Trout Fishing Information

Trout Fishing Information

One of America’s favorite past times is fishing. One of the most fun ways to fish is fly fishing. And trout are one of the favorite fishes to go after with a fly rod. Trout are usually found in clear cold freshwater mountain streams and in lakes throughout North America. Some of the lakes are of the alpine variety high in the mountains but some can be lower such as lakes in the Denver, Colorado metro area. As long as a lake is deep enough for trout to survive summer heat, winter cold and has an adequate food supply, they will thrive. Certain species of trout such as steelhead, sea run brown trout, bull trout, salmon and arctic char will spend most of their adult lives in the sea. Then they will return to the home stream where they were hatched to spawn. This behavior is called andromadous reproduction.

There are many different species of trout. Some trout populations that are isolated from each other are morphologically different. Besides coloration and spot patterns on the back and sides, many of the different trout species display no significant genetic differences. The same species of trout that live in different habitats may be named differently. For example, the cutthroat trout like all trout is a subspecies of salmon. There 14 or 15 (depending on your sources) recognized species of cutthroats. The main varieties in Colorado are the Rio Grande, the Colorado River and the state fish the Greenback Cutthroat. Snake River and Yellowstone cutts have been introduced to add variety to the native species. Unfortunately the yellow fin cutthroat which was found in lakes around the Arkansas River headwaters has been fished to extinction. This cutt would often grow to ten pounds. The brook trout and the aurora trout, a subspecies of brook trout, all have physical characteristics and colorations that distinguish them to be different but, genetic analysis shows that they are one species, Salvelinus fontinalis. Brook trout and aurora trout can be easily identified by the white edge on the front of their fins.

Typically, the colors and patterns of trout fish are used as camouflage based on the surroundings in which they live. Trout fear overhead predators, river otters, bigger fish and man so they use their colors and patterns to blend into their surroundings. This is especially true on the back colors which are used to hide the fish from overhead predators.

Steelhead, salmon or other fish returning from the sea will often look very silvery since that was the color that camouflaged them at sea. But the same strain of trout living in a stream or lake will likely have a more pronounced greenish to brownish back with spotted sides.

Depending on the body of water that you are fishing, you will find different trout. The size of fly used to catch a trout fish is often dependent on the size and species of the fish you are targeting.

Generally larger fish will go for a bait fish imitation such as a Muddler Minnow or Clouser Minnow. Smaller fish can be caught on a variety of aquatic invertebrates. Midges or Diptera are a staple in Colorado streams year round and a main source of food in winter. Mayflies, caddis, stoneflies, terrestrials and of course prey fish are other main food sources.

Trout have spineless fins that are used to steer them in stream currents, lakes or at sea. Generally trout have three lateral fins, one dorsal fin on the largest part of the back and one adipose fin on the back close to the tail. Trout are often considered a bony fish. But filleting a large trout and properly cooking a smaller trout will offer some fine eating. Running a table knife along the spine of a cooked trout will loosen the flesh. Then use a fork to lift the flesh straight off the bones. Trout are also raised on fish farms for food and can be purchased in the market. But they are a poor substitute for a fish caught from a mountain stream.

Because of their popularity with meat fishermen, trout populations are often overfished and quickly depleted. To combat overfishing and to meet the demand for catchable fish, State Wildlife Agencies run hatchery programs to raise trout. Rainbow trout which are susceptible to whirling disease are often raised in hatcheries then stocked in streams and lakes. The Agencies also work to improve stream habitat which will produce better spawning conditions.

Different methods including spinning, bait fishing and fly fishing are used to catch trout. When many mountain streams are gin clear and only a foot or less deep, it is difficult to drag spinners thru and catch fish. This is where fly fishing really is superior. You can float a lot of flies in sizes 16 to 26 through only one foot or less of water and catch a trout. Maybe even your trophy trout of a lifetime.

See our Additional Articles on Fly Fishing For Trout

Trout Fishing Tackle

When trout fishing, there is a minimum amount of trout fishing tackle required.

