How To Catch Trout Through The Seasons

Do you want to learn how to catch trout? Maybe you've been reluctant to try trout fishing because you remember reading a book or magazine article that made it sound like the only people who could outsmart these popular sport fish were either brain surgeons or rocket scientists. Or, perhaps you've been hesitant to start trout fishing because you don't think this is the best time of year to catch them.

Well, you can forget the complicated book or article and stop over-analyzing your timing. Read through these simple tips on how to catch trout through the changing seasons, and you'll be well on your way to catching your first rainbow, brown or brook trout

Spring 

Early season trout fishing often means higher water levels and cold water, so it makes sense to find a few shallow streams that will warm up faster than a large river. One or two days of warmer early spring weather and sun  will raise water temperatures and encourage trout feeding activity. Note that the optimum temperature feeding range for trout is between 50 and 68 °F, so water temperatures higher or lower than this range will call for slower fishing techniques and more precise presentations.

If you prefer to fish with spin-casting gear during the spring, try weighted spinners with flat blades that will give off plenty of vibration when retrieved at a slow pace. The vibrations from the spinner will help trout find your lure in cloudy or murky water. If your goal is to catch a spring trout on fly, you may want to try casting a nymph or streamer pattern out toward areas of slow current.  

To find out when trout season opens near you, and to learn which fishing methods are permitted, check the state fishing regulations. The local fishing regulations on trout streams and rivers can change frequently in order to protect the health of the fishery.

Summer

Summer trout trips should take place either early or late in the day, with an emphasis on fishing higher elevation mountain streams. If you head upstream to higher altitudes, you'll find cooler waters that are more productive. Deeper pockets of water are likely to hold fish since these areas will be cooler and more comfortable for trout during the summer. Try casting a crawfish-imitating lure on spin-casting gear or a weighted insect-imitating fly. 

The important thing to remember about summer trout fishing is that all three major trout species begin to experience stress at a water temperatures of about 68°F (20°C), with an increasing amount of stress as the water temperature rises. High water temperature stress combined with the stress of being caught can make it much more difficult for trout to recover once released. For conservation-minded trout anglers, 70°F (21°C) has become a benchmark or water temperature limit for trout fishing.

Call or email the state fisheries department headquarters to inquire about fishing conditions and any potential waterway closures before you go. Have a back-up plan to target a warm water species in the event of a heat wave, and skip trout fishing until the water drops back down below 70°F. The fish will be a lot more fun to catch when they are energetic anyway. 

Fall

Fall can be one of the best seasons to go trout fishing because both brook and brown trout begin to feed aggressively during this time of year in preparation for spawning activities. Cooling fall water temperatures also result in conditions that encourage trout to feed throughout the day. Take note of the temperatures of the stream or river you plan to fish, and modify your approach based on the information. 

Aggressive fall trout are more likely to chase streamer patterns and other flies that may present a threat to a trout preparing to spawn. Fly anglers can also try casting terrestrial insect patterns such as grasshoppers, ants or beetles during this time of year. On spin-casting gear, you can cast a minnow-imitating crankbait into the current from points near river or stream inlets.

Winter 

While winter hasn't always been a season of choice for trout anglers since it often involves wading in cold rivers and streams, trout still need to feed even when the water dips down in the 30's. Just be sure to check the state regulations for a list of trout streams that are open for fishing during the winter months.

Two examples of winter trout fishing spots worth checking out include the Deschutes River in Oregon and the Madison River in Montana. You'll just have to plan the timing of your visit during a period of consistent weather conditions. If you want to know how to catch trout through the winter season, the key is to go when you've noticed that the water temperatures have been fairly stable for several days in a row. In other words, avoid fishing just after a cold snap or when an ice melt may have a significant impact on water temperatures.

When it comes to winter trout techniques, keep in mind that the fish won't be up for moving fast or far to take your offering. If you plan to use spin-casting gear, you can try casting in-line spinners into slower eddies and deep pools using a slow retrieve. Winter midge patterns tend to be successful for fly anglers when cast out into slow eddies or slow runs. 

Now that you know more about how to catch trout throughout the year, buy your fishing license online today and put these trout fishing tips into practice.

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Debbie Hanson

Debbie Hanson

Debbie Hanson is an outdoor writer, blogger, and avid angler who has written articles on fishing and boating for publications such as USA Today Hunt & Fish and Game & Fish Magazine. She is a member of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association. Visit her personal blog at shefishes2.com and follow her on Twitter at @shefishes2.