Trout Fishing 101: Ultimate Beginner’s Guide With All You Need To Know


This ultimate beginner’s guide to trout fishing will equip you with all the facts and tips you need to become knowledgeable and skillful in trout fishing. We will cover everything from where you can find trout, how to fish for trout in different locations, the necessary gear, various trout fishing techniques, the different types of trout and how to handle your catch. 

Feel free to bookmark and refer to this article during your expedition as you may not remember all the tips right away. For example, you can refer to the list of gear you need when you go shopping or how to fish in the fishing location closest to you, which could be a pond, river stream, lake or even the ocean. 

1. Trout Fishing Basics

Trout fishing is a great experience from the preparation, the fishing experience, and using it for meals or only to return it back to the water. As you consider trout fishing locations, you will notice that most of the trout fishing locations have beautiful scenery. 

The most fun part of trout fishing is the actual fishing part. Trout use their sense of smell and sight for both hunting and protection. Thus, if you make sudden movements or cast your shadow in the water, you may have a hard time.

Trout meals are highly nutritious, which makes more people love them. Moreover, they are easy to prepare and make delicious meals. 

Where to Find Trout Near Me?

Each state has a local fishing and wildlife department. These authorities manage various fishing locations around the state. One of these management functions is populating various locations with trout. They have record numbers of the fish they restock, and you can use these to know where you have better odds of catching a trout. 

You may also want to consider other factors before you select a specific fishing location they include:

a. The Distance to the Fishing Location — Distance matters in case you have a time limit, especially if you are a non-resident. 

b. Amenities — The availability of amenities around the fishing location contributes to a better experience. For example, a park makes it possible to engage in various activities such as picnics, horse riding, and more. You could also check for amenities like restrooms, boat ramp, and more. 

c. Rules and Restrictions — Various Fishing locations have various rules and restrictions. For example, you may be requested to carry a report card when fishing for certain species. Other restrictions you can look at include:

  • Float Tubing and Boat Restrictions. Some locations prohibit the use of these personal boats and float tubes, and some restrict you to the institution’s rentals. 
  • Cleaning Locations. Most trout fishing locations have cleaning locations that must be used for cleaning locations.
  • Entry Fees. Some fishing locations usually charge entry fees. You should also check boat rental fees in case there is any. 
  • Licensing. You will need a license to fish in some states in the United States. Some states take these very seriously, and you may be in serious legal trouble if you fish without a license. The various States have various age requirements for fishing licenses. Some states have set the age at 14 and others at 16 years. 

You may also need a special license if you are fishing in a river or water body that borders two states.   

2. Trout Fishing Gear

You can skip if you have already purchased the necessary gear for trout fishing. It is still worth it to go through and find out if you left anything out. The cost of your shipping gear will depend on your budget. It is possible to get equipment for less than $100. However, a little more expenditure will guarantee a better fishing experience.

The Trout Fishing Gear You Need Includes:

a. Fishing Line

It is usually the first item an angler needs to purchase. There are numerous fishing rods available to suit your budget and fishing needs. A lightweight rod could cost you between $50 to $75. You can still get a rod if you have a lower budget. 

Other options include hiring one, purchasing a second hand one, or borrowing one. The secondary options are cheaper options and better if you are trying out fishing as a hobby. Once you enjoy it, you can purchase your own rod. 

b. Fishing Reel

The reel helps you to stow and wind your fishing line. Modern designs help you cast accurately, further, and have fittings to retrieve the line. They usually cost around $30-$50. The ones that cost more are usually better, but you should look for one that is strong, light, and with a friendly price. 

c. Fishing Wire

Fishing wire is cheap and easy to get. The line does not need extra strength as trout are not extremely heavy. You could also look at the possibilities of adding a leader to your fishing line. It helps your line look natural and attract the trout. 

d. Fishing Pliers

Fishing pliers are ideal for removing hooks and helps around with other fishing equipment. They are not a necessary purchase, but their help is notable. 

e. Fishing Line Clippers

Fishing line clippers make it easier to cut excess leader, change your hook, or to help unsnarl your line. 

f. Rubber Boots

Rubber boots let you walk on shallow water, or murky ground without getting wet. You may also want these for your kids as they play along the shore.

g. Bait, Flies, or Lures

Bait, flies, and lures facilitate various fishing techniques. These options are usually inexpensive, and when it comes to bait, you may get it for free as you could prepare or get it yourself. For example, bread bait is easy to prepare at home, or you could harvest crickets or nightcrawlers for trout fishing. You should confirm if either bait, lures or flies are prohibited from the fishing location you intend to visit. 

3. Trout Fishing Techniques

Anglers rely on three main techniques to catch trout. They include fly fishing, bait fishing, and lure fishing. Each of them is easy to learn and simple to execute. It is up to you to decide which one you prefer and which one is affordable for you. 

