top of page

Beginning Trout Fishing

Introduction to Trout Fishing

Catching trout  is a lot different than fishing for trout. So, what are the basics you should know to get started making the transition from fishing for trout to catching trout? It's all about knowledge of the bodies of water you will be fishing and about knowledge of the species you will be targeting. There are many variables in play, and what works one day may not be the least bit effective the next.

Trout Species

There are three basic species of trout I will be assuming the reader might be interested in. The most common is the rainbow trout, followed by the brown and brook trout. There are other types and subspecies of these fish (for more on species of trout visit Native Trout Species of North America or Ozark Trout Species), but confining discussion to these three is where we will start. Are there commonalities to the three? The answer is yes.

All three are cold water fish. A general rule of thumb is that these fish get in trouble in water temperatures over 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This is not to say that if a body of water briefly reaches this level there will be a mass fish kill, but you can be certain that these fish all prefer cooler waters and their feeding habits will be highly affected when temperatures get close to this level. The real issue is oxygen levels which are inversely related to the temperature. One caveat to this is that moving water increases oxygen levels for a given temperature of water. Another caveat is that there are anomalies to this rule in certain areas such as the Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park.

Bait Fishing for Trout

Let's start with bait fishing for trout. There are some areas where this is not allowed and you must know the regulations where you will be fishing. The reasons the rules are in place are usually to protect a fishery. Do not violate these rules. There could be legal consequences and ethically it is up to fishermen to help protect their resources. The baits that are used fall into two categories, natural and artificial. Natural would be things like worms, salmon eggs, crawdads and minnows. These are some of the main choices and there are additional ones as well. Generally speaking, these baits are fished on a relatively small hook, say size 6-12. By the way, larger numbers designate smaller hook sizes. I have not found that leadered hooks are generally necessary. Depending on whether you are bottom fishing a lake, bouncing bait along the bottom of a stream, or trying to keep your bait off the bottom will dictate whether you want to use a bobber/strike indicator. Usually you will want to include a split shot six inches to a foot above your bait. Use the smallest you can get away with to get your bait to the desired depth.

The other category of what is considered bait is the preparations. Some of these are actually natural products such as cheese formulas. Some of the more famous are artificial compounds, such as the Berkeley Powerbait product line. I have had much success with the Powerbait line as there seems to be a color that will work most anywhere. The Powerbait line is also available in a paste or in nuggets. The paste can be messy.

Spin Fishing for Trout

The starting place for spin fishermen targeting trout is usually the Mepps spinners and Blue Fox spinners. However, there are a multitude of other lures that will produce trout. For example, a killer lure in many rivers is a small crawdad imitation lure. Rebel manufactures several that work very well. Other crankbaits are effective in places and in some areas, such as the White River of Arkansas, some surface lures will work for large Browns. Often they are used at night. The other category of lures used by spin fishermen (as well as fly fishermen) is jigs. The marabou jig is a staple of many fishermen's tackle selection. The smaller the better is usually the best bet. I have had much success on 1/64th oz jigs on spinning gear and even smaller fly fishing.

A gray area as to whether it can be used in "artificials only" or "fly areas" is plastics or soft baits. Be very careful on these regs. There are artificial trout worms that can work very well. Pink and white seem to be popular colors. Normally they are bounced along the bottom of a stream.

Fly Fishing for Trout

When it comes to fly fishing, we have produced a nice beginners tutorial. Also, on our main fishing page, you will find a wealth of additional tips that can help you get started, whether it be places to go or how to fish them.

One last tip I will throw out that I have learned over a long period of time. If you find a location you know is holding fish and they are not overly skittish, fish that location until you figure out what works. I have seen many fishermen running a track meet up and down stream banks or wading. Doing this introduces too many variables until you really become familiar with the area. Staying put allows you to go through all the offerings you have to try. Something will likely work. Also, sometimes it will seem like someone turned on a light switch for the fish for no explicable reason. I have tried everything and come back to a certain bait, fly, or lure and all of a sudden caught one fish after another. Once, I had gone hours without a landed fish. I came back to a fly pattern I had already tried and within fifteen minutes landed my daily limit. In fact, while I stringered my last fish and my fly barely dangled in the water, I hooked one over my limit. I released him immediately needless to say.

Cutthroat Trout
Brown Trout
bottom of page