In this ultimate guide on how to fish for trout we’re going to be covering everything from the basics of fishing to what to do in different locations; from how to properly store your trout after capture to what baits are best to use; from the different breeds of trout you’ll come across to what time of year (and even what time of day) is best to get out on the lake.
Essentially, we’re going to be giving you a crash course in the essentials of trout fishing throughout the next few sections.
Even already well-versed anglers might find a thing or two to enjoy here. And if you’re a complete newbie to this hobby, then you’re going to find a lot of valuable information throughout this guide to help you understand where to start.
If you’re intimidated by the sheer amount of information we’re about to give you, fear not. If this is too much for you to read through in one-go then simply bookmark the page and come back to read the rest at a later date. Use this guide as a resource all throughout your trout fishing experience.
- 1 Trout Fishing Basics
- 2 Techniques for Trout Fishing
- 3 How to Fish for Trout on a Lake
- 4 How to Fish for Trout in a Pond
- 5 How to Fish for Trout in a River
- 6 How to Fish for Trout in a Stream or Creek
- 7 How to Best Catch Different Breeds of Trout
- 8 How to Clean and Store the Trout You’ve Caught
- 9 Enjoy the Social Aspect of Fishing Trout
- 10 Now Get Out There and Start Trout Fishing!
So, if you’re ready and raring to go, put down that rod and get reading – let’s jump headfirst into the basics you’ll need to learn to become an expert trout angler.
Trout Fishing Basics
So many people enjoy the thrill of fishing for trout and there are a lot of reasons why it’s so popular. The population of trout is plentiful, they exist in a variety of beautiful geographic locations, and they’re a strong fish and put up a hell of a fight – so bagging one is a brilliant achievement.
Another reason people are so enamored with the idea of fishing for trout is that they’re a great source of nutrients and taste good, too. They’re one of the most popular fish when it comes to catching and cooking because of how simple and delicious trout dishes are to prepare.
If you’re liking the sound of all this so far and want to get in on the action, then here are a few trout-fishing basics you’ll need to get to grips with.
Where Near Me is Populated With Trout?
It’s relatively simple to get in touch with your local Fish & Wildlife department – just look it up online or ask in a local fishing supply store. These guys will happily provide you with information about the nearest lakes and ponds that are kept stocked with trout.
They’ll also give out any other information you may need and are an extremely useful resource to have when first entering the world. Remember to also check up on your state laws to find out if there are any license requirements for fishing for trout in your local area.
Fishing without a proper license can be a serious offense in some states and the local trout angling community won’t be very impressed if you just rock up without any idea of what documents you need to own. Don’t risk it – just do a quick search online and see what you need to get started.
Speaking of what you need to get started, we’re going to cover all of the necessary equipment you’ll need to get out on the water and start catching trout now.
Purchasing the Right Gear for Trout Fishing
If you’ve already suited up and have all of the necessary equipment to start fishing for trout, then feel free to skip past this section. If you’re entirely new to the hobby, however, now is the time to start thinking about making a purchase.
Like many hobbies, the price of fishing gear depends entirely on how much you want (or are able) to spend. You could quite easily get out there and make a decent go of it using equipment bought for under $100. You’re guaranteed a better experience if you invest a little more cash into it but it’s not something you have to do.
The fishing rod is probably going to be your first purchase. Thankfully, the prices of decent rods have never been cheaper and it’s possible to get a decent lightweight rod for around the $50-$75 mark if you play your cards right. Here is a great one on Amazon.
If you’re playing with a budget that’s significantly less then there’s no shame in borrowing a rod, hiring one, or looking for a cheap second hand model. In fact, it might be best to not invest too much in case it ends up being a hobby which you don’t keep up.
After the rod, you’ll want to pick up a fishing reel. You can find plenty of cost-effective reels for $30-$50. As long as it’s light, strong, and within your budget – it’ll get the job done. Here is another great one on Amazon.
While you’re grabbing a reel you’ll have to get some fishing wire too; which is cheap, plentiful, and easy to come by. Trout aren’t exceptionally heavy, so you don’t need to purchase extra-strength wire or anything like that. Although, depending on your fishing style you may want to consider a leader to your line.
Here are a few other basic pieces of gear that you’re going to want to grab at some point to elevate your fishing experience and fully kit out your fishing bag:
- Fishing pliers (hemostats)
- Landing net
- Fishing line clippers
- Rubber boots if you plan to get wet
These aren’t 100% necessary to have the best time possible but they do make handling your gear and maintenance a whole lot easier. Over time, you’ll learn to love all of the little bits of fishing gear that make your time on the lake even more blissful and challenging.
