How To Catch Trout (A Complete And Detailed Guide)

Brown Trout in a Hand Net Placed on Grass
Brown Trout in a Hand Net Placed on Grass

Trout live in beautiful places. From tiny mountain brooks and alpine lakes to coastal streams, urban ponds and high desert rivers.

There isn’t a better way to disconnect from everyday life than picking up your rod, wearing your favorite fishing hat, and ambling around a river, creek. or lake trying to outwit an unsuspecting hungry trout.

It is not just about fishing for trout, although that’s my primary motivation, it is also to explore and connect with nature.

Easy Access

Trout fishing is inexpensive and straightforward. It’s easy to get the equipment you need.

A basic rod and reel, some lines, a few baits, spinners like a rooster tail, spoons, natural baits or flies and you’re good to go fishing for trout. Or you can always use a trout fishing pole and a trout reel that’s ideal for trout fishing. The choice is always yours.

Why Are Trout So Popular?

Native trout fish are a popular game fish for many anglers and make great sport.

It’s exciting when you’re trying to catch one; they fight hard, jump and do anything to get away.

Some days you’ll be successful, other days it’ll be a challenge.

they fight hard, jump and do anything to get away…

It’s never easy to catch a trophy trout, as your experience broadens, you’ll grow to enjoy the challenge more and more.

There are easy-to-reach trout lakes or rivers all over the world, so if you want to go trout fishing, you can cast for them very easily.

Rainbow Trout

Rainbow trout species are native to the pacific coast of North America and there are two types of this species.

The commonly known rainbow trout species which live in lakes, rivers and ponds. Rainbow trout are also widely stocked and distributed in some places.

Wild-born and raised rainbow trout are very pretty and are not gnarly like hatchery fish.

The other type of this species is the steelhead…

Steelheads are anadromous, meaning they go to the sea to feed and then return to rivers to spawn.

Rainbow Trout Placed on the Grass beside a Fishing Rod
Rainbow Trout Placed on the Grass beside a Fishing Rod

Rainbow trout are silvery in color and get their name from a colorful pinkish-red band found along their side…

Aside from the bright colors, these fish can also be identified by its tail, it has a broad square tail and black dots on their fins and body.

Steelhead trout are almost the same but with some differences in features.

They look similar to rainbow trout but are usually bigger trout in size and more streamlined due to their life at sea.


Rainbow trout are great to eat. They may weigh up to 6lbs or more in rivers, and up to 48lbs when found in lakes, but they are usually much smaller in size.

Steelheads are usually larger in size and can weigh up to 55lbs, but their average size is around 8lbs.

Cutthroat Trout

Cutthroat Trout are also native to the pacific coast of North America.

Cutthroat trout live in rivers, streams, and ponds and have a sea-run cousin known as a sea-run cutthroat.

There are also 11 known subspecies of cutthroat trout, all specific to their own area and they all look a little different.

Cutthroats have a brownish body with black spots on their top half and get their rather gory name from the bright red coloring underneath their lower jaw.


Cutthroats are said to be very good to eat and can grow up to 22lbs.

Brown Trout

Brown Trout come from Europe and are a close relation to the Atlantic salmon.

Brown trout are one of the most prized trout to fish as they are less aggressive and more selective in their feeding habits in comparison to their cousins.

Brown Trout are easy to identify. These fish usually have a brown body and their distinguishing factor is their ringed red or orange spots…

Brown trout are similar in size to the rainbow trout.

The brown trout also have a sea-run version known as sea trout which are found only in Europe.

Brook Trout

Brook trout are actually a variety of char and a brook trout can grow up to around 6lbs.

Brook trout are native to North-East America, but you can find brook trout across the world today.


You can identify brook trout by their worm-like markings on their back and head and the white edges on their lower fins.

Licenses and Where to go Trout Fishing?

Almost everyone needs a fishing license, although a lot of authorities do permit children to fish with no license.

These are available online or from retail outlets. You can find out where to buy a US license here or a UK license here.

In case you also need kid-friendly rods, make sure to check out this best kids fishing pole review.


Check the different angling zones and time of year. Rules often vary by season and location, so be sure to check the trout regulations when doing so.

Next, decide if you want to fish Trout in a river or still water.

A quick online search and you’ll find a variety of options.

Most trout in rivers and streams are wild fish that reproduce naturally. Some anglers prefer to release these fish so they can be caught again, or perhaps reproduce.

