4 Awesome Ways To Catch Trout In Rivers

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4 Awesome Ways To Catch Trout In Rivers

Trout can be found everywhere from the high-mountain rivers and lakes to the coastal tributaries. This wide range of habitats allows for a similarly wide range of lures and bait presentations. My favorite place to fish for trout is on the river – waters that flow at a medium pace, allowing a slow bobber drift or a flashy spinner. There is something satisfying in this environment – something more connected to nature – as you are typically deep in the wild. But understanding how to best fish this environment is key, and knowing the right tackle and tactics, will increase your hook-up percentages.

Trout Fishing: Finding The Right Waters

Trout River Fishing
Jason Kaefer

Knowing the river is crucial. Trout will seek water that moves fast enough to carry food to them and slow enough to hold their position without tiring.

Simple, right?

Look for fast-moving water with ripples that feed into deep, slow-moving pools. The transition from fast to slow is a sweet spot where trout will feed.

Other hot spots are submerged boulders where trout will seek shelter from the current. If your river has fallen trees and brush piles, even better! These are all prime habitats for trout as they provide ambush points. Once you’ve located a good-looking structure and water, your next task is to employ the correct lure and bait presentation.

Bobber Down

Hawken Aero Float Bobber
Jason Kaefer

Fishing with a bobber has many applications including soft plastic worms, organic and artificial trout and salmon eggs and row bags, wet flies, and live nightcrawlers.

As a result, many fisheries are pressured by the aggressive use of these baits. Check your local guides and tackle shops for advice on what to use. However, salmon eggs and worms are effective year-round. Floating a live nightcrawler presents the trout with a natural forage. Whether drifted or anchored will depend on your preference, and also where the trout are in the water column. However, a bobber set-up is a crucial piece of trout fishing gear. In a medium current with good cover, I use a bobber and a small worm with a split shot fixed half way between my main-line and hook.

Trout Fishing: How To Fish Worms

Mad River Worm Jig
Jason Kaefer

When trout fishing, I prefer smaller worms (like mealworms). They are easier to hook and present a more manageable food source to a wider range of fish. Mealworms also resemble other larvae that may have been swept off from the shallow rocks. At certain points in the year, these little critters are all the trout will key in on, especially in the dog days of summer.

When selecting a bobber, anything from an inline setup to a slip bobber works well, and it’s the best way to fish worms.

So how do you know what bobber to use?

There are countless products available – each of them having its own attributes. I purchase according to size and weight. The size of your bobber will depend on the amount of weight you use, so consider the water condition and depth you plan to fish, as well as the amount of split shot you’ll use. Bobbers will have a weight rating indicated either on the packaging or the bobber itself.

I like to go with a No. 6-10 bait holder hook and slide the shank down the center of the worm and poke the barb out at the midline, keeping the body straight. This gives a natural presentation as your worm drifts downstream. Begin by fishing the seams closest to you. Then, work your way to the seams furthest from you. Pay attention to rocks and boulders. This is where trout will hide. Try drifting your bobber as close to the structure as possible. If no bites come about, try adjusting your depth.

Alternatives to Live Bait

Some fisheries have strict rules against the use of organic bait and require that you use only artificial lures and barbless hooks. As a result, many anglers will go with micro worms with a tiny jig-head for their trout fishing set up. Other examples of regulation-friendly baits are trout beads and Mad River Worm Jigs.

Trout Fishing: Spinners

Trout Fishing_Panther Martin
Jason Kaefer

Few trout fishing lures come close to Panther Martin and Mepps spinners. In rivers, these bladed lures are perfect at imitating a fleeing baitfish. When fishing these lures, it’s all about feeling the action. For example, a light action rod with a line rating of 4-6 lbs allows you to track the action of the lure better than a heavier set-up. Cast upstream and along current lines and seams, and retrieve slow. If the blades are spinning, then the lure is working and you’ll feel the vibration in your rod.

Cast, retrieve, repeat.

That said, avoid casting downstream. This will look unnatural as a baitfish will rarely haul tail against the current. Therefore, it’s best to either cast straight upstream and bring it down with the flow, or cast across or at a 45-degree angle upstream and allow the current to sweep your lure across.

In brief, a trout fishing spinner set-up is my go-to in low-light scenarios. When fished correctly, you can slay a day’s limit on one lure alone!

Trout Fishing: Rapala Minnows

Rapala Minnow
Jason Kaefer

Minnow lures should be in your arsenal year-round. Like spinners, you’ll get a fantastic, life-like appearance, which moves naturally with the current. Also, like spinners, casting upstream will give you the advantage of bringing your bait downstream. Examples of some killer baits would include;

When presenting your minnow lure, cast out and let the current carry it down before you begin your retrieve. A steady retrieve with intermittent pauses will present a lifeless body followed by a quick twitch of energy – a perfect cadence of movement and a baitfish on its last breath.

Trout On The Fly

Some of the best trout baits are insects, and if you’re a spin tackle angler, you can still use a fly. I like to go with a water bobber (a clear plastic, bulb-shaped bobber), fill it halfway with water, and use a black and red-colored wet fly on a light line (6-8lb). I fish the Sierra foothills, where streamer patterns and wooly buggers work well. But, you should check your local bait and tackle shops and ask what size and patterns to use.

Final Thoughts

Fishing for trout is proactive and fun, and on rivers, you’ll find yourself immersed in the deep forests and chasing chrome beauties. The trout fishing set-ups above are only a fraction of the immense options available to you. But once out there, you’ll see the appeal.

And after you land your first trout, you’ll be hooked!

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