Of course, depending on what technique you want to use while fishing for trout, you may have to purchase a few other items such as bait, lures, and a variety of other gear. We’ll get to these techniques a next in the guide, then move on to the different areas and bodies of water where you can fish for trout.
Techniques for Trout Fishing
There are three main techniques which many anglers use when catching trout and we’ll be listing them now, then exploring how they work and what you can gain from each one. Here are the techniques:
- Bait fishing
- Lure fishing
- Fly fishing
All of these techniques are fairly simple to learn and which one you decide to go for mostly just depends on which technique you find preferable and what kind of equipment you can afford. Some types of fishing can cost a lot more than others, so don’t go buying a load of equipment if you’re not sure which one you’re best suited to.
Make sure you know how to hook your trout with whatever bait you choose.
If you still can’t decide which technique you’ll be best at, don’t fret. Visit your local fishing supply store and ask a few questions. The friendly staff will be more than happy to advise you on which style will work best for you.
Bait Fishing for Trout
Fishing for trout using bait is one of the oldest techniques and is tried and tested. It’s an extremely relaxing alternative to the other methods as it mostly involves being a passive participant and waiting for fish to latch on to the bait you’ve placed at the end of the line.
Of course, there are many other things to consider when it comes to bait fishing if you really want to get good at it. For example, trout feed on a variety of different underwater creatures and can feed at different levels in the water depending on the area you’re in and the time of year you visit.
Learning how to accurately estimate where you should try bait fishing and you deep you should let your bait sink is all part of the fun when it comes to improving your technique. What type of bait you use also plays a part in how you catch your fish.
Here are a few common baits used when catching trout:
- Powerbait – I really recommend Berkley PowerBait
- Salmon eggs
- Aquatic worms
You’ll soon naturally gravitate towards a particular bait which you find the trout in your area respond to best. It’s best to try out a few different baits before you decide on which one you’re going to stick with. Even then, you might want to switch it up over time and try out entirely new baits.
Here’s more on the best bait for trout fishing.
Lure Fishing for Trout
As the name implies, lure fishing involves using a small device which mimics the movement of the type of small creatures trout enjoys consuming. Lure fishing is a little more involved than simply using bait as some lures require the angler to operate them while waiting for a hook. There are a large variety of lures out there and, much like bait, whichever one you prefer is entirely your choice.
Here are a few of the different types you can get your hands on:
- Jointed lures
These are a few beginner-friendly lures which can be picked up at your local fishing store for relatively cheap. For absolute newbies, we suggest just sticking to a small spinner and seeing how it feels and how easily you’re able to use it.
Spinners move around in the water and, very often, are bright and shiny – so as to further attract the attention of trout. The weight of the lure also matters as the rate at which it sinks can sometimes be a deciding factor as to whether you’ll be catching any fish that day or not.
Fly Fishing for Trout
Fly fishing is, perhaps, the most traditional method for catching yourself a trout. It also happens to be the most expensive route to go down, so unless this is specifically what attracts you to trout fishing, we’d suggest trying out one of the other techniques first.
The reason fly fishing can be so expensive is that it tends to utilize longer, more lightweight rods, with heavier wire and small insect replicators. These insect replicators imitate the natural movement of flies and other creatures on the surface of the water.
A lot of trout survive on a constant supply of insects in certain bodies of water, so fly fishing can sometimes be a very quick way to catch yourself a trout, as they’re always on the lookout for tiny little insects to consume.
Here are a few of the different insect replicators which are on the market right now:
- Dry flies
All of these replicators have minuscule differences and replicate different types of insect. Some of them are heavier, sink a little below the surface, or move in different ways. Finding out which replicator works best for you is essential to succeeding at fly fishing.
Now that we’ve reached the end of our section on the various techniques you can use to start trout fishing, let’s take a look at the various bodies of water you can fish on. We’ll be covering the best way to get started in these areas and the ways in which they vary from one another.
There are many differences between different bodies of water, but you’ll also see that there are a lot of similarities, too. In the next few sections, we’re going to mention a few different ways you can learn to ‘read’ the water and find the best place for trout – so make sure you’ve got a pencil to hand to scribble down a few notes.
How to Fish for Trout on a Lake
Taking out a small boat onto a beautifully placid lake and spending an entire day out on the water is one of the most classic fishing scenarios you can hope for. Lake fishing is well-loved enough to be considered a national pastime and it’s for good reason.