Once you decide on the fishery that you like, check the rules.

They should inform you of the license you’ll need, what trout fishing rigs setup are permitted and what methods are allowed, either fly or spin fishing, catch and release fishing, using natural baits, or if you are allowed to take a fish home.

Bait fishing restrictions are common too, such as waters where only artificial lures with barbless hooks are allowed or when there is one or more protected fish species inhabiting the waterway.

They can all vary depending on the country, state, or fishery.

Once you have all this sorted, it is time to gear up and start catching trout..

Fishing Rod Placed Above a Tackle Box
Fishing Rod Placed Above a Tackle Box

Fishing Tackle

There are a few different choices when it comes to the best tackle to use and it all depends on how you want to fish.

The big decision is whether you use a spinning rod or a fly rod.

In my experience, spinning is a little easier to get started with, as it is simpler for casting lures right. Some might also argue that trout spinning reels are easier to work with but it will ultimately depend on your preference.

Trout fishing with fly rods and artificial flies needs time and practice and I think it is a lot more fulfilling. But you should stick to a rod that will work for you.


Remember to always check the weather and wear appropriate clothing, since it can get chilly and wet very quickly. Here is another round of trout fishing tips.

Spin Fishing


  • The rod should be light to increase accuracy in casting.
  • Around 7 feet long, rated at 8lbs and with fast action and light power


  • A spinning reel with a good wind ratio and drag which holds 100-200 yards of 6-8lb line.


  • Good quality monofilament rated 6-10lbs; remember to get enough to fill your reel.

Bait Set-up

  • Size 8-10 hooks
  • Size 8-10 swivels
  • Size 8-10 snap swivels
  • Bobbers – a color you can see easily
  • Sliding sinkers – variety pack
  • Splitshot – variety pack
  • 4-6lb fluorocarbon


  • Live bait, natural bait or artificial baits
  • Dough bait
  • Corn
  • Insect larvae
  • Salmon eggs
  • Small minnows
  • Wax worms
  • Dead insects such as grasshoppers

Casting Lures

  • Small spinners
  • Small spoons
  • Small crankbaits
Fly Fishing on a Lake
Lake Trout Fishing with a Fly Rod on a Lake

Fly Fishing


  • A 5wt fly rod will work for both small rivers and lakes


  • A 5wt reel to match your rod


Fly Line

  • A 5wt fly line to match your rod & reel


  • A spool of 4lb and 6lb fluorocarbon


  • Nymphs in a range of colors and sizes 8-16
  • Dry flies in a range suited to the time of year
  • Streamers in a variety of colors and sizes 4-8

Gear and Clothing

  • Line cutters or nippers
  • Waterproof jacket or fly fishing vest
  • Waders and boots
  • Polarised glasses so you could see through the glare on the water

Lakes and Ponds

In lakes and ponds, they will always be on the move looking for food.

Where they choose to feed depends on a few things; water temperature and depth, vegetation, structure and protection from predators.


Lake trout in still waters grow larger and quicker than those in moving water. If you are looking for a big trout, a lake is an excellent place to start.

Rivers and Streams

In rivers and streams, trout hold in a favored spot

They will often choose a place with enough current to provide them with sustenance, but not too much flow, so they don’t have to fight the water all the time.

They will face upstream watching for food coming towards them.

There is nothing quite like watching a trout coming up from his spot and slurping a fly off the surface.

Photo of a Lake on a Sunny Day
Photo of a Lake on a Sunny Day

Where to Find Trout in Any Conditions

Where Do Trout Hang Out in Lakes and Ponds?

There are a few factors to consider when trout fishing on freshwater…

But as with many game fish, the main thing is to search where they are feeding.

Lake trout will often cruise around places they know to hold an abundance of food…

Lake trout will often cruise around places they know to hold an abundance of food

In my experience, each of them has their own idea of where to search for food and they will be fairly distributed around the site.

They will look around vegetation and underwater structures for hiding insects, little fish, and even scavenge for salmon eggs.

A stream inlet or outlet is also a good spot; the moving waters will bring fresh oxygen and food into the system.

Lake Trout Spots

Lake trout will tend to feed at a given depth where the food is and will also eat flying insects that float on or fly around the surface of the water.

You may see them jump or swirl on top of the water and if it is happening often, it’s an exciting method to catch them as you’ll see them feeding on flies.

