Best Way to Catch Brown Trout

There are many trout species, such as rainbow trout, brown trout, and golden trout. Brown trout has become a popular fish for anglers all around the United States since it has been artificially introduced into the country since the start of the twentieth century.

Catching brown trout isn’t an exact science. Their feeding habits can change due to many factors, such as the time of year, or the location they’re in. To help you on your way, we’ve compiled our top tips for the best way to catch brown trout. 


A man holding brown trout.

Brown trout are known for their light brown color and spotted body.


How do I recognize brown trout? 

Especially in streams, brown trout have a light brown overall color. They also have dark spots intermixed with reddish-orange spots on their flanks, with each spot surrounded by a light halo. Freshwater brown trout range in color from largely silver with relatively few spots and a white belly, to the more well-known brassy brown color.

The brown trout is a medium-sized fish, growing up to 20 kg or more and a length of about 100 cm in some localities, although in many smaller rivers, a mature weight of 1.0 kg or less is common.


Which baits and trout lures should I use for brown trout? 

Brown trout aren’t exactly the pickiest predators. The range of what they consume is really quite extraordinary, and it all depends on where they live or are eating, and the time of year. They can consume a range of aquatic and terrestrial creatures, from small mammals like mice to insects, small fish, and crustaceans. Sometimes they even consume their own species. 

Depending on which body of water you plan to fish, sometimes those fish have similar feeding habits, at a certain time of the year or in a certain area. We would recommend trying to figure out, perhaps by seeing if any of your caught trout has coughed up anything they were feeding on, or by asking other people nearby, what the trout in that area are eating at that point, before deciding on your fishing gear. Then you can be really smart about it, and try and trick the trout, selecting a bait, lure or fly that looks similar to the food they will be looking for. 

Even though considering what the trout is likely to be eating will help you make the decision on which bait, lure or fly you should use, it still isn’t always an easy decision. There are so many different options out there, that sometimes you’re spoilt for choice. We will outline some of the different types of bait, lure or fly, to help make the decision easier for you. But, as always with fishing, it helps to ask someone who’s fished in that area before for their top tips. 


There are three main types of bait, so let’s clarify the difference: 


Dough baits: These are a good option for you if you don’t want to handle the crawling, liver options of bait. They smell and taste really good to trout, and to us they look like a kind of putty material. If you know what the trout are likely to be eating at that time of year, there are many different color options available that will mimic it. There are also some really bright color options, like fluorescent pink, that might trigger anger in the trout, causing it to bite. When it comes to brown trout river fishing, the best dough bait to use is Powerbait.


Dead baits: You can use small, dead fish as an effective bait for trout. The best option that we would recommend is looking for small minnow fish like glassies. They refract light off their shiny scales; this and their smell can attract trout to bite. The easiest way is to get frozen dead bait, they’re pretty widely available, so this is the most convenient approach. 


Live bait: There are a few different types of live bait that work well for trout. In the summer, you can opt to go for live crickets or grasshoppers: lots of trout anglers find these to be effective live baits in the summer months. But the most commonly used live baits for trout are worms and maggots. Try to fish with these just below the surface, using a split shot sinker, or unweighted. Here, just below the surface, the wriggling maggot or worry will be really tempting to the trout.


You can catch trout can on a range of lures and there are tonnes on the market to choose from, in many different forms: soft plastics, hard bodies, spoons, bladed and winged lures, to name a few. Some are better for casting (Rapala minnows (floating and count down), Celtas (bladed lure), and metal blades (lipless crankbaits)) and some are better for trolling (winged lures like Tasmanian Devils). 


You could also opt to use a spinner. To get a little aggression and movement out of the trout you’re targeting, what works really well is a moving bait. Brown trout, especially, seem to be spurred into action by baits and lures that cause a lot of commotion. You could emulate this, potentially, with wriggling, live bait. Or move your rod and monofilament  line in small, jerking movements as you fish. Remember to take a camping multitool with you, for cutting line, or any repairs. 