An enormous amount of variety exists within lake fishing and it can be a deceptively complex routine if you decide to go all-in and take your fishing seriously. Of course, if you’re content to just laze around with your feet up all day and enjoy the gorgeous views, that’s okay, too!
The largest population of trout are located in lakes in North America- so if you’re looking for the best chance of some good catches, you may have to take a road trip. The reason for this is that lake-based trout prefer colder water, so the hotter regions in the south don’t have as many.
The best spots to find trout in a lake are in the coldest, deepest parts. Many anglers advise continuously moving around the lake and trying to find the best spots before you start. If you’ve got the cash, getting yourself a depth finder can really help you out in these circumstances.
Knowing the feeding habits of the trout and where they usually get their supply of insects and other food can also be a great indication of where you should be fishing. Here’s a quick reminder of likely areas:
- Cold, deep areas
- Near natural outcrops
- Near sunken structures (logs, boulders etc)
- Where there is an abundance of insect life
Because they prefer the cold and the dark, trouts are best fished in lakes in the winter months. Because the whole lake is cold, you’re more likely to find them at the surface and you won’t have to hunt down the deeper areas as often. There’s nothing stopping you from trying in the summer, just be aware it’ll be a little harder to find them.
The same principle about the hotness and coldness of the lake apply for the time of day you go fishing. This is why you’ll notice so many lake anglers head out in the early morning when it’s still quite cold. This might seem like a grueling task – and nobody ever wants to get up before sunrise – but if you give it a go, you’ll soon realize just how fulfilling and fun a whole day of fishing can be.
Lake trout can very often grow to be around 30 inches (if conditions are right), so be careful you don’t use a line that’s too thin and can’t support the weight. Make sure you have a strong rod, too, that won’t bend and snap at the first big fish you hook.
The most important thing to remember when lake fishing is just to have fun with it. You can have an enjoyable and fun day out with the whole family on a lake, even if you don’t happen to catch a single fish.
How to Fish for Trout in a Pond
Ponds are an excellent beginner option for those just getting into trout fishing and they can provide you with ample experience while you’re still learning the ropes. Ponds also give you the chance to try out a multitude of techniques and really work on your form in a simple environment.
You can fish ponds pretty much any time of the year but keep in mind that trout are most effectively caught when they’re active in Spring and Fall. Try to look for areas of the pond that are between 50-60 degrees, as this will give you the best chance of catching a lively trout.
The same rules as lake fishing apply when it comes to ponds, just on a smaller scale. Look for areas where the fish might congregate to feed and see if you can spot any outcrops or natural formations in the pond where you might catch a few hiding out.
When you’re trout fishing next to a pond, always remember to stay well away from tree limbs and other hazards when casting your line. You might not have as much space or room to move around as when you’re at a lake, so remember to be respectful of other anglers and where they’ve set up, too.
Ponds can be a great area to introduce yourself to other local anglers and develop new friendships. It’s so important to ask for tips and advice in new areas you visit, so don’t be shy about approaching someone else out fishing for trout.
How to Fish for Trout in a River
Depending on the speed and depth of any given river, fishing for trout on them can range from infuriatingly difficult and dangerous to a peaceful and simple experience. There really are a lot of variables with river fishing and that’s why it’s one of the most loved places to catch trout.
Reading a river is a big part of finding the best area to catch a trout, so let’s go over the three main areas of a river that you can easily remember.
- The riffles of rivers are where water is shallow and the current is strong. You’ll only ever really find smaller fish in these areas as there’s not enough room to cover larger trout.
- The run of a river is much deeper and slower. These areas house the most adult trout as they provide good cover and the current allows the lazy trout access to a sufficient supply of food.
- River pools are the calmest and most serene part of the river. The water is fairly deep and the current generally runs slow. Larger trout may be found here but the slow current doesn’t provide enough food for too many of them.
The best bet of catching a trout in a river is near is in cold weather, when the fish are more active. Look for an area that’s not flowing too fast and is fairly shallow. You might have to do a little bit of wading around to find the best spot to set up, so don’t be scared of getting wet.
Fly fishing is generally a great option to try out in a river, providing you have enough room. The movement of the river further exacerbates the jittering of your insect replicator and makes a more alluring bait to catch trout with. If you have to travel to find the pond or river, here are some great travel fishing rods.