  • fly rod
  • fly reel
  • fly line
  • fly fishing leaders in various lengths and diameters
  • tippet spools ranging in sizes from 0X to 7X
  • fly fishing waders
  • wading boots
  • polarized sunglasses
  • fly fishing hat
  • fly fishing net for landing your catch
  • fly box for flies
  • flies for trout fishing
  • sunscreen

Fly Rods come in lengths from 6 ft to 15 ft. Rod weights range from small 2 weights to 15 or 16 weights. The higher the weight, the stronger the rod. Rods have different actions. A fast action rod bends more toward the tip when under load. A medium-fast action bends about 1/3 of the way down from the tip. A medium action fly rod bends about in the middle between the grip and the tip. And a slow action fly rod bends mostly down into the grip when under load.

Fly reels are die cast or machined. Die Cast reels most often use high quality aluminum pressure fed into a die. When the raw reel is removed from the mold, it is machined to the final finish. A machined reel is made from 6061 or 6062 bar stock aluminum. The entire reel frame is machined to the final finish from this bar stock. Machined fly reels generally have a stronger reel frame and can take more punishment than die cast reels. A good fly reel should have a sealed disc drag and sealed main spindle bearings. The sealed features keep dirt out and the reel will run better, longer.

The two main brands of fly line I recommend are scientific anglers and RIO. Both companies make excellent fly lines but my personal preference is RIO for superior casting charisteristics.

When choosing fly fishing waders, pick breathable ones for light weight and comfort. Breathable waders come in a variety of fabrics such as Gore-Tex, Sup-plex, Aqualux, No Sweat, 3xDry and others. Essentially all breathable waders are made with an outer abrasion resistant layer, the breathable membrane and a tricot inner lining to make getting the waders on and off easier. The booties on modern waders are neoprene. They should be formed to fit right and left feet and large enough to allow for heavy socks. Check the seams are taped with a 3/4 inch overlap on each side of the seam. Good waders will have extra material over the seat and knees to reduce wear on high abrasion areas. The knees should be articulated to allow for easy movement. Always try your waders on and raise your knee as high as possible with your knee bent. Sooner or later, you will have to high step to get up a bank.

Wading boots should fit comfortably without pinching or binding. Main styles available are a boot style and a hiking shoe type style. Pick which style offers the best ankle support and comfort for you. Felt soles are still preferred by many anglers. But the new aqua-stealth or sticky rubber soles are fast gaining acceptance as a viable alternative to felt.

Polarized sunglasses are a must for fly fishing. Polarized glasses allow you to spot fish easier and ease eye strain during a long day on the water. Smith Optics are my recommended brand. Smith specializes in fly fishing sun glasses. Their glasses are guaranteed for life. Lenses are available in both light weight glass and polycarbonate. Lens colors range from gray to amber to copper with shades in between. In western states, many river bottoms are light colored. The amber or copper brown lenses offer the most contrast to show fish shadows or shapes against the stream bottom.

Fly fishing hats come in two main styles. The baseball cap and a hat with a 3 or 4 inch brim. For either style, I recommend a green underbrim. The green color makes it easier to see the fly fishing leader against the water. Some kind of fly fishing hat is necessary to avoid severe sunburn. Regardless of which kind you wear, use a good 30+ SPF sunscreen.

Fly fishing nets also come in many styles. There are shallow quick release nets, tear drop shaped bows, guide nets with long handles about 30 inches, nets for use with float tubes or boats and so on. Net bags are usually soft mesh or mesh with a vinyl rubber coating. The vinyl coating protects a trout’s slime coat and hooks don’t stick in the mesh.

Lastly you will need flies for trout fishing and a fly box to hold them. C&F Design makes fine wave design slit foam fly boxes which retail about $30 or more. I offer an alternative Triangle Slit Foam fly box with turn page that holds 396 flies for only 17.95 plus S&H. The large Triangle Foam with turn page retails for $21.50 plus S&H. A ripple foam box with room for flies on one side and large flies or streamers on the other. These boxes retail between $8.00 or $9.00.

The above list is the minimum. The remaining major piece of trout fishing tackle is a fly fishing vest or chest pack.

How to Save Money on Fly Fishing Tackle

How to Save Money on Fly Fishing Tackle

Saving money on your trout fishing tackle is not that hard to do. When starting out fly fishing for trout or any other fly fishing, you may not be sure that the sport is for you. There are basically four main alternatives for purchasing fly fishing tackle.

