The Best Time to Fish for Trout in a River – Time of Day, Time of Year and Temperature

There’s nothing in the world as satisfying as hauling up a speckled, brightly colored trout out of your favorite fast flowing river.

Not only are trout one of the most beautiful fish in our waterways, but I’m sure you’ll agree they are among the tastiest as well.

One of the most important questions the smart angler could ask is: when is the best time to fish for trout in a river?

River and lake fishing are two different adventures, let’s take a deep dive into some river trout fishing specifics.

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What Time of Day is Best for Trout Fishing in a River?

If the early bird catches the worm, the early angler catches the fish. The best time to fish for trout in a river is from dawn to two hours after dawn.

This schedule applies to all year round and is good advice for several other species of fish. Trout are hunters themselves, and their eyes outperform their prey in these in between hours.

I like to let my bait, lure, or fly flow with the current, especially at dawn or dusk. I want it to appear as natural as possible while the trout hunt their natural prey the most.

The second-best time to fish for trout in a river is two hours before dark.

fisherman fish for trout in a river

In fact, the worst time is midday. The sun is too bright for trout to hunt effectively and is speculated to hurt their eyes.

If you are fishing midday, I would try looking for shaded spots under trees or docks so that they may still spot your fly. The added bonus will be potential underwater habitat in these areas, so you really can’t lose! Of course, if your day is already overcast, even better.

What’s That in Your Tackle Box?

Have you ever thought about taking water temperature when fishing for trout in a river?

The dawn and dusk rules make sense for trout’s feeding habits, but there is a competing rule of thumb that’s an even bigger deal.

Trout will feed between 34 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit, however, they get very active between 40 and 49 degrees Fahrenheit.

Carrying a fishing thermometer and checking the water every hour is a sure-fire way to know you’re fishing ideal conditions for trout.

Rivers are a great place to fish for trout, because if the conditions aren’t ideal you won’t have to move far to give yourself a boost.

brown trout is caught on a spoon-bait

Hold on, don’t Forget to Set the Date

As important as the time of day can be the time of year is a factor as well.

The best time of year to fish for trout in a river is late spring.

The trout feed heavily during the spring to replenish energy and weight lost in the winter, and on top of that, the water temperature is ideal for prey activity. This activity will last all the way into early summer, giving trout a long season of great fishing.

If you find yourself looking for trout in a river during warmer months, try heading upstream to cooler waters.

A good thing to keep in mind is that if it’s feeling a little warm to you (or cold for that matter) the trout are feeling it too.

In fact, cold blooded creatures are even less able to regulate their body temperatures.

River fishing, in many locations, opens up the winter months for serious anglers. The deeper the water, or the faster flowing, the less likely it is to freeze.

Even better, due to its fast-moving water, a river’s temperature will be higher than its lake counter parts, meaning trout may still be biting.

With less angler pressure winter trout fishing is a consideration for river anglers. Winter may not be the most ideal in a trout’s eyes, but it can be a secret weapon for an angler in a temperate climate.

catch of a rainbow trout with a fly

Night Fishing for Trout

If you’d like to do a night float and bring in trout, I would check my calendar for a full moon.

It’s very difficult for trout to see bait, flies, and lures in the dark, but they will come out and feed when the moon is full or close to it!

You’ll need to keep in mind the water temperature, but on a temperate night the trout will bite.

Why I’m a River Rat

As much as we may intend to fish at the right times or as much as we may want to fish a different season, life will get in the way. Let’s keep it reel, you must fish when you find the time and that’s what’s great about rivers.

River fishing for trout has the opportunity to be so much more flexible than lake fishing. Conditions are easier to amend due to the flowing water and varying depths.

Shallow, faster-moving water will be warmer and upstream can be cooler. Don’t be afraid to change your location to get the perfect conditions for trout feeding.

rainbow trout in fishing net and fly fishing rod

It’s worth mentioning.

Did you know that trout and salmon are very closely related? If I don’t have time to research a new species of fish, sometimes using knowledge I’ve acquired about other fish in the location is an easy way to fill in holes.

This trivia helps me remember that one of the best baits to fish trout on a river is salmon roe. Of course, you can also lure fish or fly fish trout on a river. Isn’t the classic depiction of an angler a fly fisher pulling up a rainbow trout?


The best time to catch trout in a river is whenever you have time to be on a river! If you keep this research in mind before you plan your next fishing trip, I’m sure you’ll be reeling in the monsters.

Of course, a little preparation goes a long way. Get on the road early to hit the river at dawn for the most trout activity, if they’re hunting, you’re reeling!

Additionally, knowing your favorite river’s water temperature throughout the day will give you a big leg up. Don’t forget, different sections of the river produce different conditions and that’s why the river is so great for trout fishing.

I can’t wait to reel in some big trout this spring. Casting for rainbow trout in a clear water river is quintessential fishing in my book.

I’ll be paddling for mine, but I’d love to hear how you’ll be getting on the river this year.

When are your best conditions to catch trout? What type of trout are you going for? If anyone has tried night fishing for trout on a river definitely let me know.

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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