Most anglers who enjoy fly fishing go trout fishing more than anything else as it is far more accessible than say, finding a flat full of bonefish. But catching trout isn’t so easy as these fish are quite finicky when it comes to what they will eat and when.
One way to increase your trout fishing success is by going fishing for trout at the best time of day, but when is this? Join me as we dive into the best time to fish for trout in rivers, lakes, and during different times of the year.
The Best Time To Fish For Trout is…
The best time to fish for trout is in the early mornings around dawn or the late afternoon and into dusk, which is true, but not all the time.
The best trout fishing times can be found when the fish actively feeding the most, and this changes throughout the year. So what causes trout to feed more during one part of the day than another?
The key considerations an avid angler needs to think about when choosing what time to fly fish for trout are:
- Water Temperature & Air Temperature
- Time Of Year
- Trout Species
- Water Type
Temperatures, Seasons, & Hatches
Trout fishing is always at its best when the trout’s body temperatures are at their perfect range. A trout’s favorite water temperatures range from 34 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit and they will be actively feeding the most between water temperatures of 40 and 5o degrees Fahrenheit.
When the water temperature hits colder temperatures, these cold-blooded fish slow down, and the trout feed a lot less making it hard to catch trout.
When the water temperature gets too hot, the trout will move to deeper water to find cooler waters to hang out in, making catching trout a little difficult. And, of course, air temperature affects water temperatures, and in doing so the hatches of the insect’s trout feed on.
So how do air and water temperatures affect the best time to fish for trout throughout the year?
Winter Trout Fishing
Winter fishing involves fly fishing for trout in cold water, and sometimes even ice fishing for trout with ice fishing rods. Knowing what we mentioned earlier about temperatures, what time of day do you think will have the best fishing for trout?
You go it, it is during the middle of the day from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. This is the warmest part of the day when the fish will have the most energy and will be feeding harder than any other time.
This is also the time of day when the insects will be hatching, now, not much hatches in winter except midges in tailwaters, but when they do, you have exceptionally good fishing.
When winter fishing for trout, you are best off targeting deep water as this is the warmest part where the trout will be hanging out.
Spring Trout Fishing
In early spring, the water temperatures haven’t quite heated up yet and therefore your best bet for good trout fishing is between mid-morning and mid to late afternoon.
In late spring, the temperatures would have increased a bit and therefore the trout fishing will be best in the early morning and late afternoon. This is because the hatches will start happening in line with the right temperatures.
Light also plays a factor here and through the fall and summer sections below, but we will discuss this in its own section later on.
Spring is one of the best times of year to catch trout as the fish are as hungry as they get having had a slow winter and wanting to fill up once everything starts hatching.
Summer Trout Fishing
The best time to catch trout when summer trout fishing is from dawn into the early morning and in the later afternoon and into dusk, and beyond.
In the summer, the trout bite hardest in the early morning as this is when the water is at its optimum temperature and a lot of food is hatching too. Also, the fish haven’t had a solid feed since the evening before, and thus are quite hungry.
The late afternoon hours into dusk can also be an amazing time to target trout as this is when large hatches occur and trout gorge themselves hard before darkness.
When trout fishing in the summer and the water gets too hot, look for cooler water which includes deep water and faster flowing water too.
Fall Trout Fishing
In early fall, the trout fishing is best in the early morning and late afternoon as the water hasn’t cooled down very much as of yet.
When late fall begins, so does the spawning season and the temperatures drop a bit too. This is when the fish start to gorge themselves on bait fish that have hatched as fry.
Since the temperatures will have dropped, the best time to catch trout changes to mid to late morning and early to mid-afternoon as this is when the fish will be most active and so will the fly life.
How Does Light Affect Trout Fishing?
All species of trout don’t have eyelids and trout can’t dilate their pupils either which makes them quite a light-sensitive fish species.
This means that trout will do their best to avoid bright lights and this means that fishing in direct sunlight is not your best bet when trying to catch trout. This is why during late spring, summer, and early fall, your best trout fishing experience will be when the sun is low in the sky, early morning, and late evenings.