Or a slightly simpler solution is to use a spinner. Spinners create a lot of pulsations and water movement, and brown trout tend to be highly attracted to them. Spinners are great investments, too, because they come in multiple different colors and sizes, so you can choose the perfect one for that day or fishing trip, depending on the eating habits of the trout. 


Though trout can be seasonal eaters, they are always hungry for fish eggs. And more specifically, salmon eggs. If it’s tricky to work out the eating habits for that day in the trout, then a sure-fire way to get the trout to bite is to choose a bait or lure that looks like salmon eggs. You could even put some salmon eggs onto your hook. Anything that looks, smells or tastes like salmon eggs is sure to get their attention. 


A woman fishing.

Brown trout have been widely introduced into suitable environments around the world, including North and South America, Australasia, Asia, and South and East Africa.


Is fly fishing effective for catching brown trout? 

One of the most effective, and fun, ways to catch trout is through fly fishing. It can be quite tricky at first to get your head around, but when you get into the swing of it, it can become really addictive. We would recommend you going out with an experienced fly fisher first, or taking a course of some kind, so someone can show you the ropes. 

Fly fishing is really effective for trout because the “flies” are essentially hooks tied with man-made and natural fibers that are made to look like the insects, crustaceans and other wild food trout prey on. They type of fly you choose will depend on which food you are trying to emulate, once you have found this out, depending on the time of year and location of the trout you plan to fish. However, there are some flies that work well in most conditions for trout fishing. We would recommend trying Magoo, elk hair caddis or royal Wulff, as great all-rounders. 

Fly fishing might be the best approach, but one of the interesting things about brown trout is their versatility. Whether fishing rivers, streams or lakes, you might have to try several different techniques in various types of water and structure before hooking one of these famously hard to catch fish. It might be that you try some different techniques, angles, and movements within fly fishing or that you try something else like spin fishing. Whatever you decide on, remember to mix it up, to try and outsmart the crafty brown trout. 


Where am I likely to find brown trout? 

Brown trout don’t tend to like being out in the open. They prefer finding a shelter of some kind. Brown river trout like to hang out near structures such as rock piles, brush, driftwood, and underwater plants. So when you’re out fishing for brown trout, cast your line near some structures you think they could be sheltering near. Wiggle the end of your line just under the water, close to these structures, and the fish are more likely to bite. 

Brown trout don’t like being out in the open, not just in regards to having a structure to shelter under. They also don’t like being out on sunny days. Even though sunny days might make a fishing trip a more pleasant experience for us, in the long run, you might be happier going fishing for trout on an overcast day. This is because you’re far more likely to catch a trout not under direct sunlight. Aim for overcast days, dawn, dusk or in the shade. 

These conditions are especially important if you’re out to catch really big trout. Big trout tend to be even more shy than younger and smaller trout. They tend to eat at night and sulk in the shadows until they feel safe enough to come out, which actually is very rare. If you’re looking to really impress with your catch, go out at dusk and into the night, or fish in the shadows of overhanging structures. 

Brown trout won’t always be easy to find again if you’ve found them once in a river or water source. This is because, in rivers, brown trout tend to move around, constantly establishing new territory. We would suggest you start out in deep, slower water where the trout wintered. There might still be some fish here, or it might help you ascertain their patterns or where they have traveled next. After you’ve started in this area, we recommend you heading to nearby riffles where the most actively feeding fish often lie.


A man fly fishing on a reservoir.

Fly fishing has been a proven way to fish for brown trout.


In terms of geographical location, there are loads of places to go fishing for brown trout in the United States. We’ll outline for you here, not for lake trout, just a couple of our favorite tried and tested river spots: 


1. Yampa River in Colorado. This is one of our favorite recommendations for brown trout fishing, partly because it isn’t the top of everyone’s list. This means it won’t be overfished, or overcrowded. The fantastic thing about wade fishing in Yampa River, or wade fishing in and around Steamboat Springs, is that you can be successful year-round. This is also a great option for those wanting to impress with the size of their catch. Even twenty-inch fish are nothing special really in the Yampa River, which is certainly pretty unusual. 


