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How to Fish for Trout

Ian Fortey by Ian Fortey Updated on August 5, 2020. In Fishing

If you’re serious about fishing for trout, you need to understand how they react to you. Trout are very sensitive to noise and movement. They have excellent eyesight and can be very skittish fish. They are on the lookout for things like visible lures, hooks, and fishing line. It may sound like you’re giving a trout too much credit. But a serious trout angler knows that these fish are smarter than they seem. Fishing for trout takes some skill and planning. You need to respect trout to be able to catch these fish.

Fishing for trout can be incredibly relaxing. The fish is also very delicious and healthy as well. There are a lot of benefits to taking up trout fishing as a hobby. With that in mind, there are some things you can do to improve your game. Anyone can fish for trout in their favorite fishing spot. But if you want to have the best fishing experience, you need to know your trout fishing basics.

Location

The trout that you’re going to catch depends heavily on where you go to catch them. North America has numerous different species of trout that you can fish for.

Rainbow Trout: Rainbow trout are the most common species of trout in North America. You can find them along the Pacific coast up through western Canada. They also exist much further inland in the streams and lakes. They are frequently bred in hatcheries because they breed well in captivity. You can find rainbow trout as far east as the Great Lakes and Georgia. Some of the best trout fishing is for rainbows. You get the trout fishing experience plus beautiful rivers and the great outdoors.

Cutthroat Trout: Cutthroat trout are found most often in the Western US and Canada. The Rocky Mountains are a popular place to fish for them. In fact, cutthroat trout are sometimes called Rocky Mountain trout. You can find them throughout the Pacific Northwest and up to Alaska as well. They tend to live in cold, fast-moving streams and rivers that other trout avoid. You can also find them in national parks such as Yellowstone.

Lake Trout: Lake trout most often live in the northern part of the continent. They are common in glacial lakes and also the Great Lakes. You can find them in Flathead Lake in Montana as well. These fish tend to get larger than many of their cousins.

Brown Trout: Brown trout are native to Europe. They were brought to North America in the late 1800s. You can find brown trout all across Canada. They also live in much of the northeastern and Northwestern United States as well. Brown trout are some of the most popular trout to fish for.

Brook Trout: Brook trout are found in the eastern United States in Canada, as well as the Upper Midwest. They live throughout the Rocky Mountains. Also in many small streams throughout places like Maine, Montana, and Michigan.

Bull Trout: Bull trout live in the Pacific Northwest in the Rocky Mountains. They are a rare species of trout, however. The best place to find them are throughout places like British Columbia in Montana. You should release bull trout if you catch them because the population is so low.

In moving water, like streams and rivers, look for trout near inlets. Places where rivers merge or streams come out of lakes and ponds. These areas bring in the most food, and trout will stay nearby. When fishing trout, you need to follow their food sources.

In larger bodies of water like lakes and ponds, look for cover. Trout don’t like to be exposed. You’ll find them most often near vegetation or around rocks and logs. On hotter days they will go to deeper waters to stay cool. Trout fishing in large bodies of water requires a change in technique. When you fish for trout in deep water, you need to change fishing gear.

Bait

Knowing what trout like to eat is integral to catching them. Not every bait will work for trout. That said, bait fishing is always a good approach. But they do respond very well to classic bait such as:

  • Earthworms
  • Wax worms
  • Grasshoppers
  • Crayfish
  • Small bait fish like minnows
  • Canned corn

Gear

You want to make sure you’re using the right rod, reel, and line to catch fish like trout.

Reel: You want to use either a spinning reel or a fly reel to catch trout. You can use a baitcasting reel, but it’s not ideal. A spinning reel makes less noise. It will also offer greater sensitivity and drag for catching trout. To keep things running smoothly, you want at least four ball bearings. That’s a bare minimum, and you should definitely look for more if you can.

Rods: Lightweight rods work best for catching trout. They need to be quiet and strong. Trout are very easily spooked. Noise and movement catch their attention very easily. You want to be as stealthy as possible when it comes to catching trout. That means picking gear that is suitable for that task.

An ideal rod is about 6 feet to 7 feet in length. You should have fast action and Exceptional strength. Composite Rod made from both graphite and fiberglass may be best. There are many lightweight and strong graphite rods out there. Fiberglass rods are cheaper, however.

