the biggest trout stake out the deepest pools.
Riffles or small waterfalls: Riffles and small waterfalls create oxygen in the water, thereby attracting trout. Again, try casting upstream and letting your bait go right through the riffle. Oftentimes a trout is just waiting behind a rock, ready to attack anything that comes through the riffle.
Just remember, trout do not like to be out in the open, and they will hold in places where food is delivered to them via currents. If you can find and fish these areas, you will have more success.
How to Rig a Line For Trout Fishing
Although you can sometimes catch trout by just throwing some bait on a hook, knowing a bit about how to rig a line for trout can help you be more successful. Below are two basic, yet very effective ways to rig your line for trout fishing.
Fishing with Spinners
Spinner fishing is very common amongst trout fishermen. Rooster Tails, Panther Martins, and other types of spinners all are effective at catching trout. However, just trying one of these lures to the end of your line is not the best way to go. Instead, follow these tips:
1. Snap Swivel: Use a small snap swivel and tie it to the end of a 2-4 lb. test fluorocarbon line. Then, just simply snap on your lure. This is an effective rig because the swivel helps lessen the amount of line twist produced by the spinner, but you are also able to change quickly lures without tying on another swivel. If you are fishing fast moving water, put a sinker on your line about 12-18 inches from your lure. This will help you get your lure to the trout. Another tip to remember is to use a small (1/32-1/16 oz.) lure.
2. Barrel Swivel: Cut a 12-18 inch piece of line and tie it to one end of your barrel swivel. At the other end of the line, tie on your spinner. This will give you a leader that you can attach (through the other end of the swivel) to your main line. The advantage here is that you will get less line twist, and your lure will appear more natural with the swivel so close. As with the snap-swivel setup, you might need to use a sinker to make sure your lure gets to the depth of the trout you are fishing.
Fishing with Natural Bait
If you are fishing with natural baits like worms, insects, or minnows, try the rig below. It is simple, yet very effective.
Get a small hook (size #8-#10) and tie it to the end of your line. Put your bait on the hook, making sure to cover the hook as much as possible (using a treble hook is very helpful here). Then, about 12-18 inches up from your hook, put on a small sinker. The weight of the sinker should relate the flow of the water. If you are fishing a very, very fast-moving stream or river, use a larger sinker. If you are fishing in relatively slow-moving water, use a lighter sinker. Again, the sinker will help you get your bait to the trout, but it will also appear more natural because the sinker will not be placed too close to the hook.
Rainbow Trout Fishing Tips
Rainbow trout are found in rivers, lakes, and streams across the United States, and they are one of the most popular trout for anglers. When fishing for rainbow trout, there are a few things you need to pay attention to in order to have success. Below are some tips to consider when fishing for rainbow trout.
1. Blend in with the surroundings. Rainbow trout are easily spooked, so when fishing for them, it is very important to be as unnoticeable as possible. Try to be as quiet as possible when walking, talking, wading, etc. Try to wear natural colors like green, brown, and black. When you get to the river or stream you plan to fish, rub some dirt on your hands to get rid of any unnatural smells that might transfer to your bait.
2. Use light or ultra light tackle. Try to use light rods, lines, and lures or hooks when fishing for rainbow trout. Again, rainbow trout are easily spooked, so you want to make sure your tackle is as undetectable as possible. Using a light line (2-6 lb. test) and lure or hook will prevent the fish from being spooked as easily.
3. Fish with the current. Trout are very aware of their surroundings, so you want to present your bait as naturally as possible. Cast up or across the stream and try to let your bait or lure go right past the trout. This might mean you sometimes have to add some weight to your line.
4. Use natural baits whenever possible. Worms, insects, and minnows work great with rainbow trout because they are, well, more natural. However, using a spinner like a Rooster Tail or a Panther Martin can also be successful, especially when the trout are less active. Either way, just make sure you completely hide the small (size #10-#12) hook you are using or use a very small lure (1/32-1/16 oz.).
Rainbow trout fishing is a lot of fun, and if you are interested in keeping your catch, they make a tasty meal. Just wrap them up in aluminum foil with some lemon juice, salt, pepper, and garlic and put them over an open fire for 7-8 minutes.
How to Catch Stocked Trout
Stocked trout are trout that has been raised in a hatchery and then placed into the rivers and streams. In many areas, stocked trout provide the only trout fishing opportunities for anglers. Below are some tips to keep in mind when you are fishing an area that primarily contains stocked trout.
1. Check out your local DNR website to see if there is some type of stocking schedule. Many DNR sites and publications release some type of stocking schedule (after they have already stocked). This will give you an idea of which lakes, ponds, or rivers are typically stocked and when. Just do a google search for “(your state) DNR” or “(your state) trout stocking.”
2. Try using PowerBait to catch stocked trout. When stocked trout are in the hatchery, they are fed food and do not have to “hunt” insects or other small fish. Therefore, PowerBait, if presented properly, is a great way to catch stocked trout, as they are more likely, especially when they have just been stocked, to go after a PowerBait. To see how to rig effectively your line for PowerBait, check out our article here.
3. Try using corn. Again, when trout are in the hatcheries, they are fed food. Oftentimes, the type of food they receive is a type of grain. So it makes sense that corn would be effective trout bait. Use a small hook (size #8-#10) and add some weight to get your bait down to the trout. Make sure your hook is completely covered.
4. Try fishing against the current. This might seem counterintuitive as most fishing tips recommend fishing with the current to make your lure or bait appear more natural, but with stocked trout, this is not as important. Tie on a Rooster Tail and cast downstream. Slowly retrieve your line. You will need to add some weight to your line to keep you lure down in the water, but this method is great for catching stocked trout.
5. Try using marshmallows. Again, this might seem a bit odd, but stocked trout are a lot less picky than other types of trout. Since marshmallows float, you will likely need to use some type of rig that keeps your bait just off the bottom of the lake or river. Check out our article on PowerBait to see how to rig any type of floating bait.