  • Purchase from a big box store. (Not recommended – generally they carry inferior merchandise and the personnel are not fly fishers.)
  • Go to a fly shop – Ok- If you keep them from selling you $1000 plus dollars of gear that is good gear but you may find fly fishing is not for you after all. Then you are stuck with trying to get your money out of the gear.
  • eBay – Lots of fly fishing tackle is sold on eBay. If you know what is good gear, you can find some real bargains there. (Make sure the seller offers a return policy you can live with.)
  • Buy from an online fly fishing store that carries gear with a lifetime warranty. This site also carries gear that is reasonably priced for the beginning trout fisherman. Just sign up on a secure server for an account in the store.

One good way to save money is to purchase a fly fishing combo also called a fly fishing outfit. These consist of a fly rod, fly reel, fly line with backing and a leader. Just attach a tippet and a fly and go fishing. A good fly fishing outfit can be purchased in the range of $140 through $300 depending on the brand.

For Example a 9 ft 5wt 4 pc trout fishing outfit for a beginner:

  1. Fish Creek Outfit – with a machined fly reel is $338
  2. Stone Creek Halcyon Outfit is $325
  3. Stone Creek Halcyon M60 Outfit is $295
  4. Orvis Clearwater II Outfit with either a 9.2 tipflex or a 7.5 midflex is $295
  5. Stone Creek Trout Stalker with disc drag reel, line, backing, leader and reel on rod carry case ONLY $149.

Any of the above are all good purchases. I own a Clearwater II 7.5 midflex. Having used it for 3 years, it is one of my favorite nymph fishing rods. Having cast the Clearwater II 9.5 tip flex, it has the power to cast big flies into the wind. Also having cast the Stone Creek Halcyon 9 ft 5 wt rod, I can say it too has a strong backbone for casting big flies. I have owned a Fish Creek 7.5 ft 4 wt rod for fishing small streams. After 3 years of using it, I can say Fish Creek is also a good brand. In contrast, other brands may run over $400 for a fly fishing combo.

How to purchase safely online.

  • Make sure the manufacturer has a good warranty and a return policy. Most rod manufacturers charge a fee to cover return shipping and insurance. As of Oct 2010, this ranges from $30 to $50.
  • Get a rechargeable Visa debit card. Activate it and load in only the amount of money necessary for the transaction. Use that card or a Visa gift card to purchase.
  • Only hand out personal and financial information on a secure server. Look for the HTTPS in the brower address bar and sometimes a gold lock too.
  • Deal with reputable payment processors such as PayPal, Authorize Net, 1shopping cart, 2CheckOut or similar processor.

Tight Lines,

Marshall Estes, Author
“Successful Fly Fishing for Trout”

How to Care for Your Trout Fishing Tackle

After acquiring your Trout Fishing Tackle, you should learn “How to Care for Your Trout Fishing Tackle“.
Fly Rod – How to Care For Your Fly Rod
Don’t leave your rods, reels, and other tackle in the trunk of your car or suv full time. Heat build up in those areas, can damage the finishes and rod epoxies on the wraps over time. Heat is an enemy of fly lines too.

  1. Keep your precious rods in protective cases. Either use the protective rod tube that comes with the rod or use a rod – reel case. The rod – reel case allows you to keep the reel on the rod and store both in a protective case.
  2. Several times a year, dampen a soft cloth and wipe the rod blank down, run the damp cloth through the rod guides to remove any unseen dirt particles. Either dry the blank and guides with a cloth or allow to air dry. NEVER put your rod, reel or line away wet.
  3. Two or three times a year, apply a thin film of ferrule wax to the male ferrule. Then assemble the rod by inserting the male into the female ferrule and gently twisting them straight to apply wax to the female rod ferrule. (I use my fingers to apply the thin coat of wax so I can feel how much has been applied.) If necessary wipe of excess wax from both ferrules. Too much wax makes the rod difficult to take apart.
  4. Pieces of an old t-shirt make good cleaning and drying cloths.