We advise that you try out the techniques first before investing heavily in any of them. Your local fishing store assistant can help you discover which trout fishing technique you prefer. 

a. Fly Fishing

Fly fishing is a fishing technique that uses bait that is similar to a fly, in terms of activity, shape, and size. It is one of the oldest fishing methods that dates back to 300BC China. You can rely on it, but it is the most expensive trout fishing technique. 

It is an expensive technique because it relies on the use of:

  • Small insect replicators
  • Longer rods
  • Lightweight rods
  • Heavier wire

The small insect replicators will imitate the movements of creatures found on the water surface, especially insects like flies. These movements will appear natural and attract trout. A large number of trout rely on insects for food, which makes fly fishing more productive.

You will come across insect replicators such as dry flies, nymphs, and streamers. Each of these replicators replicates various insects with respect to weight and how they move. When it comes to weight, the replicas will sink to different levels. 

For example, during the rainy season, the trout will come up to the surface to feed on the insects that get washed onto the water by the rain.   

b. Bait Fishing 

The use of bait is among the oldest and most productive fishing techniques. You can use both natural and unnatural bait. It is more of a passive fishing technique as you set out the bait and wait for the fish to take a bite and get hooked. 

You will need to consider various factors when using bait for trout fishing. These factors have an impact on the outcome of your fishing expedition. Three main factors include:

  • The time of the day you are fishing
  • The season you want to fish for trout
  • What the trout feed on, for example, underwater creatures. 

These factors are part of the challenge and fun of using bait to trout fish. The most common types of bait include:

  • Insects Crickets and grasshoppers are the most common types of insects used to fish for trout. You can purchase them from your local fishing store, or you can harvest them yourselves. For example, you will need to leave a piece of cardboard secured by rocks in an open field, and after two days, you will have cricket bait. 
  • Power Bait Oil Based Resin, PVC, and some chemicals are used to make power bait. You can mold it and attach it to your fishing hook. Its smell is highly appealing to trout, and this makes it highly effective bait. 
  • Salmon Eggs You can rely on salmon eggs during the spawning season. The bait is easily visible, and its smell also attracts trout. You can collect and prepare your salmon eggs, or you could alternatively purchase them. 
  • Nightcrawlers — Nightcrawlers are usually worms. Earthworms are a good example, and they are highly effective in trout fishing and are commonly used. 

c. Lure Fishing 

Lures are small devices that imitate the appearance and movement of small creatures that appeal to the trout. This is a more active technique than bait fishing, as you may need to operate the lure as you wait for the fish to take a bite. 

You will come across a huge variety of lures, which you get to choose based on their usability and your preference. 

A few examples of lures include:

  • Spinners — Spinners are used to create movements and attract fish with their bright colors. They create flash movements and vibrations in varying degrees, which catches the attention of the trout. 
  • Jerkbaits — Jerkbaits are lures that look like fish. The angler will jerk his/her rod as they reel the lure into the water to make the bait move in different directions. This attracts the trout as they will think its small injured fish to prey on. 
  • Crankbaits — These are lures that have a plastic lip, which causes the bait to dive below the water surface. The depth will depend on the bait. Crankbaits will look like small fish which the trout like to prey on. Some crankbaits do not have plastic lips. 
  • Spoons — These are baits made from metal or shells with a concave shape similar to the bowl of a spoon. They also attract trout by making random movements and making bright reflections. 
  • Jointed Lures — These represent quick movements of prey fish. They make the best lures when used at night or in murky or cloudy water. 

4. How to Fish Trout in Different Locations

a. Stream or Creek

Streams and creeks present a greater test of catching trout. This is because smaller trout are more common in streams and creeks, and they are fast and cunning. You are most likely to catch a trout of about 12 inches long as streams and creeks do not offer much room for growth. 

There are a couple of areas on a creek you need to take note of:

  • The Eddy — When a submerged structure (a log or a boulder in most cases) blocks the flow of a river or stream, it forms an eddy. Eddys have a swirling current that captures insects and small creatures. Trout like to reside in an eddy to feed on them. 
  • The Fallout — The fallout is a section that has a bottleneck and lies between riffles and pools. Fallouts attract trout for the same reason as an eddy. Small creatures and insects will be trapped in the current, and this makes an easy snack for the trout.

Creeks and streams are a great location to practice your angling skills and techniques. You also get to practice with a lightweight rod that will not face any damage risks from the small fish. 

b. River

Trout fishing in a river could be peaceful and straightforward or difficult and dangerous. The river offers many variables, which makes it fun and attractive to fish in. A river’s speed and depth are the most considered variations.