Aside from knowing the right spot, having the right lake trout lure can also help your chances.

Season and Temperature

In spring, as the water starts to warm up, they become more active.

At the same time, insects begin to hatch and move through the system…

This also makes lake trout start gorging and making up for what they missed in the winter season.

During the summer season, they may go deeper into a lake to find their ideal temperature. Bear this in mind when choosing a lake to fish.

If it is a lowland lake, make sure it has some depth to it or pick a highland lake with cooler water.

In the autumn season, the water will begin to cool and will make them more active in more areas.


Trout are opportunists and will never ignore a chance to feed…

During certain times they could become very dim-witted and easy to fish.

This is the best time. It’s something most anglers must take advantage of!

Trout are opportunists and will never ignore a chance to feed…

This can happen during a hatch, which is when a specific type of insect hatches in abundance and would be all over the water.

It is incredible to see; there would be flies everywhere and the trout go crazy for them.

Forgetting their usual sensible ways making them prone to getting caught.

The Weather

The wind is the main form of current on still waters. It will cool and fill the water with oxygen while also pushing food in a particular direction.

Heavy rainfall will also oxygenate and cool the water and wash food into the lake and also make its inhabitants more active. I tend to fish for trout during cloudy and rainy days and avoid calm days, trout don’t like bright sunlight.

Experiencing different conditions of trout fishing yourself is the best way to learn…

It won’t take long for you to get familiarized with all these things…

There are a lot of factors to consider but don’t worry!, the more you fish, the more it all makes sense and the easier it is to read the waters and think like a trout.

Experiencing different conditions of trout fishing yourself is the best way to learn.

River Surrounded By Trees
Photo of a River Surrounded By Trees

Where Do Trout Choose to Lie in Rivers?

Trout will find somewhere out of the strong current to sit. This is to save energy while they search upstream for food coming down along the river.

When trout fishing at a river, I choose one that is remote since fewer people will have fished there.

A well-managed catch and release spot can be a great fishery too…

A well-managed catch and release spot can be a great fishery too; remember they will be a bit smarter, some methods that used to work might not be as effective, as they will have seen fishermen and their tactics before.

A few favorite places for Trout to lie in rivers are:

  • Below rapids, usually a bit deeper in the pool to avoid the top flow of current
  • In deep pools or by steep banks where they could stay cool and be out of sight from predators
  • In riffles, parts of the water where it is rippling and moving differently to the flow. This is created by the water running over or around rocks and logs.
  • In runs where the current slows down after coming down hard over a steep rapid or waterfall.

When to Fish for Trout in Rivers

Season and Temperature

Trout in rivers will follow a similar pattern to those lake trout, becoming most active in spring and autumn season.

As the waters warm up in summer, they will move to faster flowing and deeper areas.

This is where the waters are cooler and more oxygenated.


Trout will always respond to what food is hatching around them. Knowing what is hatching is one of the best piece of information you can use when catching trout.


Different food types hatch at different times of the year. Use this knowledge to target them more effectively, especially if you are trout fishing with a fly rod.

You can find hatch charts that tell you when and what is hatching online.

Do your best to try to stay out of sight, be quiet, and keep disturbances to a minimum.

Study the water and look for signs of feeding. Once you’ve settled on an area, the next step is to take your time and fish quietly.

If you disturb the area, either move or allow the area rest for 10-15 minutes. This is another great use case for investing in a good fishing watch.

Patience and perseverance are key…

Patience and perseverance are key. It once took me 14 hours to catch a trout on a river in Slovenia.

Even if it’s taking a long time without a single bite, keep thinking and keep going, you’ll get him in the end.

How to Catch Trout in Still Waters

In still waters, there are particular tactics you will use that you would not use in moving waters and for good reason, they behave differently depending on the water they are in.

Here are some insights and tips about trout fishing in still waters…


Fly or Spinning

This technique makes the bait swim like the trout’s prey in the water. Smaller trout eat smaller prey, while bigger ones eat bigger, this is great to know for you to select the best bait to use. Using a little fish to catch a big fish is one of the oldest fishing tricks in the book that you should always remember.

Attach your chosen fly or lure, cast it out, and allow it to sink then retrieve the bait back in.

When you feel a bite, lift the rod and maintain the fishing line tight to hook the fish.

Once it’s hooked, allow him to run while holding the line taught and then slowly play the fish to the bank.

Learn from one of the best Stillwater Flyfishers in the video below.