Fly Reels – Caring for your Fly Reel

  1. Fly Reel – If you keep your reel off the rod, store it in a protective case. Most reels come with neophrene cases to cushion them from shock if you accidentally drop them. There are also hard reel cases which offer dirt and shock protection. One such brand is the “Reel Vault”.  A third alternative is a “Suede Reel Case”. Should you purchase a reel without a case, spend the small amount required to get a reel case. They are a good investment to protect your reels.
  2. If you get have purchased a reel with sealed spindle bearings and a sealed disc drag system, dirt will not be too much of a problem. Should you get dirt or worse small sand granules between the spool and the frame, remove the spool and flush the dirt out with fresh water. Then allow them to throughly air dry or dry with a soft rag and reattach the spool to the frame.
  3. If you get your reel wet on stream, remove the spool from the frame and shake out what water you can remove. When you get home, strip any wet line off to dry, remove the spool from the frame and allow both to dry throughly before respooling the line and reassembling the reel.

Fly Line – How to care for your fly line
Your fly line will become dirty with use. It will pick up microscopic dirt particles, algae particles and other debris. Such particles will eventually damage the line finish, reduce distance when shooting the line during casting and can cause extra wear on the rod guides.

  1. Every four or five trips, strip the line from the reel. Squeeze a few drops of mild liquid dish soap into a wet cloth, work up a lather and squeeze out most of the soap. Then wipe the line down a couple of times. Dry the line with a soft cloth.
  2. Apply a line lubricant such as “Glide”, “Orvis Zip Juice Wonderline Cleaner” or ” Orvis Line Zip” to your fly line to make it shoot farther and stay cleaner.
  3. If you want to clean your line without the hassle of soap and chemicals, use “The Amazing Wonder ClothTM”. Just wet the Amazing Wonder Cloth and wipe your line down several times. The non abrasive microfiber cloth cleans fly lines like magic. The use a dry part of the cloth to dry your line.
  4. After your line is clean, I still recommend applying a good line lubricant.

For information on How to Clean your Breathable Waders and your Wading Boots.

Tight Lines,

Marshall Estes, Author
“Successful Fly Fishing For Trout”

How to Clean Your Waders and Wading Boots

How to Clean Your Waders and Wading Boots

Just cleaning your waders and wading boots is not enough to help in Controlling the spread of invasive species. The list of invasive species continues to grow too. You need to clean the dog if your dog has been in infected water. If your kids wade in the stream with tennis shoes on, the shoes should also be cleaned otherwise they can transport aquatic invaders to a new home.

The focus for this article is “How to Care for Your waders and Wading Boots” while also helping stop the spread of invasive species.

Waders and Wading Boots – should be dried inside and outside throughly. This is especially important during the summer months when perspiration may build up in waders even with gore-tex and other breathable fabrics.

  1. Clean off any mud, sand or other fine debris before leaving your stream or lake. This is especially important if you are fishing a stream or lake infected with rock snot AKA Didymo, zebra mussels or New Zealand mud snails. Use fresh water if you have enough to do this. Otherwise using the stream or lake water you are fishing in will help to keep the critters where they started.
  2. A good stiff vegetable brush will clean off mud and debris off the soles, welts and other parts of wading boots and the soles of waders.
  3. Allowing boots and waders to dry in the sun will help damage invasive species. On waders make sure to dry the outside, then turn the gravel guards up so they will dry under them.
  4. Build a simple but effective wader drying station by purchasing a four post prebuilt type hat rack at Lowes or Home depot. Attach it to the wall studs with a 2 inch screw in each end. Hang the waders by the suspenders with an open post between to allow the waders to drape open a bit. My station holds the waders about 2 inches above the floor.
  5. Allowing waders to dry throughly between uses will generally kill the common aquatic invasive species. The suggestion is to dry for 5 days minimum between fishing trips.
  6. Wading boots should be laid out to drain and dry completely between uses if possible. This is especially important with felt soles. Beginning in 2011, all major wading boot manufacturers will no longer offer felt soles. Sticky Rubber, Aqua Stealth, soft rubber Vibram soles, Eco-Trax soles are a few of the substitues on the market.
  7.  Other Methods
    • Soak your waders and boots in hot water over 120 degrees for at least 30 minutes will help to kill most invasive species.
    • A combination of hot water and salt solution can also be used. See Controlling the spread of invasive species for the mixtures.
    • 100% vinegar is an alternative to salt.
    • Do Not use 409. It will eat your waders, is hard on the environment and is illegal too.
    • Use a high pressure sprayer to clean wader soles and the cracks and crevices inside and outside the boots will help. Then soak in a hot water bath.
    • I scrub my boots and waders in a hot water bath to remove the left over mud, stream debris, etc. and allow to completey air dry before using again.
  8. Take the Clean Angling Pledge and follow it.

