Trout fishing 101

Basics for pursuing the world’s top gamefish

One common question I get from newbies is, “Where and how do I fly fish for rainbow trout?”

I understand the fascination with trout. They are colorful fish, live in scenic habitat, feed vigorously on surface bugs and when hooked, make spectacular leaps.

Entire books have been written on the subject, so condensing this into several hundred words won’t be easy. Consider this just a starting point in a long journey.


The standard de facto rod is a 5-weight, paired with a matching weight-forward line. In most eastern waters, a 4-weight is suitable. But out west, windy conditions and big water may require a 6-weight or even 7-weight.

Trout insist that the fly drift naturally in the current. In moving water, with many subcurrents that tug on line, that’s a tough task.

An 8 ½ or 9-foot rod is the solution. This length rod works best for “slack casts” such as reach-mend, curve and parachute casts.

Once the line is on the water, the longer rod allows for a technique known as mending. Mending is basically flipping part of the line upstream. Combined with a slack cast, it allows for the fly to maintain a long drag-free float.

The reel doesn’t need a strong drag, but it should have a smooth drag to protect light tippets.

For trout fishing, I typically use store-bought tapered leaders with 5x tippet. I then carry spools of 4X, 5X and 6X tippet to replace any lost.


Most trout fishing is wading. For that reason, I suggest lightweight breathable stocking-foot waders matched with wading boots that have felt soles. The felt soles help prevent slipping on algae-covered rocks.

Underneath the waders you’ll want to wear nylon or fleece pants, along with wool or synthetic socks. Even if the waders stay watertight, condensation can build up underneath. Quick-drying apparel helps wick that moisture away.

The vest is the iconic symbol of the trout angler. In recent years, sling packs have become the preferred alternative. Whichever you choose, make sure it has enough pockets for fly boxes, tippet spools, dry fly floatant, reading glasses and your waterproof camera.

Nippers help cut line when changing flies or replacing tippet. Forceps help to safely remove the hook from the fish’s mouth and crush barbs on flies.

A mesh net will help land trout safely while protecting their slime layer. To keep the net from tangling with your line, get a magnetic attachment that pins to the back of your vest. When needed, grab the net behind your back and simply pull it loose.

Finally, a brimmed hat and polarized glasses are necessary to cut glare and see the bottom when wading. They also help to spot fish.

Where the trout are

While Louisiana is one of only three states that doesn’t have year-round fishing for trout, there are several terrific waters within a day’s drive.

Nearby locales include the Little Missouri River in Murfreesboro, Arkansas (2.5 hours from Shreveport), Lower Mountain Fork in Broken Bow, Oklahoma (2.5 hours from Shreveport),and Sipsey in Jasper, Alabama (5 hours from Slidell).

Just a few hours more takes you to blue-ribbon waters: the Red River, the White River and Norfork (northern Arkansas), and the Caney Fork (central Tennessee).

Once you arrive at your destination, then comes the hard part: Finding the fish and determining what they’re feeding on.

Every river has three areas where trout will concentrate. These are known as holding lies, feeding lies,and prime lies.

Holding lies are where the trout seek protection from predators. Feeding lies are where adequate food exists, e.g., where insect hatches are most prolific. Prime lies are areas which offer both protection and abundant food.

Your best fishing under any conditions will be in prime lies. This type of water will be deep runs, undercut banks, or plunge pools. Streamers and nymphs are good choices for flies, although dries work well at times.

During hatches, the feeding lies can produce lots of action. Examples of feeding lies include riffles, tailouts and shallow flats with large rocks.

Part of the fun in trout fishing is discovering various lies in a river and determining the flies, time of day,and other factors for success at each lie.

If this very basic overview of trout fishing appeals to you, give it a try. But beware — it’s addictive.

Food for thought:

You can be at the right spot, have the right tackle and make great casts — and still get skunked if you can’t “match the hatch” for the particular water you fish.

That’s why it’s critical to do some homework in advance of your trip. Go online or call the local fly shop to learn what the trout are feeding on. Chances are excellent the shop carries those flies.

Be aware that during a hatch, trout will switch from feeding surface (dries) to feeding just below the film (emergers). So prepare to have both dry and emerger forms of that insect in your box.

About Catch Cormier 275 Articles
Glen ‘Catch’ Cormier has pursued fish on the fly for 30 years. A certified casting instructor and renowned fly tier, he and his family live in Baton Rouge.

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