2. Gunnison River in Colorado. The Gunnison River, in southwestern Colorado, is as varied as the landscapes it flows through, meaning you’ll never get bored of your surroundings in a fishing trip here. As the river makes it’s way north to meet the Colorado River, it passes through some of the deepest and most narrow canyons in the country, and flat, lazy pastureland. Here you get multiple opportunities to catch really big trout, and you can both wade and float this river very effectively. 


3. Missouri River in Montana. This is a great river to fish if you’re looking to catch a really big brown trout, particularly the section of the Missouri below Holter Lake and all the way to the town of Cascade. From April to November, the dry-fly fishing is especially great here, owing to the caddis and mayfly hatches. However, it can become a little crowded. 


4. White River in Arkansas. There are a series of dams that have turned the White River’s once-turbid warm waters into a thriving trout fishery. Without even really trying, you’ll be able to pick up a 5-10 pound fish here, and below Bull Shoals Dam, some anglers have managed to catch trout eve bigger than 30 pounds! Now that’s really something to write home about. 


A man holding fishing bait.

All types of fishing bait can be used to catch brown trout depending on your preference.


What if I want to release my trout? 

Catch-and-release is becoming increasingly popular, as trousers are becoming increasingly more conservation-minded. It’s the best way to keep the population fo fish thriving, which is becoming increasingly necessary in the United States. However, you have to make sure you handle the fish carefully and correctly if they are to survive back in the wild after release.

Handling the trout carefully and correctly means you have to follow a few rules. Firstly, although you might enjoy this part of the catch the most, you have you make sure you bring them in quickly rather than prolonging the fight. You don’t want to tire them out too much or cause any type of irreparable injury.

The second rule is that you can’t squeeze them too hard or hold them by the gills. Thirdly, never keep your trout out of water for long if you’re using the catch-and-release method. If you don’t know how long is the right amount of time to keep a fish out of the water, it’s roughly the amount of time that we would be able to breathe underwater. Just keep that in mind as you’re handling your trout. 

Brown trout in the Spring are often quite weary from surviving a long, hard winter. Make sure you’re not tiring them out too much, and you’re not letting them fight too much before bringing them onshore. At this time, they can be more susceptible to injury or stress, due to their fatigue. Your best bet is to make sure you use enough rod to get the job done while minimizing the fighting time for fish you plan to release.


Is there anything that will scare off a brown trout? 

Brown trout are quite stealthy. They will escape if you disturb the river bed, or splash around too much water. So wherever you’re fishing brown trout, you need a stealthy approach. One approach is to wade, suit gaiters. But if you’re wading, make sure you’re wading silently, casting carefully, trolling long lines or, if you’re casting from a boat, make sure you’re keeping as silent as possible. In general, the best way to catch brown trout is to be stealthy, silent, and smooth. Stay cool!


A group of men fishing in a stream.

Now that you’ve learned how and where to fish for brown trout, it’s time to hit the water.


Final Verdict:

So there we have it, our top fishing tips for brown trout. We’ve gone through many different considerations you’ll need to make before becoming effective at catching brown trout. It’s essential that we know what brown trout look like, so we can recognize them with fly fishing.

We’ve gone through the different types of lures and baits to use for trout. But as we have said previously, trout aren’t exactly the pickiest of eaters, so even if you don’t have the perfect lure for the occasion, give it a go. If you use the right techniques and movements, you might even still be able to get a bite. 

We’ve also gone over where to look for trout, not only in the river or lake, but some of our favorite and most profitable locations to go brown trout fishing. Some of these areas are excellent for those of you who are looking to catch bigger and bigger trout. And if the size of your catch is the most important thing for you, consider some of our advice about aiming for the shadows, and fishing at night.

But if you’re looking for more of an introduction to brown trout fishing, consider planning a camping trip in one of these beautiful locations. It’s a great activity to break up your schedule, and a fantastic way to fully absorb all of the stunning natural features around you. Enjoying yourself really is the best way to catch brown trout. 


Bonus tip: For an inside tip on the easiest way to catch brown trout, check out this legit video below!


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