Hooks: You also need to choose the correct hook for catching trout. Again, just as with a rod, any hook will do in a pinch. But the best hook for catching trout is a smaller hook that is barbless. Barbless hooks are less damaging to fish. Smaller hooks are much better for catching trout than many anglers realize. You’re less likely to miss or lose your fish with an appropriately-sized hook. Something like a size 8 hook would be ideal for catching trout. Usually hooks that are size 8 to 14 are the range you’re looking for. Keep a handful of them in your tackle box.

Lures: If you plan to use lures, there are also many choices. Trout respond very well to things like the Rapala Original Floater. Also spinning lures and ones that resemble worms and flies are great. That’s why fly fishing is such an effective method of catching trout. Anything that does a good job of masking the hook can have some potential to catch a trout. If trout observe the hook, they may be scared off.

You need to tailor your lures to the size of the trout you’re fishing for. Smaller lures for smaller trout. Match your colors to what you’re trying to fish for as well. A well-painted lure can really entice the fish to bite.

You should keep much of the following in your tackle box anytime you go trout fishing:

  • 1/4 oz egg sinkers
  • Size 6 to 8 split shot
  • A small bobber or float
  • A variety of spoons and spinners
  • Size 10 swivels
  • Powerbait
  • Size 8-14 hooks. Ideally barbless unless you plan on keeping what you catch.
  • A variety of lures that we’ve mentioned such as rapalas, spinners and spoons.

Line: There are several┬ákinds of line for trout fishing. This includes monofilament line, braided lines, fluorocarbon lines. Monofilament and fluorocarbon lines are some of the best for trout fishing. Monofilament line has some stretch to it, and it’s great for tying knots.

Braided lines offer more sensitivity than a mono line, but they don’t have any stretch to them. They’re also not as good for knot tying as monofilament. This may not be best for trout fishing.

Fluorocarbon line is extremely hard to see in the water. This makes it ideal for trailer fishing. It’s also very sensitive, which allows it to transmit to vibrations. It’s exceedingly tough as well. One of the main downsides of fluorocarbon line is that it’s hard to tie into knots. Some brands have been made to address this issue. The right fluorocarbon line will be exceptional for catching trout. Something like Seaguar Blue Label fluorocarbon leader.

Lake Technique

When it comes to techniques for trout fishing, you have a few options. The most popular method of bait fishing for trout in a lake or pond is simply suspending bait with a bobber. Bait your hook with your bait of choice. Attach a lead weight above the hook to sink your bait. Attach your bobber about 1 1/2 to 3 ft above the hook. Cast as normal and then wait. This is your basic technique for catching just about any kind of fish. It works best when trout milling about near the surface.

When you’re using a lure like a spinner or a spoon, you need to cast it over the water. Let it sink briefly and then retrieve the lure by reeling it in. Shake up the speed of your retrieve and the depths that you let it sink to. Eventually you’ll hit on the best mix of speed and depth to catch your trip.

Fishing off the bottom is also a good technique for catching trout. They tend to head to deeper waters and warmer weather. This is the same as the first method, only you won’t use a bobber to keep the bait suspended. Just attach the lead weight where you would normally attach the barber. This allows the line to sink, but the bait will float above the bottom.

River Technique

Fishing in rivers can be different than fishing in lakes. You have to deal with the current of the water in this situation. This has a much greater impact on things like your lure retrieve.

Cast your lure upriver and then reel in the slack. You can let the current carry it down the river to create a kind of natural movement. Once the current starts taking it towards the shore it’s time to start reeling it in.

For natural bait you can use the same technique, or attach a floater to the line to keep track of where it is. Just be aware of how close you’re getting to the shore at any time. Retrieve your lure as necessary before you get stuck on something.

The Bottom Line

There is no surefire way to catch trout. They can be very finicky fish. Some days you will have excellent luck, some days not. The best you can do is arm yourself with knowledge. Make sure you have the best equipment available to you. You need the best bait as well. Understand the trout that you are fishing for in the location you’re fishing for them. That means using the right bait, the right size hook, etc for the size of the fish you’re after.

As many anglers know, perseverance is often the key to success. You may have to try different combinations and locations to get exactly what you want.

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