Spring trout fishing can be the best time for the year to catch trout and these are my guide tips and advice.
After a long winter when trout were mostly dormant and hard to catch, spring trout fishing is when the water starts to warm and the aquatic insects start to hatch, and it’s when the hungry trout start to become more active and start feeding. This is a great time to be on the water fishing.
Along with all the great information here about spring trout fishing, I also include my most valuable tip to catching more trout, steelhead, and salmon at any time of the year.
When Does Spring Trout Fishing Begin?
Spring trout fishing begins at different times and it can depend on a few different things..
Spring trout fishing starts in some areas just after the rivers become ice-free and as soon as you can fish the open river. In other areas, spring trout fishing begins when the water temperatures start to rise up into the high 40’s and 50’s which is when trout actively start feeding.
In some areas of the country, spring trout fishing starts when the official trout season begins and that means anglers need to wait until the fishing regulations allow them to start fishing for trout.
Spring Trout Fishing Means Cold Water
Spring trout fishing means cold water and cold water makes the trout dormant and feed less.
Trout fishing in the spring is often best done on warmer sunny days. These are the days when the water will warm up the most and both the trout and the bugs will start to become active. Picking your days wisely in early spring will mean more fish on the line.
The Best Time Of Day To Fish For Spring Trout
Most trout anglers would agree that the best time of the day to fish for trout would be in the early morning hours, but when fishing in the spring the best time of day to fish for spring trout is often later in the morning and in the afternoon.
The reason for this it’s that the water gets very cold overnight and the dropping water temperatures make the trout inactive. As the sun starts to warm the air and the water the trout can start to become more active. Even a temperature rise of 1 or 2 degrees can make trout active at this time of year.
What Do Trout Eat In Early Spring?
Once the trout start to become more active in the spring they will start to feed on anything that they can. The most abundant source of food in the spring is aquatic insects and fish eggs.
The aquatic insects of early spring tend to be small like the midge in the picture but larger flies can work too.
What Do Trout Eat In Late Spring?
As the water starts to warm up the trout will become more active and more aggressive and they may start to target larger faster-moving food sources like minnows, sculpins, and crawfish. Trout will also feed heavily on insects which will be more abundant as the season progresses.
Some river fish species like suckers and rainbow trout will spawn in the spring and the eggs of these fish will be a great food source for trout and that means they will be a great option for bait. Make sure you use the right hook for when using eggs as bait.
Later in the spring, it’s also common to see a lot of worms which are a great food source for trout.
Locating Trout During The Spring
Trout will hold in different sections of the river at different times of the year. Some will even migrate 20 miles or more to more suitable water.
I have seen radio transmitter tracking studies that showed big brown trout would move over 10 miles to winter over in big deep pools and then move back to within 3 feet of where they were living the tear before.
Trout will also move daily and it will depend on water temps and food sources. I have witness hundreds of times very big trout that will move up from deep parts of a big pool where they will rest to the head of a pool that is 1 or 2 feet deep so they can be the first in line to eat.
I’ve also witness fish that will hold in the deeper slower water in the spring when the water is very cold to shallower water when the water warms a few degrees in the middle of the day or a few days later.
Colder inactive spring trout will hold in deeper slower sections of the river and more active fish might move shallower to feed.
My rule of thumb is to fish deeper slower water when the trout are inactive and the try faster shallower water when they are more active.
Tactics For Spring Trout
I use a number of tactics for spring trout fishing and I will often change my tactics depending on the river conditions. It’s often better to use slow-moving tactics when the water is really cold and leave the faster tactics like lure fishing to the warmer days when the trout are most active.
Spring Fly Fishing For Trout
Spring fly fishing for trout is a great way to target trout in colder and warmer water. With fly fishing, you can easily imitate the aquatic insect using a method call nymph fishing.
You can get more information on nymphing for trout on my page Indicator Nymphing: 13 Tips From An Expert River Guide.
When the water is a bit warmer and the trout are more active you can use streamer flies to imitate baitfish.
I tend to use very small flies for spring trout fishing. The best trout flies that I like are:
- Pheasant Tail nymph in size 14, 16 and 18
- Rainbow Warrior in size 14, 16, and 18
- Prince Nymph in size 14, 16 and 18
- Davie’s Polish Pheasant Tail nymph in size 12, 14,16 and 18
- Higa’s SOS fly in size 14m 16 and 18
- Simple Scud like the Diamond Dub Scud in size 16 and 18
- The Frenchie has been one of my most productive flies over the last 5 years. This Hot Spot Pheasant Tail Jig Fly is a good version of the Frenchie that I use.
