Tips and Tricks on How to Catch Rainbow Trout


So, it’s rainbow trout you’re after? No wonder, as it’s quite common and incredibly easy to catch. But that doesn’t mean everyone knows how to do it! If you’re one of the people who have no idea how to catch rainbow trout, you’ve come to the right place.

The purpose of this article is to teach you the basics of rainbow trout fishing. The tips and tricks that you will learn from it will be a great start to what is sure to be a great angling adventure. 

Rainbow Trout Characteristics


Whether any fishing trip is a success or not depends mostly on your knowledge of the environment, behavior, and diet of the fish you’re after. Of course, some luck doesn’t do any harm, but there’s much more to angling than waiting for a fish to take the bait.

When it comes to rainbow trout, they love fast running water. The species is popular because it responds to a wide variety of baits. As such, it falls under the category of fish that are fairly easy to catch. What’s more, rainbow trout are often stocked in rivers and lakes, which means that even rookie anglers can hope for a decent catch.

Be that as it may, rainbow trout is by no means a predictable species. They do tend to be temperamental. For example, it’s not uncommon for a rainbow trout to follow the bait around without taking it. Therefore, you should be ready to change your angling strategy often. You’ll also find that they are a worthy adversary once they jump on your hook. They will put up a fight and try to run away. But don’t let that discourage you - just fight stronger than they do.

Where to Look For Rainbow Trout


They can be found in a wide variety of places, however, fast running water is the best starting point. Oftentimes, the faster, the better. ​Keep in mind that this species tend to travel upstream, against the current. Moreover, remember that they are big fans of structure.

You will often find rainbow trout in sections of extremely fast water, hiding behind or under rocks, logs, or any such structure. They save their strength by lurking for prey and ambushing it once it comes along.

How to Target Rainbow Trout

When it comes to targeting rainbow trout, your strategy will depend on your location. Although there are several ways to do it, you should first learn everything there is to know about local angling regulations. Namely, in many cases, you will need a freshwater license to fish for rainbow trout.

Generally speaking, you should be able to catch them with baits, lures, flies, and soft plastics. Most of the time, the type of tackle you choose will depend on whether you fish from a shore or a boat.

However, one thing that is sure to land you a good catch is patience. Seeing as rainbow trout have soft mouths, it's not so uncommon that they simply slip off if you drag it too tight.

Fishing for Rainbow Trout in Different Seasons


You might not be aware of this, but you can actually fish for rainbow trout throughout the year. However, you do need to keep the season-specific weather conditions in mind. Here’s a short guide on how to catch rainbow trout in each season.


Although early spring weather conditions are nowhere near ideal for angling, there are numerous possibilities for a great catch. Indeed, it is usually still cold, and the water is neither clear nor at a good level. But, believe it or not, these conditions can be to your advantage.

First of all, cold air and cold water mean lethargic fish. During this period, rainbow trout actually avoid fast waters, staying at the bottom of runs or deeper holes. Hence, you’ll have to put in some effort into luring them out.

Another thing that will make it hard for you to spot rainbow trout in spring is a higher water level. Be it from the melting snow or sudden spring downpours, you can expect the level of water to be at its highest.


Summer offers stable weather conditions for pretty much any activity. As such, it's the time of the year when targeting rainbow trout is very easy on large bodies of water. Despite that fact, the hottest period of the year is certainly not the most popular among serious anglers.

One of the reasons for that is the significant rise in air and water temperatures. Since, for the most part, rainbow trout prefer to stay in cooler water, consider bringing a thermometer with you. You are more likely to spot them in waters with the temperatures ranging between 55F (12.7C) and 65F (18.3C) than anywhere else. Remember - during the summer season, the cooler, the better.

Furthermore, when fishing for rainbow trout in summer, try to do it at first and last light. Namely, these are the two times of the day when rainbow trout naturally feed. As the day goes by, you’ll notice that they tend to become inert.


As fall approaches, most experienced anglers naturally move southward in search of rainbow trout. There’s still plenty of chance for great catches, as long as you keep in mind how moody fall weather can be. Basically, your angling strategy will have to depend on the weather conditions and air temperatures.

