Your Ultimate Guide To Perfecting the Art of Trout Fishing

People across the country are crazy about trout fishing in their local waterways that promise abundant numbers of fish. It makes sense, seeing as trout are one of the few fish species so widely distributed. You can find them in almost any body of water with a cool freshwater input that trout love. 

But it’s more complicated than casting your line in the water. Learning to catch trout is an art form perfected over time. This article will give you the tools and skills to bring trout home as soon as possible and give you some of the best fishing spots across North America. 

Getting the Right Equipment

Trout fishing starts with having the right gear. If you show up with a surf caster and a big circle hook, you will struggle to land any trout. For this, we’ll go over the exact type of rod, bait, line, and hook that you’ll want to pick up and prepare for your fishing trip

Trout Fishing Rod

If you’re starting your trout fishing journey, pick a versatile fishing rod to catch many trout and other freshwater fish like bass and panfish. Diversifying your gear is essential, so you don’t have to spend a ton of money right out of the gate. 

A medium-action spinning or casting rod is a great fishing rod to start with, great for trout and other freshwater fish. Generally, most trout fishing rods are about 6 feet long with a 4-8 pound testing weight. 

If you have more experience fly fishing or want a fun way to catch trout, a fly rod is an excellent tool. The long-standing fly rod for trout is a 9-foot, 5-pound rod. There’s a lot of debate around what’s actually best, but this will be a great entry point until you want to expand your horizons. 

Trout Fishing Reel

A dependable spinning reel for trout allows you to cast light lures and reel in big fish. Consider things like where you fish, how big the fish are, and whether or not the reel will be submerged (like wade fishing). 

If you are fishing in deep water, you will need a reel with a higher line capacity than if you are fishing in a shallow stream. And if you are fishing in an area with big fish, you need a reel that can hold more heavy weight fishing line.

Line and Leader

Six-pound line is a classic line weight for most trout fishing. The range tends to be between 4 and 8 pounds, depending on conditions and what subspecies of trout you’re after. A leader slightly lighter than your primary line is the standard setup for most people. Still, it can’t hurt to bring several options.

You can choose from several lines, including monofilament or fluorocarbons, but it all comes down to personal preference. It’s best to buy a reel with multiple spools so you can switch back and forth between different weights as you see things change. 

Choosing the best line and leader tends to come with a lot of experience. The more you fish, the more you’ll learn about what suits your style and the fish you’re after. Fishing may look like a lazy day at the pond, but it’s an active science. 

Trout Fishing Bait

Many fishing guides do a great job of coming home with a lot of fish every day. There are multiple reasons for this, but a big part is knowing the right bait to take with them. There are dozens of baits to choose from, but as a beginner, you can start with just a few to help increase your chances of success. 

Worms are the number one choice for trout bait if you’re going out and want to do whatever it takes to catch trout. Worms are large, nutritious, and easy for trout to catch, which is why they love them so much. A worm around 2-5 inches in length is the best bet to catch small to medium-sized trout. Try out some garden worms or red wigglers on your first trip.

You can even switch over to plastic worms and have just as much success. Trout don’t have the time to stop and examine every worm that comes their way. Their quick reaction will lead them to believe that plastic worms are real. The great thing about plastic worms is that anglers can use them repeatedly.

Another excellent bait for beginning anglers is fish eggs. These are a significant source of protein for trout, which is one reason they love to go after them. Buy some pre-tied eggs; if they work, you can easily learn how to tie your own bundles and personalize your style. 

Trout Fishing Hooks

Getting the right hook will also take trial and error, which means spending more time on the water fishing! 

Most of the time, a good trout hook is a small single hook. Trout tend to live in crystal clear waters where they can see larger hooks. Try different sizes ranging from size 8 to 14. The combination of bait and hook will vary with what you can catch. 

One important thing of note is to always use barbless hooks unless you plan on taking the trout home to eat. Barbless hooks are significantly less damaging to the fish, so they’re popular for catch and release. 

Where to Find Trout

Trout will not jump out of the water and hold up a sign letting your know where they’re hanging out, waiting for your hook to scoop them up. Instead, discovering where trout and other fish live requires investigating the waters, you fish in and learning about the fish and their behaviors. 

Most fish will hang out in spots where they can easily sit still and find food. This is their idea of a couch with a mini fridge right next to it. 

Lakes and Ponds

Fishing in lakes and ponds will be a different sport than fishing in rivers and other moving water. Trout will move around the water in these calmer waters to find food. They will also stick close to their safe zones where they can hide from predators. 

Some of the best spots to find trout in lakes and ponds are around vegetation, logs, and stumps. Other good hiding spots are around rocks at stream inlets or in the deeper waters during the summer months. 

Remember, trout prefer cooler waters, so you can use this information to your advantage. In the summer, they head into deeper waters to avoid the heat at the surface, meaning you’ll be sinking your line deeper than in the spring and fall. Stream inlets also provide a constant source of cooler water and food.

Knowing where to look also includes knowing when to look. For example, in the spring and fall, you want to fish in lower-elevation lakes that may be stocked around that time. The water is much cooler during the spring and fall, but you can also head up to high-elevation lakes that are cooler year-round. 

