Fly Fishing for Trout 101 – Complete Guide & Proven Techniques to Catch Trout

Fly Fishing for Trout can be very challenging if you are a beginner and not experienced in catching Trout, it will get easier over time, as you learn more about Trout, and fly fishing.

The most common species of Trout are Brook Trout, Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, Cutthroat Trout, Golden Trout, and giant Lake Trout.

To catch trout you need to understand trout, you should know their comfort zone, their food, and places where they hide. You will also learn about the best flies to use for trout, and other tips important for successful fly fishing for trout.

Let’s get better at trout fly fishing, and amaze your friends with your expertise that you will learn in this article. Read the whole article, so you don’t miss anything about trout or fly fishing.

Table of Contents

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First of all let’s understand trout, as I mentioned before to catch a trout you will need to understand trout.

What they eat, where trout hide for protection, and where trout feel most comfortable.

fly fisherman taking a big brown trout

Understand Trout

Understanding trout before going fly fishing is very important. If you understand a fish, then you will not have to rely greatly on luck. I will say make your own luck or understand how to make your luck.

Understanding trout is very important, it will be helpful for you in many ways, it will help you chose a fly effectively.

It will help you to understand when to go fly fishing, and when not to go. It will make it easier to catch trout because you will know where the trout is, and where they are not.

You will know the places to look for a trout. Now you know what you can achieve by understanding trout, now let’s read briefly about trout.

There are three things a trout seek in the water are:

  • Comfort
  • Protection
  • Food


  • Deep Water
  • Logs Or Surface Debris
  • Overhanging Branches

You should know about places, where the trout feels protected, those will be the places where you can find them.

If you know the places where trout feel protected then you just have to find those places. There you can fly fish for trout, and the chances of catching a trout are very high in those places. So make sure you are aware of the protection spots.

Deep Water

Deep water provides them protection from dangers and keeps them out of harm’s way. They rely on their speed to keep them protected from any immediate danger.

They can swim 25 miles an hour and they will be gone in seconds before you even notice them.

Logs or Surface Debris

Logs and surface debris are a form of protection for trout, either laying up against the shoreline or floating on a lake.

These are a form of protection for trout. If you see a large boulder, then there is a high chance that lot fish are there behind this boulder trying to protect themselves.

Sunken logs also work very well. these are the high potential places to catch trout.

Overhanging Branches

Hanging branches on the lake or river can also provide a great cover for trout. Well if you see overhanging branches of the tree you know where to look for trout.

fly fishing rod and trout


  • Temperature
  • Location of Oxygen
  • Don’t Try to Catch Trout When

After making sure of their protection, trout like to stay in their comfort zone, and you should be aware of their comfort zone if you want to be the guy who catches trout.

Temperature and oxygen will be at the same place for trout.


Trout like to stay in the temperature between cold and warm, in the fall and summer the warmest area of the lake is the top and the coldest area of the lake is the bottom.

The trout like to stay in the middle where the water isn’t too hot or too cold. If you are aware of the comfort spots of trout then it increases the chances of catching trout.

Location of Oxygen

When the cold water above and hot water in the bottom creates a warm place for trout in the middle. It is also the area with the most oxygen in the lake, creating the best atmosphere for trout to stay.

Trout will always adjust themselves to the location of warm water and oxygen.

Don’t Try to Catch Trout When

When the lake reaches 34.2 degrees, unusual things start happening the warm water at the bottom starts going to the top and cold water at the top starts going to the bottom, means a turnover happening in the lake, the turnover process usually takes 24 hours to complete.

When this process is happening, if turnover is happening, it limits the visibility inside the lake. If turnover is happening, then just go home and come back the other day.

Because when a turnover is happening everything in the lack is mixed, cold water and hot water is mixed, oxygen location is kind of unknown. Trout will be at different unknown places, the best thing to do in this situation is to go home.

fly fisherman wearing wading boots and jacket fishing trouts in river


Large trout prefer the size of prey based on their availability in the lake. If there are a great number of insects, and easy to capture, then, trout will go for these easy to capture insects.

Trout eat food based on availability. If you are aware of the foods a trout eats then it will help you chose the right fly to help you catch a trout. It will greatly affect your skills and will help you catch more fish.

If you know about the food of trout then you can easily choose a fly that will be effective for you to catch trout.

Trout Menu

This is the order of insects trout prefer and this is the basic order year around.

  • Chironomids
  • Scuds
  • Damsel
  • Dragon
  • Leech
  • Mayflies
  • Caddis
  • Zooplankton
  • Farage Fish
  • Terrestrials

rainbow trout caught by a fly fisherman in autumn river

Type of Trout in a Lake

Each trout feeds in a particular way. We will take a look at their habits.

  • Brook Trout
  • Brown Trout
  • Rainbow Trout

Brook Trout

Brook trout prefer deep water they stay in water 20 feet deep to hold in, this is the place where Brook Trout stays and from there, they move to catch insects.

They listen to the sound of their prey moving, then they move toward the sound and get into a position to see the prey.

When they see their prey, they move closer to smell their prey, before eating them.

If the prey is moving fast, then they will move quickly to catch the prey.

Brown Trout

Brown Trout aren’t daylight feeders they sleep during the day, they prefer to eat early morning, late afternoon, or early evening, to catch their prey.