The parts of a river help anglers to determine the variables for catching trout. The main parts include:

  • The Riffle — The water in this section has a strong current and is shallow. You will only find small fish in these parts as the larger trout will lack room. 
  • The Run — This part of the river has a slower current and has some considerable depth. There is enough room and cover for the larger trout to stay in these spots. The slow current is convenient for lazy trout as they have an easier time catching food. 
  • The Pool — This is the most serene section of the river. Water is deeper, and the current is the slowest. You will find larger trout here although these areas often have a lower supply of food for the trout. 

The best conditions for catching trout in a river include the winter or cold seasons, and areas that are neither too shallow nor have a current that is too fast. 

c. Pond 

Ponds are a great fishing venue to learn and practice your trout fishing skills and various techniques. Trout are available in ponds throughout the year. However, Spring and Fall are the best seasons to fish in ponds. 

Consider the Following Tips When Trout Fishing at the Pond:

  • Look for possible feeding spots. Areas with outcrops and sunken structures could be an excellent place to look for trout. Also, look for areas crowded with insects.  
  • Look for spots with 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Trout love to lurk in the cooler areas of the pond. 
  • Keep away from possible obstacles. Obstacles on the shore like trees could make it harder for you to cast your line and obstruct your catch.  
  • Interact with other anglers. As a beginner, other anglers may have a lot to share with you. You could also get a chance to forge friendships and get future fishing counterparts.   
  • Find a less crowded spot. Crowding could obstruct yours and other anglers’ catch. It is respectful to find your fishing spot. You have to be mindful because the pond is not as spacious as a lake. 

d. Lake

Lake fishing is an exciting expedition. It is suitable for the serious angler and the thrill-seeking angler. A seasoned angler will have a good time catching big trout, and the thrill-seeker will catch trout, enjoy the scenes, and participate in other activities with friends and family members. 

There are a few tips that will improve your catch and fishing experience at the lake. They include:

  • Try Trout Fishing in North America Lakes. Why? Trout love cold waters. North America is colder than in South America. As a result, North American lakes tend to have more trout populations as compared to South America. However, South America lakes are still stocked with trout regularly. 
  • Fish in the Deeper Parts of the Lake. This tip also relies on the fact that trout love cold waters. You can purchase a depth finder to make your work easier if your budget allows.
  • Look for Possible Feeding Spots. You will catch trout easier if you fish spots that are possible feeding areas. For example a spot with a sunken structure such as a log, or a boulder, a spot with natural outcrops nearby, or a spot buzzing with insect activity. 
  • Fish in the Winter. The lakes grow cold during the winter. The trout will thus move closer to the surface to have better access to food. You will still find trout in the summer, but it is very much easier to catch them during the winter. 

5. Different Types of Trout and How to Catch Them

There are different types of trout available. Each of these trout prefers a specific habitat, and you may notice some differences in the behavior of the trout. We can categorize the various types of trout into Pacific, European, Char, and Hybrid trout. 

i. Pacific Trout

If you are fishing off any coast of the pacific, these are some of the species to look for. 

a. Rainbow Trout

These are the most common species of fish in the United States. They are mainly found in the Pacific Ocean around the United States and Asia. Rainbow trout normally grow to about 12 inches long. 

They are an exciting spectacle when they jump out of the water after getting hooked, and this excites anglers. You may note a rainbow trout by a pink stripe along its spine, or a wide square tail, a dorsal fin and black spots all over the body. 

b. Cutthroat Trout

Cutthroat trout have a cooler name than their pacific counterparts but are usually smaller. You will find them in the Western half of the United States or SouthWest Canada. They have multiple subspecies, and you will find that numerous national parks around the country have their own species. 

You can note them by a red lower jaw or small black spots at the top half part of its body. 

c. Steelhead Trout

Steelhead trout spend their time partially in the ocean and partly in the freshwaters. They use the freshwaters for spawning, and the spawning season is the best time to fish for steelhead. Steelhead trout can grow up to 45 inches long and can weigh up to 55 pounds. Ocean life and space allows them to grow this large.  

ii. European Trout

a. Brown Trout

Brown Trout have a silver or golden color despite their name. Their spots are red-orange in color and silver rings around them. They have a close resemblance to the Atlantic Trout. Brown Trout were originally found in the UK. 

Brown trout are also anadromous, which means that they migrate during the spawning season. Brown Trout are usually 12 inches long, and the longest of them can measure up to 18 inches.  You can find brown trout in place with natural obstacles especially logs. 

iii. Char Trout

a. Brook Trout

Brook trout typically exist in water bodies around North America. You can recognize them using their fins, which have a white edge or the worm-like spots on their head or back. Their weight rarely hits double digits but they measure around 8 inches to 12 inches long. 

They have been adopted in many other countries like Australia, Europe, Argentina, and New Zealand. 

b. Dolly Varden

Dolly Varden are another anadromous species of trout. The species moves from the pacific to inland waters for spawning. They are mainly found in North America and Alaska but have migrated to many parts of the world like Japan and Siberia. 