For example, on summerlike days, rainbow trout tend to stay in stream pockets, as the water there is full of fresh air. On the other hand, you should go subsurface on winterlike days. Moreover, you will have to focus on the edges and tailouts, as fall fish generally feed along the banks.


Wintertime has unjustly been overlooked as a rainbow trout angling season. Seeing as the majority of rainbow trout available haven’t seen a bait for up to several months, they can be easy prey.

During winter months, rainbow trout typically lay low in shallow waters. They often cruise just above the bottom of weedy bays, coves, and inlets. They typically don’t go into water deeper than 5 feet. However, this behavior pattern is not to be taken for granted, as rainbow trout move about in a random fashion during winter.

Equipment You’ll Need to Catch Rainbow Trout


When fishing for rainbow trout, many experienced anglers opt for the lightest possible tackle. The reason for this is the fact that rainbow trout have great eyesight and it’s easy to scare them away with heavy equipment. In any case, here’s a list of things you must have for your angling trip:

A rod and reel:

If you’re a rookie angler, it’s preferable that you choose a standard spinning rod and reel. Moreover, look for an ultra-light rod and reel, as they tend to be more flexible. What’s more, with a highly flexible rod, you’ll feel the hits better.

You also need to ensure that your rod, reel, and line are a match. In order to achieve that, you should look for the manufacturer’s recommendation. Usually, you’ll find it on the rod.

When it comes to rainbow trout fishing, 6 to 6.5 feet long are simpler to handle and offer great cast ability. On the other hand, a 7.5 to 8-foot long fly-rod offers medium to slow action but has proven nearly perfect for trout fishing.

A pair of waders:

Every serious angler needs a pair of waders if he/she wants to stay dry. Namely, wading gives you access to waters that you can’t reach by casting - you have to walk through them. Waders will be especially useful in streams.

A fishing vest​:

If you plan to fish for several hours or all day, a fishing vest is a smart investment. Anglers often call it “a wearable tackle box”, and that’s exactly the purpose it serves. However, if you opt for wearing a fishing vest, make sure you organize it beforehand. You don’t want to waste time looking for your gear.

​A hand net:

There are several reasons why a landing net can be a crucial asset on your angling trip. First of all, you’ll avoid any last-second break-off if you use it to land a fish. Second, it minimizes stress and injury to fish, especially if you’re catching and releasing. Finally, using a net will allow you to control any possible stray hooks and avoid hook-induced injuries.

​A stringer:

If the purpose of your angling expedition is to keep the fish you catch, you’ll need a stringer. There are many kinds of stringers out there, but type and length of the one you choose will depend on:

  • ​The type of fish you're after
  • ​Whether you're fishing from the coast or a boat

Although rainbow trout are delicate, a traditional nylon rope or chain stringer will work well. Furthermore, you can consider using a rubber string instead of nylon one, as they are much easier to clean and are gentler on the fish.

​A pair of polarized sunglasses:

Although polarized sunglasses are a bit expensive, experienced anglers claim that if you fish without them, you might as well do it blindfolded. Seeing how much of rainbow trout fishing depends on the angler’s eyesight, you want to ensure that your eyes are protected. A pair of high-quality polarized sunglasses will do not only that but also provide a clear visual of the fish movements under the water.

​How to Attract Rainbow Trout

There are several ways to attract and catch rainbow trout. What you’ll find below is a list of the most commonly used ones.



Lures are one of the most common ways to attract rainbow trout attention. They’re usually made from artificial materials, and they come in smaller sizes. In fact, you should probably go ahead and pick those 1/16 to 1/32 oz big, as they appear more natural in a variety of situations.

We went ahead and came up with several suggestions that you can use as a starting point in your search for the perfect lure.

  • Mepps Aglia 

This spinnerbait is a safe choice, particularly for rookies. They are, however, much more efficient as underwater lures. Namely, the blades will rarely spin on the surface.

