As devoted fly fishers, we often find ourselves knee-deep in rivers, casting our lines out for the ever-popular trout. But the elusive trout are famously finicky diners, making catching them a sport of precision and perfect timing. So, when is the best time to fish for trout? Let’s cast our nets wide and reel in some answers.
The Best Time To Fish For Trout is…
We’ve all heard that the early bird catches the worm, or in this case, the trout. The commonly accepted wisdom is that trout are most active and hence more likely to bite in the early mornings or late afternoons. While this holds some truth, it’s not always the case.
Trout, like any creature, have their feeding patterns which change throughout the year. The best trout fishing times are when the fish are feeding the most. So, what influences these feeding times? A few key factors come into play:
- Light Levels
- Water Temperature & Air Temperature
- Insect Hatchings
- Time Of Year
- Trout Species
- Type of Water Body
Let’s dive deeper and unravel this complex tapestry.
Temperatures, Seasons, & Hatches
Trout are most active when their body temperatures are just right. For our finned friends, the sweet spot ranges from 34 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit, with peak feeding times at water temperatures of 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit.
But what happens when the mercury dips or spikes? Well, trout are cold-blooded, meaning their body temperature matches their environment. When it’s cold, they slow down, feeding less, and making them harder to catch. Conversely, when it’s too hot, they migrate to deeper waters in search of a cooler refuge.
Additionally, air temperature influences water temperature, affecting insect hatches – the trout’s primary food source.
So, how does this interplay of air and water temperature determine the best times to fish for trout throughout the year?
Winter Trout Fishing
Winter fly fishing involves braving cold waters, and sometimes even ice fishing. Given what we know about trout and temperatures, the best fishing times in winter would be during the warmest parts of the day, from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. This is when the fish will have the most energy and feed more actively.
Interestingly, this is also when insects are most likely to hatch. Although winter doesn’t see many hatches except for midges in tailwaters, when they do occur, it’s an angler’s dream come true. During winter, it’s best to target deep waters, where the warmth-loving trout tend to congregate.
Spring Trout Fishing
Early spring, with its lingering chill, means that the best times for trout fishing are between mid-morning and mid to late afternoon. However, as we move into late spring, temperatures rise, shifting the prime fishing times to early morning and late afternoon. This corresponds with insect hatches and the trout’s feeding patterns.
Light also plays a crucial role here, but we’ll shine more light on that later. It’s worth noting that spring is one of the best times of year to catch trout. After a slow winter, the trout are ravenous, eagerly seizing the opportunity to feast on the newly-hatching insects.
Summer Trout Fishing
In summer, the early bird truly does catch the trout. The best times to fish are from dawn into the early morning and in the later afternoon, extending into dusk. Trout bite hardest in the early morning when the water temperature is optimal, and food is plentiful. They also haven’t fed since the previous evening, making them eager to bite.
The late afternoon into dusk can also be an exciting time to fish for trout due to large insect hatches. The trout gorge themselves before nightfall, providing an excellent opportunity for anglers. If the water gets too hot during the day, look for cooler, deeper, or faster-flowing water.
Fall Trout Fishing
In early fall, the best times to fish for trout are early morning and late afternoon, as the water hasn’t cooled down significantly yet. However, as late fall sets in, spawning season begins, and temperatures drop. This triggers a feeding frenzy among trout, who gorge themselves on baitfish that have hatched as fry.
As temperatures drop, the best time to catch trout shifts to mid to late morning and early to mid-afternoon. This is when the fish are most active, and insect life is most abundant.
How Does Light Affect Trout Fishing?
Trout don’t have eyelids, and they can’t dilate their pupils, making them sensitive to light. They tend to avoid bright lights, which means that fishing in direct sunlight might not be the best strategy. This is why, during late spring, summer, and early fall, your best fishing times will be when the sun is low in the sky, early morning, and late evenings.
However, a cloudy or rainy day can trigger a feeding frenzy among trout. The sudden drop in temperature can instigate an insect hatch, and the favorable light conditions make it easier for trout to spot and eat flies off the surface.