Lake Fishing – Stillwater Basics

Bait Fishing


This method is used to fish trout in the top layer of the water. It is useful when they are near the top or if you have to maintain your bait above underwater obstacles such as logs and weeds.

Bait your hook and put a little bit of split shot 1ft above it.

Attach the bobber 3ft above the bait or 2ft above the split shot, cast it out, and wait. Once you see the bobber moving, lift the rod to set the hook and then begin playing the fish.

Bottom Baits

Try this method of fishing off the bottom of the lake. It is a similar set-up to bobbing.

Bait the hook and swap the bobber for a weight, cast it out, and allow it to sink.

Wait with the line taut so you can feel the bite. When you feel a tug, lift the rod to hook the fish.


When trout fishing on a small pond or lake, start fishing from close to the bank. They will often be along the edge and a long cast into the middle may spook all the potential bites close to you.

It’s best to start with shorter casts at different angles into the lake and slowly make your casts longer and longer.

Always vary your depths while trout fishing, this is exceptionally important and is done differently depending on the technique you are using. 

Fly Fishing 

  • If you’re using a fly to fly fish, allow it to sink a bit longer and change to a heavier fly to get a bit deeper.

Spin Fishing

  • If you’re using a bobber, continue on adjusting the length. If you have no success, try fishing off the bottom or vice versa.

There is no real way to tell how deep the game fish are, so the best way to catch trout is to keep trying different depths until you find them.

When utilizing cast and retrieve methods vary your retrieve to mimic what they are feeding on. Keep changing until you get a bite.

Continue changing up your baits until you find what they are feeding on. Experiment with color and size.

Trout Held In Hand by Fisherman
Trout Held In Hand by Fisherman


Fly Fishing

Fly fishing is the best way to catch wild trout in streams or rivers.

When trout fishing with a fly rod and artificial flies, cast upstream and let the fly come downstream in the current.

Retrieve to remain in contact with the fly, so there is no slack. Set the hook when you see or feel a trout eat your fly.

The fly should be near the bottom when you’re fishing a nymph, as it mimics underwater insects and crustaceans. You can use a bobber here to adjust your depths.

Just a reminder that you might not catch many large trout on small streams or small rivers, but they can be excellent for catching small and medium-sized native trout species and be considered rewarding for most fly fishermen.

Dry Flies

If you will use a dry fly, there will be a swirl around your fly if a fish eats.

When you see this, count to two and lift the rod to set the hook.

This is my favorite method to catch these fish, seeing a hungry trout eat flies on the water surface is mind-blowing.

Streamer flies imitate smaller fish like a baitfish, so the tactic is a bit different.

Cast the fly across the river, and leave it until it is 45 degrees downstream then retrieve it across the river.


Cast your natural or artificial lures upstream and across the river.

Slowly wind it in keeping the lines high out of the water and making sure the bait is moving.

Continue to do this until you have covered the water to about 45 degrees downstream, then move upstream and start again.

When you feel a bite, lift the rod to set the hook.

Bait Fishing

Bait your hook and adjust your bobber and weight so your bait will be near the bottom. Cast upstream and allow the bait to come down with the current.

Keep winding, so there is no slack. When the bobber goes down, lift the rod to set the hook.

Change your depths as you go, shallower if you are hooking the bottom and deeper if you aren’t catching fish.


Trout face upstream in a river. Always approach a fishing spot from downstream and fish upriver to prevent your potential catch from seeing you and make your bait look more natural.

Aside from approaching from downstream. Try all the parts methodically, changing depths to make sure you are fishing near the bottom as the contours of the river change.

Wrapping Up

Fishing is a wonderful way to discover new places…

It takes you to oceans, mountains, and jungles as well as meadows and plains.

Follow your passion, the more you spend time fishing, the more the connections between the fish, their water, and their food will make sense.

You truly start to become in sync with nature.

Most of all, it’s fun!

Experience the thrill

There is nothing like the feeling of a trout pulling on your line.

That adrenaline-fuelled buzz which you can share with your family and friends—and remember time after time – the one you caught and the one that got away!

Help your friends and loved ones with a few handy trout fishing tips. Feel free to share this content! If you’re interested in reading more trout related articles, we have this review for trout trolling lures and the ideal fly rod for nymphing.

But if you want something different, there are a lot more articles on my site, like this fish weight calculator and this one about nature’s gentle giant.

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