You are currently viewing Best Way to Catch Rainbow Trout: Top 10 Tips
Rainbow Trout Caught In A River

Best Way to Catch Rainbow Trout: Top 10 Tips

Sharing is caring!

“As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”

They are predators, they are abundant, and they are opportunistic feeders. This is why trout is one of the top four sought-after game fish in the country. Specifically, the Rainbow Trout is one of the most stocked fish in the world and can be found in over 45 countries. Rainbow Trout will eat nearly anything they can wrap their jaws around but their main diet consist of aquatic insects, crustaceans and smaller fish. They are not fussy eaters, however, their environment will dictate their diet and determine the bait best to use. Keep in mind that Rainbow Trout have great eyesight and spook easily. The more information you have in addition to knowing the top tips and techniques will help you land that Rainbow Trout. So, if you want that trophy Rainbow Trout then read on and learn the Best Way to Catch Rainbow Trout: Top 10 Fishing Tips.

#1. Changing Seasons Changing Tactics To Catch Rainbow Trout

changing season for fishing trout different tactics tips strategies
Summer Lake Fishing

Trout can be caught year round, however, if the air temperature is uncomfortable for you it will most likely be uncomfortable for the trout. Rainbows are cold blooded and their body temperature will mirror the water they swim. So, temperatures that are below freezing or are scorching hot can make fishing a little tougher. Trout can adapt to different temperatures but flourish when the water is between 45 and 65 degrees. They tolerate water higher than 68 degrees for short periods of time but temperatures over 75 degrees can be lethal. Here are some tips for the best way to catch Rainbow Trout during specific seasons.

Spring And Summer Tips

In the spring, Rainbow trout roam the shorelines, shallows and reefs until the water warms. Focus on depths that are below 25 feet and shallow. Summer time drives Rainbow Trout to seek the coolest water temperatures they can find, so fish deep. They conserve their energy in warmer water and typically wont go far to chase down food, so cover the water. Don’t spend more than 15 minutes in one spot and use live bait while fishing covers and structures. Converging currents are another good place to look for fish as they will be drawn to these areas.

Fall And Winter Tips

The fall is spawning season and trout will head back to the shallows. It is best to cast for them near structures and shorelines. Winter is best fished during the warmest part of the day. Trout are looking for warmer temperatures while staying closer to shorelines and surfaces. Fish slow down during winter months and expend as little energy as possible. So, slow your presentation of bait. Also, they may avoid currents to conserve energy so look for them in still waters. Many insects during the winter aren’t hatching so keep your bait small and match the hatch. Small stickbaits, jointed minnows, and crankbaits can get the job done.

#2. Let It Rain But Fish Right Before

feeding frenzy before a storm rain clouds good fishing
In The Rain Can Be Great Fishing

Typically, fish go on a feeding frenzy before a storm. They can detect changes in air pressure alerting them it’s time to fill-up. If you can safely fish the day before bad weather approaches it can be a golden opportunity to catch Rainbows. Also, if conditions are not dangerous, fishing in the rain can be fantastic. Rain reduces a fishes visibility. The trout will feel safer and venture out of hiding to feed. Also, trout are looking for insects washing into the water off the banks and your bait could be exactly what they are looking for. Cloud coverage works to your advantage. When it is cloudy fish are less likely to spook. The coverage from clouds makes it difficult for them to see shadows overhead. This helps to camouflage you from above reducing the spook factor. Use baits that will jump and move like insects falling into the water.

#3. Use The Right Gear To Catch Rainbow Trout


The Rainbow Trout has 360 degree vision and excellent color perception. It is tough to sneak up on them. So, the gear you use will determine your success. Use a light, stiff, fast action rod when fishing Rainbow Trout. This type of rod allows for a more accurate cast, helping to avoid spooking. A stiff rod will give you more control than a flex rod and fast action helps with setting the hook quickly. Use a shorter rod between 5 and 6 feet for an easier cast into the hard to reach areas where trout hide.


A good trout fishing reel will help elevate your angling game. As mentioned above, Rainbow Trout are shy and spook easily. A lightweight reel will increase casting distance keeping you away from the Rainbow’s line of sight. Lightweight reels are easy and comfortable to handle thus increasing effectiveness. A smooth operation, durable construction and weight to drag ratio (speed at which a reel picks up line) will boost your bite.


Having the wrong line is costly and can result in lost fish or worse, no bites. Rainbow Trout have better eyesight than most other freshwater fish. They have binocular and monocular vision making them incredible predators. This is why choosing a good fishing line is so important. A fluorocarbon line between 2 – 4lb is a good choice. It’s non reflective making it barely visible under water. Anything higher than 4lb you will sacrifice castability. It has less stretch than monofilament allowing you to feel even the slightest movement.

For the rod, we recommend the High Altitudes telescoping ultra light. For the reel, we recommend the KastKing Centron 3000 Spinning Reels. And for the line, we recommend the Trout Magnet Phantom 100% Fluorocarbon Fishing Leader Line.

#4. Have The Essentials

“Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” Bobby Unser. Be prepared for your day. Must have essentials (in addition to gear and Bait) for catching Rainbow trout include a landing net, forceps, boots and waders. The use of light lines makes a net for catching Rainbow Trout essential. They fight hard so without a net you risk losing your catch. Also, they have a delicate slime coating that can damage easy. Use a wood frame rubber mesh net to protect your trout from harm, especially if you plan release. We recommend the Landing Net Soft Rubber Mesh Trout Catch and Release (pictured above). Narrow mouths and sharp teeth can make for unpleasant unhooking. Forceps will help you quickly unhook the trout preventing damage to the fish and your hands. Having boots and waders will open opportunities to fish more locations. Consider using them when fishing streams, rivers, mud, and swamps.

