How to Catch Trout

Fishing can be great fun for you and for your friends and family. However, it can easily be frustrating and very boring for the kids. With a little planning and practice, it's easy to have a productive and fun day of fishing for river trout and possibly some quality time with others.


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    Know the rules. Fishing is regulated by your state or province. You have to buy a fishing license. Most sporting goods stores sell them. Your state's wildlife management department also publishes a booklet on regulations,limits and restrictions. It is important to know and follow these--not only because it's the law, but also because a lot of time and energy is put into keeping fish populations and ecosystems as productive and balanced as possible.
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    Get your equipment. If you shop around, you can find rod and reel combinations starting at about twenty dollars. You will also need hooks, line and weights. Although there are cheap pieces of equipment, the more you pay, the longer the equipment will last and the better it is likely to be.
    • The rod/reel will may come pre-spooled with line. Check that line to make sure it can withstand its rated strength, if not, you will have to buy 4 to 8 lb. test fishing line and spool the line onto the reel. Many sporting goods stores have top quality line in bulk, and can spool it for you at a very reasonable cost. You will also need #6 to #10 hooks, the "split shot" weights that are simply pinched onto the line, and a net. Reusable split shot is usually only a few cents more, and well worth it. You might wish to buy steel shot as some believe that lead weights can harm the fish and the environment.
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    Buy the right tackle. Light tackle is preferred for river trout. The fishing pole will have the weight range of the line printed on it. You need to buy a rod that is rated between 2 to 8lbs. Buying the rod/reel combo is usually the best and cheapest way to accomplish this. Some experienced anglers suggest that you stay away from the enclosed type fishing reel that has a button on it that you press to release line during the casting of the bait. This type of reel is prone to internal tangles, and will frustrate a new angler to the point of turning him or her away from the sport. On the other hand, closed faced reels are very easy to use. It depends also on the style of fishing that you will be doing. Closed faced reels are great for bait fishing, but are ill-suited for using spinners or other lures. On the other hand, open faced spinning reels work well for both styles.
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    Find a river. You need one that either naturally has trout or better yet, is stocked with trout. The Wildlife management booklet should have this information listed in it. Just pick one near you. Rivers with naturally reproducing trout populations sometimes have stricter tackle and bait restrictions, such as "artificial lures with a single hook only." These are much harder to use to catch trout.
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    Rig up your tackle before departing. The easiest thing to do is to tie on a barrel swivel using a simple clinch knot. Under no circumstance should an overhand knot be used. This will cause the mono filament line to cut itself. Try tying one of these knots in the line and give it a quick jerk if you would like to see how harmful this knot is.
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    If you use bait you will usually need to attach split shot weight to the line. This serves 2 purposes. First, it allows you to cast more effectively, and it allows you to control how fast your bait will drift, if at all. Place the weight about 2 feet (0.6 m) below the hook and be sure to pinch the weight hard enough that the weights will not move on the line, but loose enough that you can adjust their position on the line as well. A pair of needle nose pliers works well.
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    Get bait. Check regulations to see what bait is permissible. Three popular trout baits are live earthworms, salmon roe, and canned corn kernels.
    • Small spinners, spoons and other lures can be used as well. If you are fishing in a small river, use lighter lures. An exception to this is small, fast moving rivers. These waters require heavier lures.
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    Always cast slightly upstream. This allows your bait or lure to drift with the current and appear more lifelike. A good rule of thumb for trying to catch visible fish is to go 20–50 feet (6.1–15.2 m) downstream and cast upstream past the fish. This also serves two purposes. As stated earlier, you need to have a lifelike drift on your bait or lure. Also, most trout face upstream and wait for food to be washed towards them. That means that if you go downstream you are behind them and less likely to be seen. If you do spook the fish you should wait about 20 minutes before attempting to fish that spot. In smaller rivers it is also important to "rest" a hole after catching a fish. This entails waiting 15 - 20 minutes before fishing the hole again, or fishing a different spot for awhile before coming back.
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    Check your local weather forecast. Fish will bite in almost any condition, but you should at least attempt to remain dry. You can match your bait to the weather conditions. During a rainstorm and up to 24 hours afterwards many earthworms will be washed into the river. This is the best time to fish worms. On windy days baits like grasshoppers or crickets are effective. This is due to the fact that windy conditions cause these bugs to end up in the water.
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    Go to the river by yourself the first time out. When you get there, leave all of your fishing stuff in the car and go scout out the situation. Be mindful to look for other fishermen along the shoreline. Look for any nice clearings on the shoreline that are easily accessible. You'll also want to look for slow moving patches of deep water, or any area where the river goes from deep to shallow or shallow to deep. Converging currents are another good thing to look for. If it's a stocked river, there will be plenty of people fishing. In general, they are nice people, and if you stop and ask how the fish are biting or if they caught any, they will warm right up to you and are more than happy to explain to you where and how to catch fish in that particular river.
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    Go back and get your fishing gear and head to one of the spots you should have found when you were scouting things out.
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    Bait your hook. If you are using one of the worms, you need to push the hook through the end of the worm and work the length of the worm onto the hook until the worm gets to the end of the hook, then pull the tip of the hook out through the worm to expose it. Pinch off the remainder of the worm about 1 inch (2.5 cm) away from the hook so that a small part dangles from the end. If you are using the Roe or the corn, simply push a couple of pieces onto the hook just past the barb.
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    Cast away. This seems simple but can be difficult.
    • Again, the direction you need to cast on a river is up-river, then you allow the bait and line to drift downriver in the current. Cast to the 11 O'clock position as you are facing the river. If you are fishing a lure you cast to the same area, but pull the tip of your rod back slowly after the lure is in the water to get it moving before you reel in.
    • Bring the rod tip behind you slowly, and press and hold the button on the reel with your thumb. Quickly bring the rod tip around to directly in front of you and release the button in the middle of the cast. Be careful not to whip the rod to hard or your bait will get thrown off the hook.
    • If using a rod without a button, use your forefinger to hold the line, then flip the bail (the little bar) up and continue to hold the line. Follow same instructions as above, by holding on until the middle and letting it fly.
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    Let the bait drift, keeping the rod tip up and about face level. Once the bait gets past you, the line will start to tighten up, so keep your eyes on the rod tip and where the line is going in your peripheral vision. Any small pulls on the rod tip could be the bait bouncing off rocks or it could be a trout tasting the bait. Wait for the trout to take the bait. You will know when you have a fish on by the big pull on the rod tip.
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    Set the hook. Do this by quickly jerking the rod tip up 1–2 feet (0.3–0.6 m). If you've hooked the fish, your rod will be bent over constantly. Reel in slowly and keep the rod tip above your head. If you lower the rod tip, the fish can get off the hook as it violently thrashes about in the water. Once you have the fish reeled in to shore, take your net and gently scoop it up.
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    Decide what you will do with the fish. Are you going to keep it or release it? Once again, you need to know the regulations on what size fish you are allowed to keep. Stocked fish are usually about 9 inches (22.9 cm) long if stocked small and are too small to fillet, but are delicious when prepared whole.There are fish stocked catch able size (12in.+) If you do not fillet the fish you will need to clean it (remove it's innards) before cooking it. Please keep only what you will eat. Stocked fish rarely survive over winter or reproduce, and compete with wild fish. It is better to keep a couple stocked fish for dinner and release all wild fish.
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    Protect the fish. If you do not wish to keep the fish, it is very important that you not handle the fish at all if possible. Trout, like all fish, have a protective coating of slime on them. Touching them removes the slime and will actually "burn" the fish where you touch it. Most trout survive a proper release. Wet your hands and net before handling the fish. Try to keep the fish in the water and grasp the hook at the curve, either with your fingers or forceps, and remove it from the fish gently. The idea is to pull the hook out the same way it went in. If the fish swallowed the hook, you will have to cut the line and try not to pull on it very much as you will rip the fish's insides apart and it most likely will not survive. Be VERY careful not to squeeze the fish, as this will cause internal bleeding and a very slow, painful death for the fish.
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    Allow the trout to slip off the hook and back into the water. Support the fish upright gently, heading it upstream, until it regains its balance and it will swim away. Do not throw or drop the fish from very high as it may burst the air bladders the fish has to maintain buoyancy underwater.