Check out my page for best Spring Trout Flies
Spin Fishing With Flies
Just because you don’t fly fish you can still use flies. I use flies when float fishing and when bottom bouncing which are two methods I discuss below.
You can also check out my page How To Fish Flies With Spinning Gear: 2 Best Methods
Float Fishing For Spring Trout
Float fishing is a great way of spring trout fishing because you can present your bait to the trout at a slower speed. Float fishing allows you to also keep your bait in the strike zone longer and both of these factors can be great on trout that are still a little inactive.
Float fishing can be the most effective method in river that are 3 feet deep to 10 feet deep and it can be great in both slow and fast water.
Float fishing can be done using a spinning reel or a Centerpin reel and your chances of catching trout greatly depend on how well you do float fishing. There is more to float fishing than just casting a float in the water and watching it go.
To see how to do float fishing better, go to my webpage Float Fishing For Trout – An Expert Guides Best Tips
Bottom Bouncing For Spring Trout
Bottom bouncing for trout is great anytime of the year and it is the best method to use in water under 3 feet deep. The great thin with bottom bouncing for spring trout is that you can use super small flies or larger baits like spawn sacs.
I use and teach an advanced bottom bouncing method that is far better than traditions bottom bouncing. You can see that method and other tips about bottom bouncing on my page Bottom Bouncing – 5 Proven Guide Tips For More Fish
Lure Fishing For Spring Trout
When the water starts to warm up a bit, spring trout fishing with lures can be an excellent option. Even if the water is still very cold some lures will have a great enticing wobble and move slow enough that trout will still grab the lure.
I discuss my favorite trout and steelhead lures and my tactics for lure fishing for trout on my page Lure Fishing For Trout: Tactics From A Pro River Guide.
Also check out my page Best Trout Lures For Spring
Best Bait For Spring Trout
The best bait for spring trout fishing will depend on the conditions. In the early spring cold water, I like to use small flies and small egg imitations as well as small pink plastic worms. As the water warms, these same baits will work but I will also try lures, leeches, jigs, minnows, and worms.
Other favorite spring trout baits include:
- Berkley plastic worms in pink, red, and natural brown – buy at FishUSA.com or at BassPro Shops – HERE or at Amazon
- TroutBeads which you can see or purchase at Bass Pro Shops – HERE or at FishUSA – HERE or at Amazon
- Berkley Gulp! Maggots – These have worked well when trout are nervous. – You can check these out at Bass Pro Shops here
- Berkley Gulp! Earthworms – The Red Wiggler – You can check these out at Bass Pro Shops- HERE
- Berkley PowerBait Power Wigglers – You can check these out at Bass Pro Shops- HERE
For more on my favorite trout baits check out my page Best Trout Bait – The Only 5 Baits You Will Ever Need
My Most Valuable Tip For More Trout
I promised you I would include my most valuable tip for catching more trout, steelhead, and salmon so here it is. It’s not uncommon for anglers to read something on the internet or get advice from another angler or even a guide and run out and do it.
The problem is that I believe fishing is a process and every part of the process has to be done correctly or the advice you get could be useless.
As an example, if a top guide like me says, When the water is cold I catch all my fish on dime sized spawn bags fished slowly under a float in the deepest or slowest parts of the pool.
That’s is great advice, and it’s very accurate because I do catch a lot of trout on small spawn bags in cold water, but it only goes so far and could be literally useless information for you even if every fish in the pool will eat a dime sized spawn bag.
You could take that info and go put on a perfectly tied spawn bag on the wrong hook and that could mean nothing will eat your spawn bag, or you could have a perfect spawn bag and a perfect hook but your leader is so thick that it spooks every fish. Maybe you have the perfect hook, the perfect leader, and great spawn but if you fish it poorly you still won’t catch fish.
The fishing process that I talk about is about getting every single piece of the process perfect otherwise, if even one piece of the process is wrong it could mean no fish. I have seen this happen hundreds of times and I discuss this on my page How To Catch More Trout And Steelhead Guaranteed