Stay with the cleaning program, your equipment will last longer and you will be helping the environment too.

Tight Lines,

Marshall Estes, Author
“Successful Fly Fishing for Trout”


Fly Fishing for Trout the Successful Way

Fly Fishing for Trout the Successful Way

Becoming successful at Fly Fishing For Trout requires mastery of only four major steps. Four steps that you may have to revisit many times on the the journey but the same simple steps apply to your success.

Planning — is getting ready to look for trout. Yes, I said look for or hunt trout. Essentially most excellent big trout fishers are predators first. They understand their prey’s eating patterns, when they eat, what food they will eat, how to replicate that food, when the food is accessible, how to present the artificial to fool the fish, where trout usually are most likely to be found, what fly fishing gear is used,etc.

Practice — is putting your knowledge to work. Learning to use your tackle effectively. How to cast. Which different casts to use such as a roll cast or the common overhand cast, the useful river tension cast and the bow and arrow cast for really tight spots or small brushy streams, the single and the double haul. Casting your fly line in any manner ought to concentrate on making tight loops directed to your target. In many trout fishing circumstances, you will only need to cast within 30 to 40 feet. In fact most trout are hooked within 12 feet of where you are standing.

How to choose good flies to fish with, how to tie basic fly fishing knots. How to make a drag free dead drift. When you should change to dry fly fishing rather than nymph fishing. When and how to use a dry – dropper rig. When you should and how to use a streamer fly. Practice reading a trout stream to locate likely places where trout will be holding and feeding.

As you approach the stream, practice looking at the stream side bushes for flies that may have recently hatched. At streamside, take a little time to observe if any bugs are hatching. Are trout rising or even in evidence? Where should you establish your casting position to effectively cover the water. In other words,don’t just start churning the stream to foam with casts. This will scare almost every fish in 150 feet of your position.Especially the big fish.

Presentation — is showing the fly or nymph to the trout so the fish thinks it is food and takes or eats the fly. When nymphing that may be a short "dead drift" that presents the fly to the fish without unnatural movements. Some nymphs tend to tumble almost helplessly when caught in the stream’s current. Others are lively swimmers. To be fished effectively, a nymph fly which represents a swimming nymph should be fished with some action to imitate a swimming motion or to impart movement. Movement tends to attract a trout’s attention. Realizing which fly you’re using to imitate which insect could mean being successful or failing.

During nymph fishing, a bad cast can be overcome with a good presentation to the fish.  if you want to become a big trout fisherman, understand and practice effective presentations .

Persist — There will be days when you fish a whole day without a strike and no fish. There will be days when you miss setting the hook properly and the trout goes totally free. Or they get away while netting them. Or you will mis-read the place you are doing some fishing and spook the fish. Or you will see your first 28 inch brown trout and get the shakes so bad you can’t change a fly to a different one. Or you may slip and fall getting wet and hopefully only hurting your ego a bit.

But the key to becoming a successful trout fisherman is to always persist. Keep gaining and applying fresh information. Fly fishing is a lifelong educational adventure. Treat the journey as an adventure, try new things, while learning from your mistakes. Ask a veteran fly fisherman to show you how to do it or try a guided trip which will shorten your learning curve. Maybe you will catch a trophy large trout on your trip.

Persistence is a major key to getting successful at anything at all. When I started fly fishing in 1969, I went three years and only caught one trout each year with the fly rod. But I did not quit. In 1972, an experienced fly fisherman taught me to hook a trout in under ten minutes. And I have been successfully catching trout for over 38 years now.

