How to Catch Trout: 6 Trout Fishing Tips for Beginners

Updated on December 8, 2022 by
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Trout is one of the most popular angling species to target in the US. They live in various locations from streams to lakes, and can be found in large numbers. They can be caught with several techniques such as fly fishing, bait, or lures. This article highlights some important trout fishing tips for beginners to help you succeed on your first trip.

Trout also live in some beautiful locations – clean, crisp water far from modern civilization. They can be caught in rivers and lakes, using various methods from fly fishing to spinning lures.

I have also written a guide to the must-have trout fishing tackle you may be interested in reading.

Trout Fishing Tips

Species of Trout in North America

There are 11 species of trout that you can target, which all have slightly different preferred locations and behaviors:

  • Rainbow Trout
  • Cutthroat Trout
  • Brown Trout
  • Brook Trout
  • Bull Trout
  • Dolly Varden Trout
  • Lake Trout
  • Splake Trout
  • Tiger Trout
  • Golden Trout

For anyone planning to go on an adventure to catch their first trout, regardless of the type, we have put together a comprehensive list of things to consider that will improve your experience.

Trout Fishing Tips

Look for fish movement – this indicates that trout are active and will be more interested in your lure. Trout are often caught in crystal clear waters – they can be easily seen with a pair of polarized sunglasses.

Keep out of the water – trout are often found in shallow water, and causing large bow waves as you walk through the water can scare them away.

Only take what you need – trout fishing is one of the most popular fish to catch. So leave plenty for other fishermen or even your future self.

If you catch one trout, stay in that location – trout are rarely alone. Trout tend to congregate in areas where they can rest away from the water current and ambush prey. These spots differ from most of the riverbed and tend to attract multiple individuals.

Brown trout caught next to fly rod

Trout Tools and Tackle

Learn when to change your fly – there is a balance between changing your fly after every cast and staying with one fly all day. Sometimes fish just aren’t hungry. This means you should always pack a wide range of lures in different sizes, styles, and colors.

Don’t use a flashlight – bright light sources can scare the trout away, particularly at night.

This is a summary of the best tackle for fly fishing for trout:

  • Fly Rod: Graphite 9-foot 5 wt Fly Rod
  • Fly Reel: 5 wt Fly Reel
  • Fishing Line: 5 wt line
  • Fly: Size 16-12 Flies

You can also use a spinning reel with bait or lures:

  • Spinning Rod: 7-foot long fast-action spinning rod
  • Spinning Reel: 3000-sized spinning reel
  • Fishing Line: 6-pound mono line
  • Fishing Hooks: #8 bait hooks
  • Other Tackle: Floats, Bobber, Small Sinker

Use the lightest line you can get away with – trout have good eyesight and can be scared off by the heavy line. Even though some larger fish have sharp teeth, don’t use a metal leader – this will scare the fish away. You just have to take your chances. A heavy sinker can scare trout away – use the smallest sinker you can get away with. You should also consider the color of your fishing line to avoid scaring these line-shy fish.

Use a sensitive rod that will absorb the head shakes of rainbow trout without pulling the hook out of their mouth.

Use chemically sharpened hooks – trout have a strong jaw that a blunt hook may not set in.

You may also consider getting yourself a waterproof set of waders to position yourself closer to the fish. Be aware that any movement can scare away skittish trout.

A fly rod with trout while fishing

Best Bait for Trout

The best method for selecting trout bait is to copy their food source – if you can figure out what the trout are eating, then you can replicate that with your lure and have more success. Fishing with bait mimicking the natural food source is essential for any angling.

The best bait for trout includes:

  • Worms – Wax, Meal
  • Salmon Eggs
  • Minnows
  • Maggots
  • Grubs
  • Crawfish
  • Insects – Crickets, Grasshoppers, Beetles

Learn the most popular rigs for trout to get the bait exactly where you want it. My favorite rainbow trout rigs are:

  1. Split Shot Rig
  2. Bobber Rig
  3. Drift Rig
  4. Tandem Rig
  5. Nymph Rig

Powerbait will only work on stocked trout as they have been raised on pellets. This will not work on native fish.

If you target larger lake trout, switch to a lure that looks like a worm or large bug. After about 1 foot in length, trout stop eating smaller insects like flies.

A trout caught and held by the fishing line

How to Catch Trout

Get a fishing license – most states require a fishing license, so ensure you follow all the applicable laws. There are also different bag limits for trout depending on your location. This can vary from 2 to 12 fish, so check with your location wildlife management department before you head into the wilderness.

If you target larger trout, switch to a lure that looks like a worm or large bug. After about 1 foot in length trout stop targeting smaller insects like flies.

Vary your retrieve rate – if you aren’t getting any takes, then change your retrieval style. Faster or slower or even no retrieve until you find something that interests them. If you are targetted a particular individual and have tried multiple retrieval speeds without success, then it may be time to change your lure.

Look for areas in high-flow rivers with a low current area – trout like to rest here before moving on. They are often visible in these areas, depending on the clarity of the water. This may be behind rocks, rivers’ bends, and deeper holes outside the water flow.

Look for birds diving – they often hunt baitfish that trout might also be chasing.

Heavy rainfall puts big trout on the feed – so don’t get scared away when fishing when it is raining.

rainbow trout underwater

Advanced Trout Fishing Techniques

Target shade under overhanging branches provides shelter from predatory birds and can find trout hiding. They can also hide in eddies behind rocks or deep holes.

If you are going to stand in the water then get a quality set of neoprene waders – this will keep you dry and warm and give you a better fishing experience. You can get closer to the target areas, but make sure you don’t move too quickly. Trout can easily sense your presence if you are constantly moving. Walk out to your target location and stay still. This is an advantage to fishing for trout from the shore.

Identify an ambush point – trout are ambush predators who often hide in good spots to ambush their prey. You will quickly learn to identify potential areas that trout like to hide in wait. These locations are both good for baitfish, but also for trout to rest. Trout love structure – try fishing around logs or rocks in fast-moving streams.

If you intend to release your fish, use barbless hooks – this reduces the risk of injuries to the fish when you remove the hook. Don’t set your drag too tight – or you could pull the hook right out of your fish’s mouth. Let them run before bringing them in. Use a net to land your trout – this is more likely to succeed in beaching it.

Trout are most active in comfortable water temperatures between 34 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit – taking the water temperature can give good insights.

Trout Fishing Tips Video

If you are a visual learner, watch this video full of great trout angling tips.

What is the Best Time of Day to Catch Trout?

The best time to catch trout is when the fish are feeding, normally dawn or dusk. Picking the correct time to fish is essential to maximizing your catch.

What is the Best Month to Catch Trout?

The best month to catch trout is in late spring. I consider April and May the most popular months for trout fishing.

I am constantly learning new and interesting things about how to catch more and larger fish, including trout. If you have any tips that you would like us to add to this list, please let us know in the comments below. Hopefully, this has helped you to catch your next trophy trout.

There are plenty of resources for you to learn more about trout fishing. There is a fantastic book by Landon Mayer with 101 trout fishing tips that you may want to read to get even more knowledge before you embark on your next trout fishing trip.

I have also written an article on the best ways to catch other fish species throughout North America that you will enjoy.

Happy fishing!

Photo of author

Russ Egan

Russ is an avid fisherman. He has fished all over the world for more than two decades, primarily for saltwater game fish but also for local trophy fish. Russ writes reviews for all of his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. There is nothing I prefer than heading down to my local tackle store, buying the latest fishing reel, and taking it to the water to test. My favorite reel is a Shimano Curado Baitcaster. My dream is to catch a Black Marlin.