Dolly Varden are usually small fish, and the largest get to 10 pounds. It is close to Lake Trout. You can note the Dolly Varden and the lake trout apart as its tail has less of a forky shape. 

c. Bull Trout

Bull trout are a little bit rare. You will find them in the Pacific Northwest drainages and large, cold rivers. The best places to fish for Bull Trout are Alberta, British-Columbia, Oregon, and Washington. 

People used to call the Bull trout Dolly Varden up until the 1970s due to their close resemblance. They are usually large, and you may catch some that weigh more than 12 pounds. 

d. Lake Trout

The lake trout is the largest in the Char category. There have been records of lake trout larger than 80 pounds. You may recognize them for their creamy spots and more obviously, their size. Their native home is the Northeast US, Canada, and Alaska. 

They have spread all over the country in places like the Rocky Mountains. Lake trout have many nicknames such as grey trout, Mackinaw, Togue, and more. 

iv. Hybrid Trout

a. Tiger Trout

The Tiger trout is an offspring of a female Brown Trout and a male Brook Trout. You will identify them with the worm-like patterns on their body. Tiger trout mainly live in stocked lakes. You may get lucky and catch one in the wild. They also weigh more than most trout. 

b. Splake Trout

Splake Trout are the offspring of lake trout and brook trout. They grow faster than any trout and start preying on others at a younger age. Splake trout may reproduce in the wild, but their largest populations are usually bred in breeding programs. Georgian Bay has the government’s largest breeding program. 

Keep or Return the Trout?

Once you have your catch, it’s time to go back to your main purpose of fishing. Is it for sport or food? 

a. Fishing for Sport

Fishing for sport involves just enjoying making the catch and returning the fish to try your luck on another trout. You can try to catch as many different species as possible.

There are a few tips you need to observe to ensure the safety of the fish during sport fishing:

  • When the trout first hooks — Make sure you set the hook immediately, the trout strikes to ensure the hook doesn’t go in too deep. A deep hook is at least five times more likely to kill the trout. 
  • Keep the trout in the water or use a net — If you pull on the line, the hook will pierce in deeper. Keep the line loose by keeping the trout in water or using a net to remove it. 
  • If the hook gets in too deep — leave it and cut the line as close to the hook as possible. You risk hurting the trout’s internal organs or gills. 
  • Handle with care — Do not squeeze off the trout. Avoid touching the gills as they are fragile.
  • Watch the temperature — Trout have lower chances of survival if you fish in warm water. Avoid trout fishing if the temperature is more than 68 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • Dry or wet hands? — Always handle trout with wet hands. This is one of the reasons why we advise you to keep the trout in the water. Dry hands will remove a protective layer on the trout made of slime. 
  • How to remove the hook —You can use forceps or needle-nosed pliers. Supports the trout’s jaw as you remove the hook. 
  • When taking pictures — hold the trout in water until the camera is ready. Alternatively, you could take photos in the water using a waterproof camera.

b. Fishing for Food

You should know that fish will start deteriorating when they are dead. The conditions will impact how fast it deteriorates. Bacteria and the trout’s digestive enzymes are responsible for the deterioration. Warm weather accelerates the deterioration process. 

You need to remove the entrails of the trout to slow down the deterioration process. Once you learn how to clean the insides of the trout fish, you need to decide if you will eat it immediately or store it properly. 

Those camping around the lake can choose to cook it immediately. If you want to store them to fish some more and to eat later, you need to store the fish appropriately. You can choose to use a cooler, a wicker creel, or a canvas. 

Remember to fill the cooler with some ice as you get ready to head out to the fishing spot.

Conclusion

The trout fishing community is welcoming, and you will find many people ready to offer you a hand. You can get to share new tips, stories, and pictures. Trout fishing is extensively covered in books. However, this crash course is effective and will prove helpful. 

There are a few key points you should work with when trout fishing. They include:

  • Carry the appropriate fishing equipment. Is your fishing rod lighter than required? Have you remembered to carry your reel?
  • Confirm the authorization you need to fish. This includes the license, validations, and report cards. 
  • Pick a fishing spot. Analyze various locations to determine which one works best for you in terms of proximity, available species, authorizations, amenities, and more. 
  • Determine which fishing technique you are going to use. Bait, fly, or lures? It is good to try each of them to enjoy the experience and get one that you are good with.  
  • Know about various species. This makes it more fun to learn that you are catching a variety of species. 
  • Learn how to catch and release.
  • Learn how to clean the trout’s entrails.
  • Learn how to observe water bodies for helpful features such as depth, availability of structures, speed of the current, and more. 

Trout fishing is affordable and easy to learn. You will also get to enjoy the beautiful scenery and use it as a hobby or activity for you and your friends and family when you go on such expeditions. It’s time to go and give it a try with this knowledge at hand. 

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