  • Be patient, relax, and enjoy being in nature. Fishing is about more than just catching fish; it is about enjoying nature and forgetting about your stresses.
  • A thing to remember about fishing in rivers is if you can see the trout, they can see you. Blue and green clothing is rumored to be harder for trout to see. Trout are also sensitive to vibrations so walk softly and avoid jumping, shouting or anything else that is noisy
  • If you get your line snagged, either on a rock or in a tree, try to get as close to it as possible without stretching your line before cutting it loose, or you can try to get it loose by pulling in multiple directions (this may or may not be successful, so in the end, if all else fails simply cut the line off).
    • Don't fish the same spot for more than 20 minutes if you are getting no bites.
  • Time of day and weather conditions will affect what bait works best.
  • Throwing a small amount of bait into the water that you will be fishing in can help coax the fish to want more and come closer.
  • Also, fly fishing is a great way to get out on the river and enjoy some time with the trout.
  • Don't expect a record fish. Start a goal of 7 inches and then work up.
  • Don't move around a lot when you are fishing so the fish don't know it is being controlled by a human being.
  • It's best to not use bobbers a lot unless if it's see through. Trout will see the bobber and not bite at all.
  • Be sure to De-barb all your hooks! It makes it much easier to get the hook out of the fish or you.
  • Don't let your shadow fall on the water; this will alert the trout to your presence and scare them away.


  • Some rivers have dams on them. You need to know where the dams are and if they are hydroelectric. These dams can start generating at anytime and will cause the river to rise drastically and cause extremely dangerous currents.
  • If you've never been in the wild, be mindful of other animals that may be near, especially snakes. Don't worry though, as long as you stick to paths and keep an eye on the ground, you will most likely not see one as they are aware of you well in advance and will either leave or hide. But be careful of obstructions in the path when stepping over things such as logs.
  • Trout live in cold water (45ºF-55ºF), so if you want to get out in the river to fish, you will need protective gear or you will quickly get hypothermia.

Things You'll Need

  • Rod
  • Bait, lures, or flies
  • Fishing line
  • Fishing license (Minimum required age varies from state to state.)
  • Tackle box
  • Stringer-to hold fish in water

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