Marshall Estes, Author
Successful Fly Fishing for Trout

How to Improve Your Success Fly Fishing for Trout

How to Improve Your Success Fly Fishing for Trout

An easy way to improve your long term succes fly fishing for trout or any species is to keep a fly fishing journal or log. A log can be as simple as Mead 5 star 7 x 5 inch spiral binder with pockets. This is an inexpensive solution to keep track of my trips and the mileage for tax purposes.

Other journals are the leather bound zipper style from Nomad Journals which uses waterproof paper for pages, to theFishpond Southern Cross Fishing Journal  around $60 that features blind embossed leather journal cover, 162 pages of journal entries,16 custom photographs that illustrate the tradition of fishing, zippered, soft-sided protective nylon travel case with accessory pocket , seven-year calendar/trip planner with moon cycles and key holidays, when the Journal is full it may be removed from the cover and stored. The ultimate paper journal is the Orvis Fly Fishing Journal at $120. This journal is entirely leather bound, hand bound, features artist quality paper, slots for photos and more.

The long term advantage of using a journal is being able to go back and see what the flows, weather, hatches, flies that worked, number and species of fish caught and released, gps coordinates, good and/or bad memories of the trip, any other data to help you on future trips.

Electronic fly journals are a viable alternative to the paper ones. But I recommend you print them out and store in a binder on a regular basis. Electronics have a habit of going down at inconvenient times. Most electronic logs will allow the storage of photos of  fish or other memories of your trips, gps co-ordinates and more. Garmin makes some of the best and least expensive gps devices around. Including handheld ones that you can take to the stream to get your co-ordinates.

Fly Fishing apps for an iPhone are an up and coming niche. There are several out ther but the best I have found is the Orvis Fly Fishing iPhone App. This app includes basic fly casting, top ten fly casting mistakes and how to correct them, animated knots, field guide to top 100 trout flies, Orvis fishing reports and the Orvis fly fishing podcast for only $14.95 at time of the publication of this post. The Orvis app is certainly worth a look.

Tight Lines,

Marshall Estes, Author
“Successful Fly Fishing for Trout”

How to Identify Trout Species

Identify Your Trout Species

While some of the species shown here may not look exactly like the trout in your area, the identification characteristics are common enough that you can use them to identify the trout in your streams.

Rainbow Trout – dark colored rainbow with the rainbow stripe – photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service. Rainbows can be identified by their heavy single spots all over their skin along with the bright rainbow stripe down the middle.

Rainbow Trout with more traditional light colored skin and rainbow stripe – photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service. As rainbows get bigger, they may get more silvery in color but still are heavily spotted with single spots and the rainbow stripe.

 brown trout tarryall creek
Brown Trout – caught by Larry Plagman – Tarryall Creek, Colorado 6-17-06 used with permission. Brown trout have a brownish colored skin covered with ringed dark spots intermixed with ringed red spots. As they get bigger the dark spots may become less round especially on the upper back which adds to their ability to blend into a stream bottom or a weed bed.
large brown caught by Tad Howard of - one of my favorite pictures. used with tad's permission
Large brown trout caught by Tad Howard of from Taylor River. this is one of my favorite pictures. Used with Tad’s permission. Notice the heavy ringed red spots on the bottom of the fish fading into darker spots toward the top.
 colorado river cutthroat - photo courtesy of colorado dow and Joseph Tomerelli
Colorado River Cutthroat – photo courtesy of Colorado DOW and Joseph Tomerelli. Cutthroats are less heavily spotted than rainbows and browns but are more heavily spotted toward the tail. They can be identified by the red slash under the chin and the reddish gill plates.
 Rio Grand Cutthroat - photo courtesy of colorado dow and colorado river cutthroat - photo courtesy of colorado dow and Joseph Tomerelli

Rio Grand Cutthroat – photo courtesy of Colorado DOW and colorado river cutthroat – photo courtesy of colorado dow and Joseph Tomerelli. Note the heavy black spots along the midline fading to smaller heavy spotting toward and onto the tail. Also the same reddish colored gill plates.