How to Fish for Trout in a Stream or Creek
Streams and creeks provide a great opportunity to really test your skill and catch smaller, faster-moving trout in a peaceful environment. Much like rivers, it’s important to read the water and find the ideal spot to catch yourself a trout.
Don’t expect to find excessively large trouts in a stream or a creek, however. In shallower areas the fish won’t have as much room to grow, so you’ll probably only end up catching trouts around 12 inches or so long.
Here are two more terms that often crop up when reading a body of water. These can be applied to river fishing too:
- The eddy is an area of the river where the flow has been blocked by a formation or a submerged structure (like a log or a boulder). Trouts love to hang around in an eddy because the constant swirl of water traps insects and small creatures which they can feed on. Keep an eye out for bubbling or churning water to find the perfect eddy.
- The tailout is an area between pools and riffles where a bottleneck occurs. Trout can sometimes be found hiding in these areas for the same reason as an eddy; their food will pass through or become trapped and they can easily catch them. These are a great place to catch yourself a trout.
Reading a body of water is so important when it comes to developing an instinct as to where you should set up on any given day. Pay very close attention to the terms we’ve listed above and try and spot each of them while you’re out fishing. The more practice you have, the better you’ll get at quickly discovering ideal fishing spots.
Because streams and creeks aren’t as deep as rivers and lakes, you’ll find smaller fish here all year round. If you live close to a stream they can be great ways to practice your craft and get better at fishing for trout – without risking the damage to your rod that a larger fish might cause.
How to Best Catch Different Breeds of Trout
As we mentioned up in the basics section of this guide, there are many different types of trout out there. Some differences are small and hardly worth mentioning, while certain breeds have startlingly different behaviors than others.
Here are a few of the different breeds of trout you can expect to encounter and the different places in which you can increase your chance of catching them:
- Brook trouts are usually caught high up in the mountain brooks of North America. The brook trout usually grows anywhere from 8-12 inches and can be recognized by a white edge to their fins. They’re sometimes referred to as speckled trout because of the patterns on their skin.
- Rainbow trout are by far the most common breed throughout the states (they can be found near enough everywhere) and are one of the more feisty varieties you can fish. They can grow up to around 12 inches and will often jump out of the water when hooked – which is one of the many reasons anglers love the challenge.
- Steelhead trout will usually spend a large part of their year out in the ocean. They’ll return to fresh water throughout the year to spawn and this is the best time to and place to catch them. Because they live part of their life in the ocean, they have much more room to grow. Some specimens have been spotted that are over 45 inches long!
- Brown trout are one of the trickier breeds to catch because of how wary they can be. They’re a wily fish and can very often be found in areas where there are sunken wood piles they can hide in. Some specimens of the brown trout can grow to be up to 18 inches, although they’ll usually only be about 12 inches.
There are many other breeds of trout out there and all of them have different quirks and weaknesses which you’ll slowly learn about over time. Catching and cataloging all of these breeds is one of the reasons that anglers love fishing for trout, as is there is such a large variety out there to challenge them.
Grabbing a book or two about the different breeds of trout will give you a better chance of being able to predict where they will be in any given body of water. So, identifying breed is just as important as reading the river and having the right equipment to hand.
How to Clean and Store the Trout You’ve Caught
If you’re not fishing for sport and are actually hoping to store and eat your trout, then you’re going to want to know what to do after you’ve caught them. In this section, we’re going to tackle how best to go about this.
Many people simply release the trout after each catch, carefully removing the hook and allowing the fish to swim off and keeping the population steady. Sometimes, it’s nice to take home a catch and try out a new dish or fry up your prize directly where you caught them (read this guide on cooking trout on the spot).
The most important thing to remember when keeping a trout catch is just how quickly your fish can deteriorate when action isn’t taken straight away. In warm weather, a trout can quickly deteriorate into something completely unappetizing and inedible.
This is for a few different reasons; first of all, bacterial growth can very speedily attack the trout’s internal organs and move into the flesh a lot faster than you’d imagine. Secondly, the digestive enzymes within a trout continue to work after death, which can cause a lot of problems within the trout if you don’t remove the guts straight away.
Removing the entrails of a trout might not sound like the most palatable experience but if you’re hoping to cook your own catch then it’s just something you’re going to have to get used to. It’s a fairly simple procedure and we’re going to list the basic steps for you to follow.
If you’re unsure about any of these steps then it’s easy enough to look up a tutorial video online or ask a more experienced angler to show you the ropes before trying yourself.
- Insert the point of a sharp knife into the trout’s anal opening.