Nighttime Fishing For Trout
Ever wondered why some anglers swear by night fishing? It’s because it often results in bigger catches. Once trout grow to a particular size, their dietary patterns and behaviors change. These larger trout prefer a high-protein diet and are more efficient feeders, often feeding on small fish and mice from dusk until dawn.
If you’re looking to hook a big one at night, consider the moon phases. Bright moonlight helps trout see the silhouettes of their prey from below. When fly fishing with a baitfish or mouse pattern, some moonlight is essential for success. Dark nights make it difficult for trout to notice movement, reducing the chances of them spotting your fly.
Different Trout Species
Most trout species share similar feeding patterns, especially rainbow trout and brown trout, although rainbow trout are generally more aggressive feeders. If you’re aiming to catch lake trout, brook trout, cutthroat trout, etc., you can apply the same guidelines we’ve just outlined above.
Different Water Types
Whether you’re fishing on a river, lake, or pond, the best times of day will need slight adjustments depending on the water body.
Lake Trout Fishing
Lake fishing involves large, and often quite deep, bodies of water. These varied depths create different water temperatures and light conditions. This begs the question – is there ever a bad time to fish for trout on a lake?
For surface fishing in warmer months, dawn to mid-morning and late afternoon through to dusk are still the best times. However, during midday, you might have to adjust your strategy. If it’s bright and sunny, the trout might have moved to deeper waters with preferred light conditions. In winter, trout will sit deep in the warmer water, where their food is.
When fishing a lake for trout, having a boat with a depth sounder is incredibly helpful. This tool can help identify the exact depth where trout are, increasing your chances of a successful catch.
Ponds are not nearly as deep or large as lakes, and thus, trout in ponds have to contend with bright light and changing temperatures. During the warmer months, the best times to fish on a pond for trout are in the early morning and late evening. However, on a dark, cloudy day, you could have great fishing all day long. If the water heats up and the sun comes out, the trout will sink deep into the pond and start feeding off the bottom.
Rivers & Streams
Rivers and streams are much cooler than lakes and ponds since they are shallower and always moving. This means trout are more affected by temperature and light in these water bodies. You’ll need to pay close attention to light and temperature when trout fishing in rivers and streams.
In warmer months, dawn to early morning and late afternoon to dusk are the best times, as low light conditions and ideal temperatures trigger a feeding frenzy. Trout will also feed off the bottom, sipping nymphs out of the current throughout the day, though not as actively as they do in the morning and evenings.
As seasonal temperatures cool down, trout will be more active during the warmer parts of the day, when insects hatch most, and the fish are actively feeding.
What month is best for trout fishing?
The best time to go trout fishing depends on the type of trout and the region. In general, the best months for trout fishing in North America are April, May, June, September, and October.
What is the best time of day to fish for trout?
The best time of day to fish for trout is typically early morning or late evening when the sun is low in the sky. This is because trout tend to feed more actively during these times. Light levels and water temperatures can also influence when trout are most active.
What time of year is best for rainbow trout?
The best time to fish for rainbow trout depends on the region, but in general, the best months to fish for rainbow trout are April, May, and June. These months tend to have warmer water temperatures and more active fish.
What weather is best for catching trout?
The best weather for trout fishing is typically overcast or cloudy days with light winds. These conditions help to keep the water cool and provide cover from the sun, which can be beneficial for trout. Rain can also be beneficial in some areas as it can bring in fresh food sources for the trout.
When Is The Worst Time To Catch Trout?
Generally, the worst time to be fishing for trout is around midday and in the middle of the night. However, keep in mind that there are exceptions to every rule. Midday can be the best time in winter, and nighttime fishing can be fruitful when there’s sufficient moonlight and food availability.
Should I Fish Away From Other Anglers?
Yes, finding water that hasn’t been fished or disturbed is key to your success when trout fishing. Try to be there before other anglers or choose fishing spots that are hard to get to. Many anglers won’t make the effort to hike to remote spots, leaving them free for you to enjoy.
Thanks for joining me on this journey into the best times to fish for trout. I hope you’ve found it enlightening and that it will help you plan your future fishing trips. Remember, the old adage of dawn and dusk rings true at the correct times of year. Just always keep in mind the temperature and light intensity, and you’ll be just fine.