Trout fishing basics
  |  First Published: September 2013

There is a growing 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 in small streams, larger rivers and lakes. Hopefully I can give you all a few pointers and steer you in the right direction to help catch your first fish or increase your catch rates.

Small Streams

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

Rule number one with any type of trout fishing in streams is to always fish your way upstream. Trout will 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 a very spooky fish, and if they see you they will 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 in 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.

So, walking upstream, casting ahead of you and retrieving your bait or lure downstream towards yourself is the best way to go, and where possible, try and 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 will hide and 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 will 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 months when there is plenty of water in the streams and little slime. Small Celtas are excellent. My favourite bladed spinner is the small number 1 Super Vibrax by Blue Fox, I love these lures and have for a very long time. Small minnow type lures also work very well as do soft plastics. In the small streams, small natural representing soft plastics can really outshine other lures as they not only work on the trouts inquisitive nature but also present like 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, however 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 small creeks, however it is still a very good idea to try and keep the noise down, blend into the back ground 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 in 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.

As with small streams, once again fish your way upstream, casting the bait or lure ahead of yourself and retrieving it downstream with the current. In large rivers fan casting can be a very successful technique. This is where you make your first cast towards the bank, then each cast should be slightly off to one side of the previous cast 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 than catching trout in small waterways as there is a lot of ‘casting and hoping’ which often yields great results.

In larger rivers try using larger minnows of around 5-6cm in length, but shallow diving. Deep diving lures pick up too much slime. Once again soft plastics and bladed spinners will both be very productive as well as bait.


Trout fishing in lakes is a totally different kettle of fish (pun intended) to what it is in flowing water. Trout like cold water, and in lakes the water temperatures alter drastically with the seasons. For example, in springtime most lakes are usually full of very cold water throughout the water column. As the weather warms up the water at the surface of the lake starts to warm up, causing the trout to move down deeper in search of cooler water.

Of an evening they will 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 will simply stay down deep where the water is cooler. 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.

In Victoria, from late April until November trout can be caught up 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 of 5-6cm are a great and will attract strikes from all fish.

My favourite lures are blades for bank fishing are 7g blades will cast out of sight, making them ideal bank fishing lures. I prefer darker more natural colours for trout. As the water warms up in the lakes the aquatic life starts to come to life as many nymphs begin to hatch providing a valuable food source for trout. Weedy lakes always fish very well with mudeyes suspended underneath a float in around October as the water is still cool but just beginning to warm up.


Regardless of where you are fishing for trout, the old saying of ‘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 September and the streams are all very 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 as they are occurring naturally.

In lakes, as the water warms, try and find what the fish are feeding on. Easily the most popular bait in lakes for trout, as mentioned already is mudeyes. Mudeyes are the larvae stage of dragon flies which we see flying around during the warm weather and the trout just love them.

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

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