Rivers and Streams

In contrast to lakes and ponds, trout stay much more still in rivers and streams. They let the current work to their advantage rather than fighting the stream. They’ll typically stay in one spot while the water brings them food throughout the day. 

Looking behind rocks or other blockages where an eddy will form is the perfect spot to find trout hanging out. You can identify this by looking for water with a textured surface and something in the way of it. Also, look near steep or undercut banks where the water slows down and can even create deep and slow pools that trout tend to love so much. 

It’s often best to fish rivers and streams in the spring and fall to catch the cooler temperatures. However, even in the winter, you can find trout hanging out in these water bodies if you’re willing to hang out in the cold and snow. 

Fishing Style

There are many different fishing styles, which is great but can also be intimidating for someone just starting out. Anglers may be excited about catching trout but confused about what fishing style to use. 

In any given river, there might be anglers using various fishing styles; bait fishing, float fishing, lure fishing, or fly fishing, with everyone catching similar trout. It’s all about the fishing style that fits the angler, the type of trout you’re after, and where the trout are hiding. 

Bait Fishing

Bait fishing is the most common way of catching trout in ponds or lakes. It allows the fisherman to relax and repeatedly cast in a laid back manner that is active but not incredibly stressful. 

This is the best place to start for beginners looking to get into trout fishing. Bait fishing is relatively foolproof, with few moving parts, and it’s a great way to get into trout fishing. 

You’ll start by finding the fish, then set the line with a bobber. If the trout are hanging out in deep water, you might need a sinker to reach them. 

Float Fishing

Float fishing is a fun way for beginners to start fishing and works well when the trout hang out around the surface. To start:

  1. Rig a bobber a few feet from the hook.
  2. Toss your bait in the water.
  3. Kick back and relax while the trout snag your bait while you watch.

The bobber provides a fun and engaging way to see the fish take the line, so you don’t miss the action. 

Lure Fishing

Lure fishing uses lures such as spoons, spinners, or jigs to imitate a fish’s natural food source, like small crayfish or other small-ish fish. This is a popular method for anglers that want to be more involved in their fishing, as it requires constant action with the rod and reel. 

In a lake, it’s best to have the lure sink a bit before moving it so you can reach the fish hiding in the deeper waters. A river or stream requires more action to avoid snagging a rock rather than a trout. 

Fly Fishing

Fly fishing is an entertaining way to catch trout. Fly fishing is often described as an art form that’s been mastered over dozens of years. It requires an in-depth knowledge of the fish, how they act, what they eat, and how to cast. The intricate dance is beautiful when mastered, but it takes patience and determination. 

As a beginner, you can start with a decent rod and a few wet and dry flies popular in the region. Wet flies sink, and dry flies float. 

A mentor can help you learn, but you can also break into the sport yourself. Head to a local fly shop to get the best information on how to catch trout with a fly rod before going out and taking your first cast. 

Ways To Catch Trout

There are many ways to enjoy trout fishing, including fishing from shore, boat, or kayak.

Shore Fishing

One of the most popular methods is trout fishing from the shore. This can be a great option if you have access to a good stretch of river or stream. Another advantage of shore fishing is that it doesn’t require special and expensive equipment like a boat. However, one downside is that you may have to contend with crowds if you’re fishing in a popular spot.

Fishing From a Boat

Trout fishing from a boat opens you up to many more options. You can quickly move from one spot to the next to find those pesky fish. This is especially important when trout are finicky about biting or when fishing is slow.

You can also use a fishfinder to help you locate fish. A fish finder can help you locate trout holding in deep water, around submerged structures, or in other difficult-to-find areas.

Kayak Fishing

If you enjoy the solitude of human-powered watercraft, trout fishing from a kayak is an awesome way to spend a day. Kayaks offer certain advantages over boats and shore fishing.

First, you can access shallow water areas you may not be able to get to in a boat. Second, you can access coves or more hidden areas that you may not be able to reach from the shore, which helps avoid crowds.

Anglers can also add a fishfinder to help locate trout. A portable fish finder is also a great option for kayak fishing because you don’t have to worry about all the wiring and strapping a marine battery to your yak.

Best Trout Fishing Rivers in the US

All across the US, you can find a wealth of trout in different bodies of water. However, there are some spots trout absolutely love. 

These spots offer some of the best trout fishing in the US, and we are only scratching the surface. If you want to, there are plenty of places where you can find trout close to your house, possibly just down the road in your local river or stream. Check out these rivers if you plan a trout fishing trip in the United States.

  • Upper Connecticut River- New Hampshire and Vermont
  • Nantahala River- North Carolina
  • Gallatin River- Montana
  • White River- Arkansas
  • Frying Pan River- Colorado
  • Clearwater River – Idaho
  • Yellowstone River – Montana
  • Deschutes River – Oregon


Fishing for trout can be a fun and rewarding experience. There are many types of trout; for beginners, it is important to learn the basics of trout behavior and habitat. In addition, the size and strength of trout can vary greatly, so it is important to choose the right tackle. With a little practice, anyone can become an accomplished trout fisherman.

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Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.

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About the author
Steve Morrow
Steve Morrow owns Paddle About, an outdoor recreation and travel blog. Steve loves to travel, kayak, paddle board, camp, hike, and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.