- Cut a straight, shallow line (just the skin) upwards through the center of the trout’s belly.
- Continue up to the gills and stop just below the V-shaped point under the trout’s jaw.
- This is where it gets a little trickier. insert your finger inside the trout’s mouth and push down on its tongue to extend the v-shaped ta. Stick your knife through the thin part of the ‘V’ and from one side through the other, freeing it up.
- Hold the lower jaw of the trout and grab the V-shaped tab with your other hand, then pull down on it.
- In one pull, remove the entirety of the gill structure and the fish’s entrails. It should all come out fairly easily but it might take a few tries for you to perfect this step.
- Remove the remaining dark-colored blood sac which is situated along the backbone of the fish. To do this, simply run the thumbnail of your hand up the length of the backbone and it should detach.
- Now just wipe the fish down with paper towels or by rinsing it in clean water. Make sure to wash it out thoroughly and dry it off with more paper towels.
That’s how to clean and gut a fish but now where do you store it? Well, if you don’t have a camping stove and a frying pan at the ready to eat it right by the water, you’re going to want to have the proper equipment to keep your catch safe and bacteria-free.
If you’re staying out to fish some more you can keep your catches safe in a canvas or wicker creel. Or, if you’ve got a cooler then you can easily keep a fish safe for several hours inside one of those. Make sure to fill it up with ice before you head out for the day.
Some people prefer to keep their fish separated in Ziploc bags but it’s not entirely necessary. They’ll be just fine all stored in the cooler until you can get home and store them properly in your kitchen.
Just like catching fish, there are many different ways of cooking fish. If this is the reason you’re out and trying to bad some trout, then make sure you know how exactly you’re planning on preparing the fish when you get home. And remember, the fresher the fish, the better the taste!
Enjoy the Social Aspect of Fishing Trout
One thing that we haven’t yet mentioned is how friendly and welcoming the trout fishing community is. If you’re a complete newcomer and you’re worried that it’s a solitary hobby which will offer no kind of social interaction – you couldn’t be more wrong.
Not only is it the perfect excuse to take the family for a road trip and some lakeside camping, but it’s also a bustling culture filled with a wide variety of friendly, fun people.
Trout anglers will very often have local clubs you can join and frequent meet-ups where you can share stories and pictures of your catches, as well as learning all about the local area and finding new places to fish with your new friends.
Because of the internet, communities of trout anglers have popped up everywhere, so get searching online. For all you know, there could be an active and engaged community right next door to you! Try searching social media to see if there are any groups based in your area you can join.
If you don’t fancy just talking online, don’t feel afraid to simply approach a fellow angler while you’re out on the lake. No reasonable angler would have any problem at all with you stopping for a chat and asking them how their fishing is going – they’ll be ecstatic to have someone to talk to about their day and will gladly give advice to newbies.
If you don’t fancy meeting up with new people, then don’t worry. As fun as it is with friends or family, you’ll also gain a lot from fishing on your own. It can be a peaceful day to yourself (almost like meditation) or you can challenge yourself to a grueling day of hiking and fishing to test yourself.
As with any outdoor activity – as innocuous and safe as it may seem – always remember to let someone know where you’re heading and how long you’ll be gone. Accidents can happen anywhere, even in the tamest of waters in the middle of the day, so keeping yourself safe should always be a number one priority.
Now Get Out There and Start Trout Fishing!
You’ve reached the end of our epic guide on how to fish for trout and we hope it’s provided you with everything you’d ever need to know to get started. Obviously, we’d need a whole book to dive into the more complex and advanced techniques of fishing. What we’ve shown you, though, is the perfect starter to begin your journey.
Here are a few take-home tips that you’d do well to remember before your next big trip.
- Always bring the right gear for the area.
- Check if you need a license.
- Find out where the best areas to fish are near you.
- Base where you fish on what time of year it is.
- Try out different tactics, lures, and baits.
- Learn to effectively read bodies of water.
- Train yourself to clean and gut a fish.
The duality of fishing for trout is part of what makes it one of the most common pastimes in the states. Trout fishing, in particular, is one of the most popular forms of fishing, coming in at the fourth most-loved fish to try and catch.
You won’t regret taking up a hobby with such variety and fun. No other craft offers the serene, peaceful experience of fishing on a lake and the challenging, tactical hunt of trout in fast-moving rivers.
Now that you know just how simple and affordable trout fishing can be, get out there and try your hand at it! It’s a relatively cheap hobby to start out with and you’ll soon come to see how fulfilling and fun it can be.