Last updated on June 25th, 2021
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Summer is upon us and those fishing poles in the garage are calling your name. When you have some downtime, there isn’t anything better than packing up your truck with gear and getting out to some hidden creek or river for some fishing fun. Hobbies that are fun and feed you are simply the best.
Speaking of fun times while out fishing, one of the most exciting fish to catch is rainbow trout. Native to the west of the Rockies, rainbow trout are known to be aggressive predators that can easily get up to 8lbs, not to mention they are gorgeous in the sunlight.
Sizable and strong, rainbow trout will snatch a fly or lure on a whim, and give you a good fight. They are so much fun that even in Tennessee hatcheries have been established to bring anglers from the Appalachia’s and Southern states in for the fun.
Besides being as fun as a prom date, these fighting fish are opportunistic hunters and have a wide diet. However, there are a few tips and tricks to learn to up your rainbow trout angling game.
Know the Trout, Be the Trout
As with any sport where the hunting of game is the game, understanding the biology, habits, and diet of the rainbow trout makes the difference between being a successful fisherman or swinging in the dark. Introduce water, and you have a myriad of variables to account for.
Fishing is fun, fishing is life.
Where You Can Find Rainbow Trout
So to get started, rainbow trout are naturally found in streams, creeks, or rivers with rocky and sandy bottoms. They prefer the cooler temperatures of these moving streams but have a decent heat tolerance. They can handle temps up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
It is because of this heat tolerance that rainbow trout are often grown in hatcheries and released into ponds and streams all over the U.S., often stocked with other game fish such as bass.
They do tend to prefer the deeper and shadier parts of whatever body of water they are in, due to their preference for cold water. So when you go fishing for rainbow trout, look for where the moving water has cut into the bank.
Bends in a moving body of water will get carved out and down by the natural erosion of the water. This creates natural shade and depth, meaning that this will be a prime target to fish rainbow trout, especially during the heat of the day, because this is where they will try to escape the heat.
If you are fishing in a stocked pond, be aware that they will be less active because the water isn’t moving. This doesn’t mean the water is going to be the same temperature throughout. A still body of water undergoes this effect called thermal stratification.
So basically, water is not static, and it naturally stratifies into different layers depending on several factors. What you need to pay attention to here is the sun. The path of the sun over a body of water will give you an idea of where the coldest water will be.
As the sun hits one side of a body of water, likely on the furthest side from it, it casts a long shadow on the side closest to it. This uneven heating of the water makes a current that moves the temperature around throughout the day.
Also, again, rainbow trout prefer shade and temperatures around 50-60 Fahrenheit, so while in the earliest part of the morning fish near that twilight zone in deeper water and move into the shadows as the day goes on.
What Do Rainbow Trout Like to Eat
As stated earlier, rainbow trout are aggressive and voracious eaters and aren’t too picky about what they eat. This doesn’t mean you can hook a cigarette butt or rifle shell and go fishing, they aren’t catfish.
These beautiful underwater predators will go after insects, larvae, worms, smaller fish, crayfish, and the eggs of other fish. They aren’t too picky, but they are selective.
They also aren’t stupid, kind of – they do, however, have the brain size of your pinky nail. Even so, you have to have a strategy if you want to be successful with them. For instance, if you are fly fishing you can give yourself a significant advantage by using a fly for whatever is in season at the time.
Fly and Lure Fishing
Fly fishing is its own type of monster, with so many types of flies and leads to use, you really can tailor your game down to a T. It depends on your geography and preference, and specifically what kind of insects are in your area, and when those insects hatch.
For instance, when the crayfish start to get active in early spring and summer, depending on where you live, using a crayfish fly or artificial bait will increase your chances of getting a hit. This will be what a trout is looking for, and given how during this time there will likely be baby crayfish around without hooks that will help you fool it.
This is called prey drive arousal, getting them too excited to say no. It is the same thing many dogs do when they see a squirrel or car and become excited. They just can’t leave it alone!
There is a whole list of flies that will get a rainbow trout’s attention, from Woolly Buggers to Parachute Adams to the aforementioned crayfish fly. Mostly you just want to stick to what’s in season when fly fishing.
Lure fishing is very similar in its methodology when fishing for trout, and there are so many types of spinners out there specifically designed for trout fishing. Since they will often go after smaller fish, using a plug will help you bag a bigger fish.
Besides stomping down the middle of a river bed to cast away, lure fishing has the added benefit of being able to troll. This is the best way to fish in standing water for rainbow trout since they will be hanging out in the deeper colder parts of the pond or lake.
Trolling allows you to cover a massive amount of water in a deep river, giving you the best chance for the biggest catch.
Something to keep in mind when either fly or lure fishing, though, is that rainbow trout are predatorial. For a predator to be successful, they need to have superior eyesight, which these fish certainly do.
This means that you should use the lightest lead you can, or the lightest line when rainbow trout fishing with lures or baits.
The old standby classic, using a bobber, will bag a trout. You will need to know the depth of the water though since rainbow trout like to hang out 12-24” above the bottom in shallower water or 15’ from the top of a pond.
PowerBait is touted for its effectiveness on many species of fish and is a good rainbow trout bait. Most PowerBait varieties float, so hooking one on the line and putting a weight on about 12” up is a pretty simple way to go, no bobber needed.
Just cast and let it drift.
Rainbow trout will go for worms and crawlers too if you are not into something like PowerBait.
Get Out, Catch Rainbows and Enjoy Summer
So there you have it, the basics you need to get out there and get to fishing after one of the most fun and populous game fish out there. Not to mention tasty. Whether you are fly, lure, or bait fishing you can consider yourself armed enough to get out on the water and make the most of your summer.
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