Catching trout is a rewarding pastime. It’s family-friendly, allows you to get outdoors, and you may, on occasion, land the fish of a lifetime.
However, there are challenges among professional and amateur anglers alike.
Some seasons, the trout will show up right in front of you and eat every nymph insight, ignoring what you have, completely.
Other times, you may not locate them at all, leaving you scratching your head and wondering if the body of water in front of you is void of anything that swims. But having an understanding of the basics will get you on the water quick;
Trout Fishing Basics
Start by asking your local tackle supplier where you should go. Most bait and tackle shops have knowledge of lakes and streams and reservoirs, and also their stocking schedules and what species are there. A good practice is to find out where the fish were stocked.
For example, if the fish were put in near the dam the same day, you would ideally wait a few days for the fish to acclimate to their new home.
As they begin spreading out, you would head straight to where they stocked and begin fishing.
Local tackle shops can also educate you on the native species of that region. From here, it’s a good idea to educate yourself on the behavior and identification of those species.
Catching Trout: Species and Behavior
Let’s break down the different species first:
German Brown Trout
These are my favorite! They’re the prettiest, non-native, and hardest-fighting trout out there. These European salmonids “first came to the U.S. in 1883, when a New York fish farmer named Fred Mather imported brown-trout eggs from Baron Lucius von Behr, president of the German Fishing Society.”
Today, they can be found all over the US and are targeted by anglers year-round. Brown trout ( browns) are easily identified by their range of color patterns illustrated across a streamlined body shape.
Similar to other carnivores, brown trout ( and other species) are designed to hunt and kill with teeth that line the roof of their mouth and tongue “and with elliptical eyes which allow them to focus on food and approaching predators at the same time.”
With a golden ( sometimes silver) underbelly and wide range of colored spots – black against a chrome base, pink, and even psychedelic red, you’ll be thrilled to see this beauty surfacing after a long fight.
Brown trout are notorious carnivores and feed on a large diet of smaller fish, crustaceans, insects, and even rodents. This allows plenty of opportunities to use spin tackle and fly.
Brown Trout can be either stocked or wild, meaning – born in the wild. Even so, both populations generally will have similar reactions to the same lures and bait.
Where To Find Them
Brown trout at times can be difficult to locate and catch. They’re not as abundant as other species. However, one thing I like to do is identify drop-offs, ledges, and submerged boulders as indicators.
Undercut banks are excellent ambush points for them, also. In the mornings and evenings, browns will start moving away from cover and toward areas known to hold food.
Try locating moving water-like feeder systems and streams as these move food around and are also competitive real-estate, as the larger fish will force out smaller ones.
Brown Trout Size
Most grow to the size pictured above (12-14 inches.) But in some environments that allow healthy reproduction and a robust food source, these fish have been known to reach up to 20 lbs!
So how should you gear up for trout?
Brown Trout Tackle
When going with traditional spin tackle, I use a heavy mainline – 10 -15 lb, typically braided, moss green. I’ll use a double uni-knot to connect an 8-10 lb fluorocarbon leader.
My tackle choice is heavy, as I like to be prepared for a larger fish, and given the record-shattering size these fish can reach, I would never forgive myself for losing a trophy due to line too light.
But this isn’t always ( and rarely is) required. These fish are notoriously line shine, meaning the more visible your line, the less chance of hooking one. In these cases, I go with a 4-6 lb fluorocarbon leader to reduce visibility.
Brown Trout Fishing: Lures
Depending on the season, Brown Trout will hit a number of different lures. My favorite presentation that works well year-round is a small to medium size minnow lure. Some examples of these would include the Rapala Count Down (Pictured Below), either rainbow trout patterned or brown trout.
Other lures worth mentioning would be the Rebel Trac-down, Yo-Zuri Pin Minnow, and virtually any bladed lure like a rooster tail or Panther Martin.
When looking for trout fishing lures, don’t be afraid to venture into the outer reaches of a trout’s natural forage, like the crawdad.
The Rebel Craw has been slaying fish across the country year-round and across all species. Trout is no exception. Crayfish are a natural food source, especially for German brown trout, and this lure is a perfect imitation of a fleeing crawdad.
Trout Fishing: Rainbow Trout
The most heavily stocked species are Rainbow Trout. Easily identified by their beautiful coloring – often green, purple, and black spots – these fish are fun, usually easy to find, and fight hard, especially those of the native population.
Rainbow Trout Diet
Like german brown trout, rainbows will feed on insects, crustaceans, and other fish. For this, I like using lures that imitate the flash of a small baitfish like a rooster tail or panther martin are awesome for streams and dark water.
Stocked Trout Fishing
As mentioned above, Rainbow Trout are heavily stocked across North America. Simply ask your local tackle shop or search online where to go fishing for them.
Stocked trout ( Stockers) are easy to catch – many of the same lures for brown trout apply, as trout are all predators and will chase down food. Start with Rapala minnows, or any other Jerkbait, spinner, or spoon.
When fishing a jerkbait, cast out and begin with a straight retrieve, which means reeling it in with no pause or stop, and at a medium pace. If you don’t feel a bite, cast out again and begin a twitch, twitch, pause cadence. Check out this article for more info on how to present a jerkbait.
The most common method of trout fishing for beginners is power bait or dough bait – trust me, its fun too! This technique is also called “bait and wait.” All you need for this is a sliding sinker, split shot weight, a hook, and your dough bait. Check out this article for more extensive information on power bait and how to fish it.
Rainbow Trout: Where To Find them
Like browns, rainbows will hang near cover such as fallen trees, drop-offs, grassy humps, and, especially, around moving water. Whether you’re fishing from shore or a boat, using electronics, or sight fishing, locating these areas is essential when throwing trout lures.
To a trout, these structures are ambush points and also serve as protection against other predators and strong currents. At these points, I’ll often throw some sort of search bait like a kastmaster that can get down to any level of the water column. If I don’t get any bites, from here, Ill
Rod And Reel Selection
As far as trout rods go, light action is best. Most trout lures require little power to cast out, and the light action makes fighting any size trout fun.
Check out Shakespeare Ugly Stik and Daiwa combo rods like the Daiwa Samurai. For most stocked trout I like to use 4-8 lb. Mono line and tie on a snap swivel to avoid line twists.
As you begin targeting larger trout species, begin exploring heavier lines.
Other Trout Fishing Baits
Bobber fishing is also a fantastic method of catching trout. I personally use this method when fishing moving water with a salmon egg or trout magnet.
Awesome salmon egg choices would be Pautzke Fire Ball Eggs. From there, you can choose Pink Shrimp and Gold Garlic just to name a few, and they’re killer baits for stream trout.
Just rig them up on a 3-4 ft leader and a small salmon egg hook ( preferable red) with a few spilt shots fixed halfway up your leader to allow your bait to reach the strike zone fast.
Trout fishing is rewarding and fun. Moreover, it’s family-friendly and easy to learn for adults and kids. Of course, like anything, it comes with challenges, and you’ll have to factor in weather, seasonal changes, rules, and regulations, but much of this comes with experience.
You won’t be disappointed after you land your first trout ( or even if you don’t). It’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in nature and stay active.