Early or Late? Catching Trout at the Optimal Time of Day!


In fly fishing, timing is everything, and I’m not just talking about casting.

When you fish can have nearly as bigger an effect as to how you fish. Your success depends on it.

Today, I’m going to show you the best time to fish for trout.

I’ll talk through the best times during different seasons and give you some general guidelines that will leave you in a great place to plan your next trip.

Let’s set our watches and get down to the bank!

Disclosure: At BonfireBob, we recommend products based on unbiased research, however, BonfireBob.com is reader-supported and as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases if you shop through the links on this page. For more information, see disclosure here.

What is the Best Time of Day to Catch Trout?

Want to guarantee you are fly fishing for trout at the correct time of day? Here is the short answer.

Go from sunrise up to the first two hours, and you’ll have great conditions. The last two hours before dark is the real golden time, when you’ll see the highest fish activity.

I’ve got two words for you that will leave you in no doubt as to the best time of day to catch trout, regardless of the season.

Low, light.

There is only one thing that will kill your session stone dead. Full on, bright sunshine.

If you can think of a time of day, regardless of weather, that the light is a little darker than usual, you should have more success.

Why? Well, here are the reasons:

man fly fishing for trout on river in autumn

Water Temperature

Fishing first thing in the morning or late in the evening both offer you a distinct advantage, especially during the summer.

The answer?

Reduced water temperatures. In the height of summer, when the water is warm, the fish (being cold-blooded) can’t regulate their temperature and get tired quickly. This means that they tend to hunker down in the depths where it is cooler, saving their energy.

When the water temperature drops, they become more enlivened. As a result, they are more likely to be actively looking for food. If you time it right, your fly will be there ready and waiting.

Reduced Visibility

Trout are primarily sight-based predators. And they have had a long time to evolve into an efficient hunting machine.

Their eyesight is better than many of the species they call ‘food’. As a result, they find it easier to hunt when they can see, but their prey can’t. The prime time when this happens is at dawn and dusk.

Still Air

When the earth heats through the day, this creates pressure changes.

This means one thing.

Wind.

Ever notice how it is never as windy in the morning and in the evening? Because there is less wind, there is less disturbance on the water. This makes it much easier for trout to see and identify targets resting in the upper film of the water.

fly fisherman taking a big brown trout

Hatching Time

Head down to any pond, lake, or river at sunrise or sunset.

Do you notice anything?

Bugs, lots of bugs.

Just like the trout, most species, including the things that fish eat, tend to hatch as the water reaches an optimum temperature. More often than not, this happens just as the sun comes up and when it is setting.

The Perfect Light

Let’s do a little experiment. Hold something up to the brightest bulb in your room and see if you can see it clearly.

You are squinting, right?

Now try it with a pair of sunglasses.

Which gave you a clearer picture? The latter!

This is exactly what trout experience, except they don’t have eyelids to squint or sunglasses. Lower, softer light makes their targets much easier to see in silhouette.

brown trout in fly fishing net

Is it Better to Fish in the Morning or Evening?

The real answer?

Yes!

As to which out of the two is better? I’d nearly always say that the evening is by far the better time to fish for trout. Overnight nothing much happens. The water effectively enters ‘pause’ mode. What happens during the day, however, will affect the fishing in the evening.

If it has been bright and sunny, the water will cool quickly, giving you an optimal window in which to fish.

If the water has been cool all day, the time when it is warmest is in the evening. Again, this gives you a good window to catch any fish that have become active in the last few hours.

But that said…

Don’t discount the morning. The early bird catches the trout, and the early trout catches the worm.

Trout tend to ‘get going’ a little quicker than their prey. As a result, they can be particularly active in the morning as they take advantage of everything else that is only just waking up.

man fly fishing for trout and salmon in autumn river

Catching Trout – The Best Time in Summer, Spring, Fall, and Winter

It wouldn’t be true if I said that you can always catch trout at the same time of day all year round.

The seasons change, the sun rises and sets at different times, and this has a direct bearing on the best times to fish.

Check out my quick reference table below to find the best times to catch a trout depending on the season:

Season The Best Time for Trout Fishing
Spring Dawn until an hour before noon. The last 3 hours before sunset.
Summer Dawn and two hours past sunrise. Two hours before and an hour beyond sunset.
Fall Early Dawn into the late morning. Three hours before sunset.
Winter Two hours either side of noon.

Why the differences?

You are trying to find the optimum between the longest amount of available light while also balancing water temperature.

Take, for instance, fall. That water has had all summer to reach a certain temperature. As a result, it will heat fairly quickly. It will be at the best temperature following the night.

In winter, the water stays cold for most of the day. The time when it might just reach the correct temperature is when the sun is at its highest… So, noon and around this time.

Can I Catch Trout in the Middle of the Day?

Yes, you can catch trout in the middle of the day.

But…

The conditions have to be right.

What do I mean?

Well, if it is a clear, ‘blue sky’ day… You are better sticking to the times mentioned above. However, if there is decent cloud cover, then you will find that you can catch trout throughout the entire day.

The best time to fish for trout in a river can be in the middle of the day. Because the water is flowing, it doesn’t tend to be as variable in temperature.

Most rivers also have features that allow trout to shelter from the intensity of the midday sun, so be sure to cast under overhanging branches and bushes and fish around rocks as these areas will hold fish!

fly fisherman in river catching brown trout

Can you Catch Trout in the Middle of the Night?

Again, yes, you can!

Fishing at night can be the best time to fish for trout in a lake. You might need a little moonlight to do it. Still, the calmer conditions, paired with some of the best rainbow trout flies, make for an ideal combination to snag yourself a nice rainbow!

Rivers aren’t the best places to fish for trout at night for several reasons.

First, they tend to have quite a dense cover, meaning snags and tangles are more likely.

Second, it relies upon you to wade, which isn’t safe in the dark.

Finally, fish tend to struggle to see flies on rivers at night due to the current, splashing, and babbling.

When is the Best Time of Year to Fish for Trout?

Without a doubt, if you stacked all of the season’s side by side, the summer is the best time to fly fish for trout, swiftly followed by fall.

That’s right, 6 whole months of great trout fishing!

In summer, there is plenty of life around on the water, and the trout are active as a result.

Want to know what they go for? Why not check out my article on the best trout flies for summer?

Fall can be a little quieter, but you’ve got the option of catching trout that have had all summer to fill their bellies and get nice and big, so if you are after a trophy fish, fall could be the time to do it.

That’s not to say that winter can’t be good too. If you get the right winter fly, you might just be able to tempt a trout that has awoken from its midday slumber and is looking for a quick meal to keep it warm.

Conclusion

The truth is that you can catch trout at any time of year and any time of day. While lower light conditions are traditionally the best time to fish for trout, if you’ve got a line on the water, there is always a chance (and an exception to the rule).

Suppose you want to get a head start. In that case, you really need to check my trout fly fishing guide, which tells you everything about a trout’s behavior and feeding patterns.

What time do you find it best to go fishing? Let me know in the comments below.

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.

Recent Content