 Greenback Cutthroat - colorado state fish. photo courtesy of Colorado DOW and Joseph Tomerelli
Greenback Cutthroat – Colorado state fish. photo courtesy of Colorado DOW and Joseph Tomerelli. This is the most beautiful of the cutthroat species in Colorado in my opinion. They can be identified by the greenish coloration on the back and the ringed spots fading to heavy spotting toward and onto the tail.
Blue River Cutthroat – a nice 20 inch fish caught by Larry Plagman 4/5/06 – used with permission. Notice the red gill plates and red slash under the chin common to cutthroats and the rainbow stripe down the middle common to rainbows. Cutbows can be some of the most beautiful fish in trout streams. Rainbows and cutts will cross breed easily since they are of the same salmonoid family.
BrookTtrout – photo from – public domain photo Color Plate Brook Trout from American Fishes by Goode and Gill (1903)brooktrout
Brook Trout – showing white edged fins and red ringed spots – photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service. Brook trout are technically a member of the char family. They are most often found in high mountain streams and lakes. They require clean water and will usually be the first species to disappear from a stream if the water becomes polluted. They are prolific breeders and often out populate their food supply resulting in small fish. But they can become quite large when caught in lakes.
 Grayling - note the large sail like dorsal fin. Photo courtesy of Colorado DOW and Joseph Tomerelli
Grayling – note the large sail like dorsal fin. Photo courtesy of Colorado DOW and Joseph Tomerelli. Most often known as Artic Grayling because of their normal range. Colorado has stocked some in high mountain lakes and some streams. Usual size is about 12 inches but they can be fun to catch. Grayling require highly oxygenated water cool water. They like the brook trout are sensitive to water pollution and are among the first to disappear if pollution increases. Such has been the case in the Great Lakes.
 Mountain White Fish - photo courtesy of Colorado DOW and Joseph Tomerelli
Mountain White Fish – photo courtesy of Colorado DOW and Joseph Tomerelli. While looking somewhat like a carp, they are great fighters in the larger sizes. The Roaring Fork River in Colorado has a population of large whitefish with some running up to 18 or more inches. They have a small mouth, larger scales than trout and a small flap of skin near the tail.


What Trout Eat

What Trout Eat

When fly fishing for trout, you of course use fishing flies designed for trout fishing. So it is helpful to know what trout eat. They eat mostly anything they can get in their mouth that is a food group. Food groups can be classified into aquatic and non-aquatic or terrestrial groups.

  1. Aquatic groups are primarily the immature or mature stage of an aquatic invertebrate insect that lives the beginning of its life underwater, hatches to become an adult and mates. Then the female lays eggs back in the stream, lake or pond to hatch the next generation.
    1. The Mayfly, Caddis fly, Stonefly, & the Midge are the four classic categories of aquatic insects a fly-tier imitates. Each has 3-5 stages in its life cycle.  The underwater stage of an aquatic insect is the nymphal form, or commonly called a nymph. (1)

      There can be more than one underwater form, or stage such as larva & pupa. An insect that passes through 3 underwater stages to becoming an adult is said to have a “complete metamorphosis”—egg, to larva, to pupa, then emerges as an adult. (1)

      Caddis flies & midges typically have a complete metamorphosis. An insect that only passes through 2 underwater stages of egg & nymph is said to have an “incomplete metamorphosis”. Mayflies & Stoneflies have an incomplete metamorphosis. (1) 

      Of these the Caddis and Midges are the most important. The caddis is important because there are between 7,000 and 9,000 different species worldwide depending on which reference you consult. In any case there a lot of caddis for trout to eat. Midges are one of the most important trout foods because they hatch year round. If not for midges, many trout and other freshwater stream fish would not survive winters. During a midge hatch the water column and stream bottom may be alive with hundreds of thousands of these small insects. (2)   

    2. The other main aquatic group consists of prey or forage fish such as crayfish, sculpins, scuds, minnows, other young of their own and other trout species.  Fish eggs during mating season of other trout species. Browns follow the rainbow spawn and vice versa.
    3. Aquatic Worms that live their lives in streams are also a tasty morsel.
    4. Damsel fly and dragon fly nymphs and leeches are another main aquatic food group. Damsel and dragon flies are mostly a lake or pond insect while both lakes and streams have leeches.
  2. Non-aquatic food groups consist of terrestrial insects such as ants, beetles, grasshoppers, earth worms. In the spring, rains can wash earth worms into streams. In the fall, winds often blow ants, grasshoppers and beetles into the water. Grasshoppers in particular are a large meaty meal for a trout or bass.

