Trout Fishing Tactics for River and Lake Anglers

Assuming that we all know how to cast a fly line I thought a couple of tips on how to find Rainbows and Brownies in Rivers and Lakes/Reservoirs might be of interest.


First let’s talk about water clarity as this has a dramatic effect on how deep the fish will be. To test this from a boat simply put your rod in the water and look to see if you can see the tip of it, if you can, then put it in further until the tip starts to disappear. Obviously this only works up to the length of the rod to the start of the handle.

But if using a rod of 9 or 10 feet and you can still see the tip, then the fish will be vary on deep indeed. This normally happens on gin clear mountain lakes and reservoirs, on my local Reservoir I can tell within 4-6 inches how clear the water is and the average depth is 15 feet.

Now that we have found out how deep the clarity of the water is, we should know how deep the fish may be lying.

As Trout have no eyelids they have to stay out of the sunshine. So water clarity say 4 feet….bright sunshine and a little wind…you will not find the majority of Trout above 5 feet in the water column. That’s why bright hot sunshine and a stronghold wind is the kiss of death for Lake and Reservoir Trout fishermen.


On Rivers it is different, the Trout cannot go deeper than the river bed, so they look for areas that are in shadow, overhanging trees and bushes, streamer weed or any structure they can find. Structure means boulders, bridge supports, submerged tree trunks. Anywhere they can get out of the sun.

Feeding Habits

OK we have touched on some of the habits of Trout, now lets look at the feeding habits of Trout.

Again, we must look at the prevailing weather and water conditions to help us find our Trout.

River Brown Trout are normally “grazers” and solitary fish they hold up in their lie for most of their life. They establish their territory and defend all comers. They choose a specific lie for two reasons comfort and food availability. If they can sit there and only move a matter of a yard or so to intercept food items coming down or hatching off, and they can stay in the shade…that’s where they will be.

There are only three things that will move a Brown Trout out of his lie, Death from old Age, River Floods, and you catching him!

On a River it is imperative to “Match The Hatch” i.e. what is either crawling on the bottom or what is actually hatching through the surface film. So look closely at the type and size of flies that are hatching.

In the evening spent flies will be floating down stream and the Trout will feed on them, Mayfly nymphs in Summer will be coming out of the silt to hatch and the Trout will be waiting for them, when hatched they will sit on the surface to dry their wings before they fly off and are an easy meal for the fish and birds.

Cased Caddies are the larvae of the Sedge and come in all sorts of colors and cases, sand, weed, reed stems and twigs, but all are are food for Trout. On my local Trout Stream the Cased Caddies have bright green heads, so any Hare’s ear Pattern with a bright green thorax works and will catch fish.

Cased Caddies live on the bottom so the fly needs to be leaded either a Gold Head or just lead in the dressing of the fly.

Rainbows have a slightly different behavior pattern, but the same rules still apply.

Comfort Zone + food source = where they will be.

On small stocked still waters it is easy, the fish will patrol areas looking for food, either close to the bottom mid water or near the surface if there is no sunshine!

Lakes And Reservoirs

On Reservoirs and Lakes the situation is very different and it is more challenging to find where the Trout are. Taking into account the weather is good with overcast skies (an average English Summer Day!) lets see if we can find some Trout.

Weather aside to find our Trout there are two things we must look for… structure and food sources.

On my local reservoir the main food sources throughout the year are Chironimids (Buzzers) and Daphnia (water fleas), this is then interspersed with seasonal food items such as Daddy Longlegs, Damsel Flies, Dragon Flies, Corixa (Water Boatman) Red Spider mites, Blood Worm and wind blown flies.

When fishing early in the season I look for “Drop Offs” where the water is slightly deeper, gullies, points or headlands where the water drops to circa 12-14 feet.

The food source at this time of year is Buzzers and Daphnia so the Trout will be taking them at different depths. Find the Depth they are feeding at and put a fly in front them …bingo! Buzzers are a Pupal stage of a Chironomid (Buzzer) and these are from the larvae stage (Bloodworm). They can be predated upon from the bottom to just below the surface and in the warmer months closer to the surface than the bottom.

So if we find the structure and the prevailing food source we can have a better chance of catching our Trout.

I hope this information helps you to catch your Trout.

There will be more to follow as we come into the Trout Season proper.

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