That being said, a bout of rainy weather in the middle of the day during summer can cause the fish to start feeding quite hard.
The sudden drop in temperature can cause a hatch to come about and the light conditions become favorable for the fish to spot and eat flies off the surface, and they will take advantage of these types of opportunities.
Nighttime Fishing For Trout
You would have heard of other anglers targetting trout at night and you have probably heard that night fishing for trout results in bigger fish, which is true.
Once larger fish have grown to a specific size, their diet changes and so does their behavior. These big trout are all about a high protein diet and efficiency and will therefore eat small fish, and mice, to their heart’s content and do so from dusk until dawn more than any other time of day.
If you want to target large trout at night and hopefully make a big catch you should take into account the moon phases.
Bright moonlight will help trout see the silhouettes of their prey from below and therefore when fly fishing with a baitfish pattern or a mouse pattern, some moonlight is essential for your success.
Fishing on a dark night won’t allow the fish to notice too much movement and therefore the chances of them seeing your fly are much lower and it will make their movements slow to attack.
Different Trout Species
Most species of trout act in the same feeding patterns as the next and this is especially the case for both rainbow trout and brown trout, the one difference being rainbow trout are generally more aggressive feeders.
If you want to catch lake trout, brook trout, cutthroat trout, etc, you can follow the same guidelines we have just outlined above about when to fish for them.
Different Water Types
When trout fishing you will be casting your line on either a river, lake, or pond. Now, your approach to what time of day will be best does need to be tweaked depending on what body of water type you are fishing on.
Lake Trout Fishing
When lake trout fishing you are fishing on large to huge bodies of water that are usually quite deep, much deeper than a river would be in any case.
Deeper water gives rise to varying water temperatures across different depths and varying light abundance at different depths too. This begs the question as to whether there is ever a bad time to fish for trout on a lake, as is it more about depth than anything else?
I would say that the best time to catch trout on a lake near the surface during the warmer months is still going to be dawn to mid-morning and late afternoon through to dusk.
But during the middle of the day, you just need to slip on your sinking line and workout what depth they have moved to and started feeding at. This is especially true if it is bright and sunny, as they will drop down to their preferred light conditions.
In winter, the trout will sit deep in the warmer water temperature and this is also where their food is.
When fishing a lake for trout, having a boat with a depth sounder is extremely useful as with this you can pinpoint the exact depth they are holding at and start fishing there.
When fishing for pond trout, you want to take notice of temperature and light. Ponds are not nearly as deep or large as lakes and thus the fish have to deal with bright light and changing temperatures.
The best times to fish on a pond for trout during the warmer months will always be in the early morning and late evening as the temperature and light conditions are perfect.
That being said, if it is a dark cloudy day, you could have great fishing all day long, regardless of the time, but if the water heats up and the sun comes out, the trout will sink deep into the pond and begin feeding off the bottom.
Rivers & Streams
Rivers and streams always have much cooler water than lakes and ponds since they are much shallower and always moving. This means the trout are affected more by temperature and light in rivers and streams than in any other water body.
This means you will need to pay the most attention to light and temperature when trout fishing in rivers and streams.
In the warmer months, dawn to early morning is best along with late afternoon to dusk, as this is when the low light conditions and ideal temperatures combine to create a feeding frenzy.
Trout will also feed off the bottom, sipping nymphs out of the current throughout the day but they won’t feed as hard as they will during the morning and evenings.
When seasonal temperatures cool down, trout will be more active in the warmer parts of the day as this is when the insects will hatch most and the fish will be most actively feeding.
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, but this all needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.
Midday can be the best time in winter as it is when everything warms up and flies start hatching, and the dead of the night can be great too so long as there is some moonlight and enough food around.
But, generally speaking, outside of winter, you should be having lunch and a siesta over midday and waiting for the late afternoon bite to start.
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, as a lot of anglers won’t make the hike in.
Thanks very much for reading my article. I hope you enjoyed it and now know everything you need to about what time of day is best to fish for trout.
The old myth of dawn and dusk does still ring true at the correct times of year but not always, remember to always take into account temperature and light intensity and you will be just fine.