    Mice and small ducks also are eaten by larger trout. Mice tend to swim from one place to another during the darkness, early morning or dusk hours. Large brown trout in particular will take a mouse pattern in a size 2 or 4. In some ponds, the trout may grow large enough to eat small ducks off the surface.


(1) High Plains Drifters FFF Club – Basic Fly Tying Manual – Reprinted with Permission
(2) Successful Fly Fishing for Trout Minicourse – Sign up for the course for more information on Trout Fly Fishing

 Flies to represent the major groups link to second article

Tight lines and Good Fishing,

Marshall Estes, Author
"Successful Fly Fishing for Trout"

Fishing Flies for Trout

Fishing Flies for Trout

You can carry a lot of flies and many fly boxes. Many fly fishermen do so. But we tend to be gearheads and often overdo the flies we carry. I carry four fly boxes in my chest pack. Three for nymphs and one for dry flies and several streamers. If you choose flies that can imitate more than one insect or life stage, it will cut down on the amount you have to carry. Listed are some of my favorite flies for the major insect groups. These flies will work in most western streams or lakes and many midwestern or eastern trout streams too.

  • Mayflies – Nymphs – an RS2 in grey, black or olive in sizes 14 through 24 will represent most mayfly nymphs during a season. A pheasant tail or gold ribbed pheasant tail nymph in sizes 16 through 22 will work for many other mayflies particularly the Baetis group. Another good emerger is Barr’s emerger for an all around Baetis nymph. A grey parachute Adams in sizes 14 thru 24 will work for a Mayfly dry fly. 
  • Caddis flies – my favorite is the beadhead goldribbed hares ear with a flashback or a turkeyquill wingcase. A plain gold ribbed hares ear with a cinnamon turkey quill wingcase is also excellent. Pick out guard hairs in the thorax to represent legs and give motion. The hare’s ear is a dynamite fly. Barr’s Graphic Caddis Emerger in tan and olive sizes 16 and 18 is another excellent caddis fly.
  • Stone Flies – The twenty incher, the beadhead goldribbed flashback hares ear in sizes 8, 10 or 12 and Pat’s rubber leg stone in sizes 6 through 12 is a hot stone fly. The rubber legs provide motion  and sound vibration to attract a trout’s attention. Pat’s rubber legs is one of the hottest flies around because it works. It is tied as a weighted fly. Use it as your point fly trailed by a beadhead hares hear or Barr’s Graphic caddis.
  • Midge – If I was only going to carry one fly for midge nymphs, it would be the bead head zebra midge or the black beauty. These flies in sizes 14 through 24 or 26 in grey, olive, black, or tan will cover about all the midge group of nymphs. Use a Parachute Adams of appropriate size for the dry fly stage. Or a Griffiths Gnat in sizes 20 and 22 works good for imitating a midge cluster.
  • Aquatic Worms – These are worms that live in the water year round. A san juan worm is a simple pattern in orange, red, light tan or brown. Use an ultra or micro chenille for the body. Cut a piece about 2 inches long, singe the ends closed with a lighter and tie it on the hook. Not much simpler than that. This is a good fly to learn when beginning fly tying.
  • Streamers – The Clouser Minnow in white and black or olive and black, muddler minnow and the Little Brown Trout would be some of my favorite streamers.
  • Teresterials – Dave’s hopper or the Charlie Boy Hopper are excellent patterns. Amy’s ant can double as a hopper or a large ant.

    Mice – take a Zonker streamer, tie the rabbit strip down to the hook, add some marabou to make a larger body, put some fly tying foam on top of all of it and rib with wire to segment the body and hold it together. Makes a fast mouse pattern. Black, grey or tan. A segment of rabbit fur could also be used to form the body and tail with the foam upper body. Or use mink fur and foam.

These are certainly not all the flies you will eventually carry but they will get you started with a good basic set for all season use.

Tight Lines,

Marshall Estes, Author
"Successful Fly Fishing for Trout"