They are very particular about how they eat their food underwater. In order to detect food, they use their ears and lateral lines, just like Brook, they move toward their prey to see it, so they can use their sight to see them.

When they are two feet away from the prey, they use smell and touch to identify prey. They can actually move up to match the speed of your fly.

Then they look at your fly, if the fly looks okay then they will take your fly, and all of this happens while you are using a fly and probably you won’t even know that they are investigating your fly to this degree.

They will reject your fly if they sense anything incorrect about it, so use flies suitable for Brown Trout.

Rainbow Trout

Rainbow Trout rely mainly on their sight, they are daylight feeders, their sight is their main method of identifying their food. If water is not very clear, then they will rely on their movement, or smell, to hunt the prey.

Rainbow trout use their sight to identify prey then they reach out to their prey and eat it. If for some reason the water isn’t clear then the rainbow trout will try to sense the movements of the prey.

Rainbow trout in fly fishing landing net

Some Same Attributes

When trout are over 14 inches, they become a predator, they seek large live food, by feeding on large hatches, where prey is easy to capture. Their body is designed for hunting food underwater, and ninety percent of what they eat lives there.

  • IQ 6 – It means if they are six inches or 16 inches they still have the same IQ.
  • Memory of Pain 48 Hour – Means if you hook them and they get off the hook then they won’t bite any flies similar to the one that gave them the pain.
  • Vision.
  • Ears.
  • Lateral Lines.
  • Taste/Smell.

If you are aware of the comfort zone of trout fish, then you are most likely to catch trout. Usually, they are in the middle, where the water isn’t very cold or hot and the oxygen is also suitable, for them.

This basic knowledge will tremendously help you catch trout. I have seen some people, who did not have the basic knowledge of trout.

So they completely miss the best spots to catch trout because they weren’t aware of the trout’s behavior, comfort zone, and things they use for protection. By knowing this knowledge will help you a lot to catch trout.

A structure that holds trout could be small in size, or it could be a large rock. The large boulders are the extremely high potential places to look for trout, they hold a lot of trout and are the best places to look.

The branches overhanging on the lake or stream also provides a sense of protection to the trout, overhanging branches are also high potential spots for trout.

Rigging Options

  • Streamer Searching Method
  • Nymphing Rig
  • Dry Fly Set-up

Streamer Searching Method

Start out using a steamer, in the searching method, this set up is using a floating line attached to a sinking leader to a short monofilament leader, with a streamer.

Streamer Searching Method

Nymphing Rig

The second setup is nymph setup, using a strike indicator, with a nine-foot leader tapered to a 4x tippet with split shot 14 to 16 inches from the fly.

Nymphing Rig

Dry Fly Setup

On the third is a dry fly setup using a floating line with a tapered leader to 4x tippet and fly of choice.

Dry Fly Set-up

Finding Productive Water

As I mentioned before about the high potential places for trout but if you don’t see boulders, rock, and branches of trees hanging into the water.

Then the best thing to do is to cover every inch of water and keep looking for trout.

Start in close because there probably fish-holding within 13 to 14 feet and cover the area go across, then come back go left or right and repeat the process.

What Fly to Use?

This isn’t difficult at all to determine which fly to use on a particular day, all you have to do is to observe insects in the surroundings, just observe what kind of insects are caught in spider webs or trees.

It is okay if you don’t know the names of insects, just knowing it is mayflies or Caddisflies, will be enough.

You know which fly will be effective so chose a fly according to guide, here are some flies best to catch trout fish.

But before choosing a fly don’t forget to take a look around and find the best fly matching to the insects around the lake.

Check out the best flies for summer trout and the best winter trout flies.

catch of a rainbow trout with a fly

Best Flies for Brook Trout

Dry Flies:

  • Beetles – Size 12 to 18
  • Spiders – 12 to 20
  • Ants – 12 to 20
  • Hopper – 6 to 16


  • Pheasant Tail Nymph – 12 to 20
  • Gold-Ribbed Hares Ear Nymph – 12 to 20
  • Prince Nymph – 10 to 18
  • Kaufmann’s Stone Fly Nymph – 8 to 14

Streamer and Wet Flies:

  • Wooly Bugger – 8 to 14
  • Zonker Streamer – 8 to 14
  • Clouser Minnow – 8 to 14
  • Classic Winged Wet Flies – 8 to 16

Best Flies for Brown Trout

  • Copper John – 14
  • Hex Nymph – 8
  • Bead Head Hares Ear Nymph – 14
  • San Juan Worm – 14 and 16
  • Rabbit Strip Streamer – 8
  • Skunk with rubber legs – 10
  • Pheasant Tail Nymph – 12
  • Woolly Bugger – Olive, Black, White and Blue – 8
  • Crayfish – 8 and 10
  • Green Caddis – 14
  • Egg
  • Black Midge – 20
  • Black Stonefly – 10

Best Flies for Rainbow Trout


  • Wooly Buggers
  • Muddlers and Sedgehogs
  • Biot Fry
  • Cormorants
  • Viva variants
  • Epoxy Minnows
  • Marsdens Mohicans
  • Cats Whiskers variants
  • Blob Flies
  • Egg Flies

Dry Flies:

  • Olives
  • Sedges
  • Midges
  • Emergers
  • Daddies

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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