Trout fishing basics
  |  First Published: October 2013

There are a growing number of anglers enjoying trout fishing and like any new type of fishing, there are always questions to be asked.

Here I will run through some of the basic techniques to help get anglers started on small streams, larger rivers and lakes. I hope I can give you all a few pointers and steer you in the right direction to catch your first fish or increase your catch rates.

Small Streams

Trout fishing in small streams is one of my favourite forms of fishing and I just cannot get enough of it. Due to the small, quiet environment and usually clear water, it really is combining fishing and hunting to provide great sport.

Rule number one with any type of trout fishing in streams is to always fish your way upstream. Trout almost always face upstream, watching as the current delivers any kind of food source.

Whether it be dead insects, mayflies, nymphs, scrubworms and so on, the current will always wash the food downstream and the trout know to face upstream in anticipation.

Trout can be very spooky fish and if they see you they often move to the cover of an undercut bank, deep hole or snag and stop feeding until they feel safe again.

By walking upstream you are sneaking up behind the trout, making it harder for them to see you. Remember, though, that unlike humans, trout do have eyes at the top of their heads! We have our eyes at the front and look forward, whereas the trout have eyes that face further up, so that they can sense danger above them and also watch for food.

So the trout may see you coming sooner than you realise. The best way to overcome this is to fish from further back.

Walking upstream, cast ahead of you and retrieve your bait or lure downstream towards you. Where possible, try to make your casts long and accurate.

The further back you can cast from the less likely you will be to spook the fish.

Keep an eye on the bank for human footprints. If there are fresh footprints along the bank, in the mud or sand, then it may be likely that somebody else has recently fished that same stretch of water, which can result in very poor fishing.

As mentioned earlier, when trout get spooked they hide and will not come out until they feel safe. In angler’s language, we call this ‘second-hand water’.

If the fishing is slow and there are fresh footprints, it's always a good idea to try somewhere else. Trout in these small waterways are very unforgiving.

Depending on the availability of food, trout often feed freely all day in small streams. During the brightest times of the day, concentrate your casts on the shady areas, under shrubs and undercut banks.


Small bladed spinners are an excellent starting point, particularly in the Spring when there is plenty of water in the streams and little slime. Small Celtas are excellent.

My favourite bladed spinner is the No 1 Super Vibrax by Blue Fox. I have loved these lures for a very long time.

Small minnow lures also work very well, as do soft plastics.

In the streams, small natural patterns of soft plastics can really outshine other lures because they work on the trout’s inquisitive nature and also present as a real nymph emerging from underneath a submerged rock.

Larger Rivers

The basics of trout fishing larger rivers are quite similar to those in small streams, with a few exceptions.

You should still always fish your way upstream but if you cast downstream you can still expect results in the larger waterways.

There is a lot more water between the fish and the fish are often much further away from the banks, making larger rivers much more forgiving.

There is not as much need for a stealthy approach in larger rivers as there is in creeks, but it is still a very good idea to keep the noise down, blend into the background and fish with an element of caution so as not to spook the trout.

Footprints along the bank are not as much of a concern on larger rivers, especially the really large rivers where anglers generally walk the banks rather than wade the stream. Generally speaking, trout in rivers will still get spooked by anglers, but not nearly as much as they will in small streams.

Fish your way upstream, casting the bait or lure ahead and retrieve it downstream with the current.

In large rivers fan casting can be a very successful technique. Make your first cast closely parallel with the bank, then each cast should be slightly off to one side of the previous one until you have covered the entire width of the river.

Once you have done this you move forward to new water and repeat the process.

Catching trout in larger rivers is much easier because there is a lot of ‘casting and hoping’, which often yields great results.

In these rivers try using 5cm-6cm shallow-diving minnows. Deep-diving lures pick up too much slime.

Again, soft plastics and bladed spinners will be very productive, as will bait.


Trout fishing in lakes is a totally different kettle of fish (pun intended) to fishing flowing water.

Trout like cold water and in lakes the water temperatures alter drastically with the seasons.

For example, in Spring most lakes have very cold water throughout the water column.

As the weather warms up the water at the surface starts to warm, causing the trout to move deeper in search of cooler, more oxygenated water.

Of an evening they often move to the surface to feed on insect hatches that usually result in plenty of available food. If the water is too warm they simply stay down deep.

In Winter, the cooler water is usually closer to the surface and the warmer water is down deep, which is why deep water tends to produce better fishing for other species such as redfin during the colder months.

From late April until November trout can be caught near the surface using a variety of techniques.

The most popular is trolling winged lures such as Tassie Devils.

Small minnows can also be quite effective trolled quite a long way behind the boat. Minnows of around 5cm-6cm are great and attract strikes from all types and sizes of fish.

For bank fishing my favourite lures are 7g blades. They will cast out of sight, making them ideal bank fishing lures.

I prefer darker, more natural colours for trout.

As the water warms in the lakes the aquatic life flourishes and many nymphs begin to hatch, providing valuable food for trout.

Weedy lakes always fish very well with mudeyes suspended underneath a float in around October, when the water is still cool but just beginning to warm up.


Regardless of where you are fishing for trout, the old saying ‘match the hatch comes into play. In other words, try to use bait that is readily occurring in the system.

For example, if it is October and the streams are all high and dirty, there will most likely be plenty of worms in the waterways, so use worms.

There is no point using grasshoppers or crickets, because they are not there!

In December/January, when everything is dry, there are no worms being washed into the system so don't waste your time with worms.

If there are grasshoppers jumping around on the banks, use grasshoppers because they are occurring naturally.

In lakes, as the water warms, try to find what the fish are feeding on.

Easily the most popular bait in lakes for trout, as mentioned already, is the mudeye, the larval stage of the dragonflies we see flying around during the warm weather. Trout just love them.

Wherever you are fishing, if you are using bait, flies or lures, try to study the environment and see what is occurring naturally that the fish may be feeding on.

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