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How to Catch River Trout

Trout are not winning any maths Olympiads with their pea-sized brains and yet somehow, they can be incredibly elusive.

Don’t Underestimate Them

While they are not particularly intelligent, these fish are extremely discerning in terms of the environment around them, and the food that they consume.

Trout will be deterred by bait that has a visible line, particularly in areas with high angling pressure – but we will get into that later. 

Preparation is Key

As should be the case with any fishing that you do, preparation will be key to your success. Luckily for you, we have got all of the information that you will need for a successful day in the water mapped out below!

Trout: Habits and Habitat

Trout come in many shapes and sizes and can be identified by their dazzling display of spots or speckles that features across the length of the body. 

Not every trout has the same coloring due to factors including; environment, life-cycle, and whether they feel frightened or not. 

FUN FACT

Did you know? Trout tend to be lazy and wait for their food to come to them – there’s an Uber Eats joke there somewhere. 

Behavior

Trout tend to passively wait behind covers such as rocks, boulders, and fallen trees that allow them to lay in wait for prey.

Once they are tempted by food, they will leave their hiding spot to snatch up their prey, which is generally being carried downstream by the river’s current. 

Though they will leave cover to eat they will maintain an element of stealth by hiding under broken water so that they cannot be seen from above by predators such as eagles and bears.

That leads us to our next tip…

The Rule of Riffles, Runs, and Pools:

Depending on the size and subspecies of trout that you are on the hunt for, you may find yourself casting in either one, or a combination of riffles, runs, and pools. 

Riffles 

Riffles are shallow bodies of water running atop a bed of rock or gravel which causes the water surface to break.

Riffles offer great protective cover for trout fry in particular but can be a great place to look for adult trout during feeding hours – the morning and afternoon.

TIP

Keep an eye out for spots that offer cover both in the water and from the top – these spots will be favored by trout in a riffle.

Runs

Runs are slow, steady flowing sections of river found after a bend in a river (see the above image) that are deep enough for adult trout to call home.

The steady flow of the river that the run provides offers the trout that live there an ample food source. 

TIP

Before dropping your line, ensure that you have identified elements in the run that would provide cover to the Trout, such as large rock formations or fallen trees.

Pools 

Pools tend to be the slowest flowing area in a river and considerably deeper than riffles and runs. 

The slow current apparent in pools offer smaller supplies of food than other sections of the river.

However, larger fish such as brown trout can quite happily call a pool home. 

There is one last spot in a river that could prove an absolute goldmine if you can find it- They’re known as confluences, or drop pools, and occur where one or more streams converge into one pool. 

Ideal Spot

The converging currents provide a great food source for fish and often offer them a great selection of cover, making this an ideal home for trout of all sizes.

NOTE

Remember: these fish prefer cool water (10 °C /50.0 °F – 16 °C /60.80 °F) and can become docile in warmer or cooler water, which will see you getting a much lower bite rate than in water with their preferred temperature. 

As is the case with any fishing that you do, you should check that you have the relevant permits, check where you are permitted to cast your line in the river you are fishing in.

Food, Lures, and Bait

Given the opportunistic feeding style of trout, they tend not to be fussy eaters and will consume anything from insects (both aquatic and terrestrial) to mice (yes, you read that right), though as we mentioned earlier; they can be quite the discerning diner, so bait presentation is crucial! (See: https://tetonvalleylodge.com/what-do-trout-eat/ ). 

Be mindful your surroundings

First, you must check the area that you will be fishing in to find out what kind of food the trout in the area would typically be eating.

This will help you determine the type of lure or bait that you should use and typically result in landing more trout.

If you are unsure about what type of lure to use, here’s a great post with an in-depth guide on the type of lure you will want to use in different conditions. 

Lures & Baits

The type of bait that you will want to use can differ depending on where and when you are fishing, but there are a few staples that trout love all year round including; worms, maggots, mayflies, fish eggs, and some man-made treats like marshmallows and (of course) PowerBait

Line

As I have mentioned briefly, trout – especially trout in holes where there is heavy angler pressure – has been known to dodge food that is attached to a visible line, so ensure that you are using a transparent line for best results! 

TIP

Most brands offer transparent lines with different specifications, so I would recommend visiting your local tackle shop and chatting to them about what they have in stock and what they would recommend.

The Right Equipment for the Job

Trout can get big, but in contrast to other fish; they are not the biggest catch the average angler will land. 

Given their size, it is widely recommended that you use a lighter rod when looking to bag trout so that you can both catch signs of a nibble and (most importantly) to enjoy a great fight. 

Rod

I have taken a look at several high-quality rods in another where we discuss the best rod for trout.

There is a lot of information on there so give that a read if you have time. 

I have summed up the important features you will need to keep in mind below, but you are bound to find the pole what will have you dancing.

Location

Rivers are great places to catch trout but are often surrounded by heavy vegetation which can cause you to catch more snags than trout. 

My first tip for choosing a rod to fish for river trout is definitely to stick within the 6-7ft range. 

Rod Length and Action

Longer rods can give you a great cast, but when you are casting into riffles and runs, accurate casts are going to be paramount compared to longer casts. 

If you are wanting a far more competitive fight, I recommend going for an ultralight or light rating with a faster action, so that you are picking up on any subtle clues that you have piqued the interest of a fish of any weight. 

Let’s Get Reel

Now, let us get reel (get it!) – A reel plays a big part in the overall performance of both you and your rod setup. 

There are several factors that you should consider when choosing a reel for trout fishing.

I have covered these factors and my top picks for the best trout spinning reel in another post but it is time to go over some of the more crucial points. 

NOTE

Keep in mind that you are fishing for trout, small fish in comparison to other whoppers out there. 

You are also going to be fishing in rivers, which do not pose as many issues as water like saltwater.

These two factors free you up in terms of choice, but there are some other factors when looking for the perfect reel that you should consider. 

Line Capacity

The line capacity of your reel is measured by its diameter – again, trout fishing does not call for huge line capacity, given the size of the fish and the depths at which you will be fishing them from within rivers. 

Reel Weight

The last thing that I want to cover here is the weight of your reel. 

Every reel is weighted differently and though the weight of two reels may only differ by a few dozen grams, additional weight on a reel can cause fatigue when you are out for a day or, in some cases, a full weekend. 

Conclusion

Trout is a great species to fish for and can offer an angler of any skill level a great challenge (and great meal).

I have had fantastic days out with friends in the pursuit of this gorgeous fish. 

Trout is also a great catch for anglers looking to test out rigs on a species that will not punish you for an imperfect or incomplete setup. 

I hope that I have given you enough information to achieve great results from your next trip. I have already booked a spot at my local trout farm for this weekend, so maybe I will catch you (and some trout) there! 

If I have missed any tips that you feel are essential, or if you have picked up some useful hacks in the field, I would love for you to share them in the comments section! 

If you are trying to persuade a mate to join you on your next trip, share this post with them to show them how easy it is to get into the sport.

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