#5. Use Salmon Eggs or an Imitation

In addition to their excellent vision, Rainbows also have tiny scent organs (called nares) to help them find their prey. A bait’s scent is an important component of the trout’s feeding behavior. You can’t go wrong with live bait. Worms, crickets, baitfish, grasshoppers and crayfish are top options. But, the absolute favorite for Rainbow Trout is salmon eggs. If you rather use artificial bait then use Berkley Powerbait. It has a combination of floating properties, colors and scents that Rainbow Trout find hard to resist.

#6. Fishing Riffles And Runs To Catch Rainbow Trout

Rainbow Trout Riffles and Runs Tips for catching
Catching Rainbow Trout Riffles


A riffle is a shallow fast moving section of a stream. Around rocks the water will be a bit slower. The rushing water over the rocks adds oxygen allowing for an ideal habitat for insects. Find the bugs in the water and you will find the fish. Look for pockets formed by rocks because that is where trout will be waiting for drifting bugs.


Runs are deeper than a riffle and will generate less foam due its depth. The current will also be slower making it easier to visually spot the trout. A run is prime real estate for Rainbow Trout because it provides food, oxygen and cover. During the summer, runs provide ample oxygen, a depth for cooler water and a constant food supply. In the winter, currents require more energy so, to avoid this, you will find trout holding in slower runs.

#7. Murky Waters Bright Colors, Clear Waters Natural Colors

Pay attention to color and contrast. When the body of water is dark the amount of light penetrating through is low. Fluorescent UV colors require less light to reflect making them a top choice in murky waters. Spoons and plugs with fluorescent spots or stripes will also work well. Black lures are actually visible in dark water and can be successful. Top colors also include orange, chartreuse and red. Rainbow Trout will also rely on their sense of smell and vibrations. Use lures that vibrate like plugs with rattles and spinner blades. Attractors create displacement helping the fish find the bait so try using dodgers and flashers. When fishing in clear water use a subtle presentation. Cast ahead of where you see the trout feeding using realistic colors of whites, blacks, grays, silvers and gold.

Read more:

#8. Float And Drift Fishing

Float and drift fishing are two popular styles of Rainbow Trout fishing. Consider the structures, wind, weather and water body size to determine your best option.


Floating is a top fishing technique to use for shorelines, vegetation and shallow waters. Float fishing keeps your hook suspended above the bottom of the waters floor and structures. Attach a float on the main line. Add weight to balance it so only the tip of the float emerges on the waters surface. Tie a hook or leader to the end of your main line so the length between your float and hook is the depth you want your bait. Windy days make for tough float fishing. The rough water surface makes it difficult to keep your float stationary.


Drift fish when yo have a current. Cast upstream keeping pace with your bait by slowly reeling in the slack while the current pushes downstream. Your bait will have a lifelike drift and when you are behind them you are less likely be seen. Allow the bait to drift while keeping the rod tip up and at face level. You will feel a big pull when a fish is on, however, any small pull is likely the bait bouncing off structures or a fish nibble.

#9. Know Your Knots

Fisherman's knot Clinch knot fishing Rainbow Trout Palomar Blood Surgeon
Clinch Knot Fisherman’s Knot

One of the best ways to catch Rainbow Trout is to keep it on your hook. Improperly tied knots are a common reason why fish get lost. Spend time developing your knot tying skills. The type of knot you use will be based on the type of line. Keep your fish on, know the most common knots. The improved Clinch Knot (also known as the fisherman’s knot) and the Palomar are used when tying a line to the hook, lure or swivel. The Blood Knot is used for tying two sections of similar diameter line together making use of broken or odd length fishing lines. Use a Surgeon Knot for two lines with different diameters. For Rainbow Trout fishing, the Non Slip Loop Knot (also known as Rapala Knot) is great for using on a lighter line and improving the action of the bait.

#10. Fish On, Set the Hook Properly

Rainbow trout catching tips techniques set hook reel Best Way to Catch Rainbow Trout
Catching Rainbow Trout

Set the hook by quickly jerking the rod tip up 1–2 feet. Slowly reel while keeping the tip of the rod above your head. When you hold the rod too low the fish can come off the hook when they fight. Once on shore, use a net to scoop him up and grasp the hook at the curve while keeping it in the water. Avoid touching the fish whenever possible to avoid damage to their protective coating. When the hook is swallowed, cut the line. Do not pull or you will kill the trout by ripping its insides apart. When releasing trout it should be netted, released quickly and in the same spot where it was caught. Do not squeeze (causes internal bleeding) or drop the fish (drops from height burst their air bladders). For keepers, be aware of the local size regulations.

Top Ten Tips: Final Thoughts On The Best Way To Catch Rainbow Trout

Overall, the most important tip for successful Rainbow Trout fishing is the awareness of your environment. Experiment with different baits to see what works best for your area and conditions. Know your local fishing laws and regulations. Obtain a fishing license if one is required. For additional tips check out our article How To Catch Trout: Trout Fishing 101. Always remember, the best time to go fishing is whenever you get the opportunity.

gone fishing sign signage
Photo by Matt Hardy from Pexels

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.