  • Panther Martin 

Yet another spinnerbait,​ the Panther Martin is the go-to lure of most experienced anglers. Thanks to its compact design, it adds virtually no extra weight to the rod. Furthermore, it has proven to be reliable in any waters. On top of that, it comes at very reasonable prices. 

  • Rapala Original Floater 

Although floating lures are not the best option for rainbow trout fishing, Rapala Original Floater can be effective for trolling. A great advantage is that it is exceptionally light and it casts relatively easily.

  • Worden’s Flatfish 

This lure is not easy to fish with, as it is often too light. As such, it requires adding some extra weight which can cause it to “roll” when you need it to wobble. However, much like its predecessor, this lure is perfect for slow trolling rainbow trout along the surface.

Keep in mind that, to make a lure useful, you need to match it to the environment. So, when considering what lure to use, try finding something that resembles the surroundings.

However, don’t be afraid to use shiny and bright lures - rainbow trout actually like that. You can easily go with something pink or orange, too.



Although lures are a great way to attract rainbow trout, baits are a much better option if you’re aiming at trophy fish. They can be either natural or artificial, and your choice will mostly depend on your personal preference. Here are some things you should know before you start choosing.

  • Natural Rainbow Trout Baits 
  • Worms (e.g., nightcrawlers, garden hackle, red wigglers)
  • Waxworms (i.e., bee moth larvae)
  • Salmon eggs
  • Crickets and grasshoppers
  • Bait-store minnows
  • Crayfish
  • Aquatic larvae

Keep in mind that rainbow trouts tend to swallow live baits. Therefore, if you only plan to catch and release the fish, avoid using them.

  • ​Artificial Rainbow Trout Baits

Over the years, experts have closely watched and examined trout behavior. In the process, they learned a lot about what trout like and dislike. As a result, you can now easily find artificial fishing baits in a large number of shapes, colors, and odors.

When picking an artificial bait, you have to take its smell into consideration. Seeing as rainbow trout are predators, certain odors will trigger them into following the bait. A great point about artificial bait is that their smell travels long distances and is quite long lasting.

Furthermore, the color of artificial bait can be quite enticing. Namely, artificial baits are usually much brighter than live baits and can trigger curiosity in rainbow trout. Even more so, you can consider combining artificial and live bait. Just make sure the smells are similar.

One thing to keep in mind when opting for artificial baits is whether the trout you’re after live in heavily fished waters. If they do, be ready to change your bait often, as they’ve probably grown accustomed to many of them. 

Hooks and Other Terminal Tackle

In general, you should choose hooks and terminal tackle based on the type of fish you’re after. Keep in mind that the key to a stress-free angling trip is keeping your tackle simple. Here’s what you need to bring:

  • Single hooks (sizes: 4 to 8)
  • Weights (small split shots to sliding weights, up to ¼ oz)
  • Swivels (sizes: 10 or 12)
  • Small floats (pencil/stick or bubble floats)
  • A small spool of test line (​4lb)


Rainbow trout, be it stocked or wild, is a great starting point for rookie anglers or people who don’t want to break a sweat while fishing. You will still find it challenging, but you will most probably walk away with a decent catch at the end of the day.

By writing this article, we did our best to teach you how to catch rainbow trout. But we can’t do it for you. Go out there and catch some yourself!

Comments Section

  1. Indiana

    May 7, 2019, 2:35 pm

    Thanks a lot for sharing those blog links!

  2. Steve. Glatzer

    June 14, 2019, 9:32 am

    How do you hook up the line for pier fishing

  3. Angler Area

    July 12, 2019, 9:47 am

    Hi Steve, you could use any of the above knots, maybe with the exception of the turtle knot. Our favorite is the snell knot and we’ve had a lot of success with it in freshwater and saltwater fishing. I hope that helps!

  4. Hector Mosquera

    July 15, 2019, 5:10 am

    Thanks for the tips going to give it a try and and see how the results of this are.

  5. Angler Area

    August 13, 2019, 11:08 am

    Tight lines Hector! Feel free to tag us on twitter @AnglerArea with your catches!

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