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The Ultimate Trout Fishing Setup: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners

Long steeped in esoteric discussions of gear and technique, trout fishing may be intimidating for the beginning angler. But that doesn’t need to be the case, as you’ll discover with the advice here on the ultimate trout fishing setup.

Trout are abundant in lakes, rivers, ponds, and streams across the United States, making them a popular game fish. Your setup — the gear you’ll need — will depend on factors such as where you’ll be fishing and the type of fishing you’ll be doing.

Read on for guidance on the ultimate trout fishing setup for beginners.

Trout Fishing Setup

Ultimate Trout Fishing Setup for Lakes and Ponds

The trick for enjoyable trout fishing on a lake or pond is choosing a rod, reel, and line that will let you enjoy tracking down and reeling in the popular gamefish. Read on for some advice for beginning trout anglers.


When you’re looking for the best fishing rod for trout in lakes and ponds, you’ll want a rod 6 feet to 7 feet long since that length is also good for trout fishing in rivers and streams. Additionally, you should choose a rod with an ultralight to light power rating and a moderate to fast action rating.

A rod’s power rating refers to the force it takes to bend the rod—an action rating notes where the rod is designed to bend when reeling in fish.

The Berkeley Lightning trout rod, one of the many options available from Amazon, would be a good choice for a beginning trout angler.


Since you’ll be doing your trout fishing on lakes or ponds with a light or ultralight rod, you’ll need to take care regarding the reel, the part of your setup that holds your fishing line. In general, you’ll need a small reel that will allow you to feel the lightest of strikes from trout but can still handle large fish.

The KastKing reel available from Amazon is worth a look as a potential choice for part of your ultimate trout fishing setup.


Trout can see very well, so the trick for fishing in a relatively confined space, like ponds and lakes, is to ensure your line is as invisible as possible. In general, lake or pond fishing for trout should be done with a 2 to 6-pound test monofilament or fluorocarbon line, with a 4-pound test line as a good overall choice.

There are many great options for lake and pond trout fishing lines available at Amazon, including the Trout Magnet S.O.S. line.

Ultimate Trout Fishing Setup for Rivers and Streams

If you plan on trout fishing in rivers and streams but are not ready for fly fishing, there are a few things you’ll need to consider for your trout fishing setup. In part, your gear decisions will depend on the width of the rivers and streams you’ll be fishing.

Trout fishing setup


If you’ll be doing most of your trout fishing in wider rivers, from 20 to 80 feet across, a medium-light rated rod is a good choice for a trout fishing setup. It won’t be unduly heavy during a full day of fishing but will still be strong enough to reel in trout of the size you’re likely to find in that kind of water.

For smaller rivers and streams, defined as up to 10 feet across, a light- or ultralight-power rated rod will be your best choice. You’re likely to find smallish trout in this kind of water, but a light or ultralight rod could still likely land fish weighing up to 5 pounds.


As a beginner in trout fishing, it’s certainly understandable if you don’t yet want to invest a lot of money in equipment. Regarding a fishing reel as part of a beginning trout fishing setup, you should consider the Shimano FX, available from Amazon at just under $30.


As a beginning trout angler, you’ll want to choose a monofilament fishing line crafted from a single plastic fiber instead of the more advanced braided lines that include multiple fibers. A 6 to 8-pound test line is a good choice regarding weight rating.

Ultimate Trout Fishing Setup for Fly Fishing

Perhaps no other form of trout fishing is as surrounded with mystique as fly fishing, the art of catching trout with “flies,” artificial lures made to look like the flies upon which trout feed in rivers and streams. It is, however, an art that can be learned.

trout fishing setup


When selecting a fly fishing rod as a beginner trout fishing setup, a wise choice is a 5-weight rod that is 9 feet long with medium to fast action. The weight of the rod refers to the weight of the fishing line with which it is to be used.

One of the best ways to get started with a beginner trout fishing setup for fly fishing is to check out the selection of starter kits at Amazon, which include a rod, reel, and line.


In going after trout, your fly fishing reel has to do more than just hold your line. It also must have a drag system, a mechanical means of stopping the release of your line once you’ve hooked a trout.

But drag isn’t the only thing you’ll need to consider when choosing a fly fishing reel. The reel must be in weighted balance with your rod so that you can cast easily with a rod not too heavily weighted toward either the tip or the handle.

To understand what’s out there regarding fly fishing reels, check out Amazon, where you might want to take a close look at this Piscifun reel.


When choosing a fly fishing line as part of a trout fishing setup, be sure you have two types of line on hand — floating and sinking. Floating line will present your flies to the trout on top of the water. Sinking line presents streamers and other bait to trout under the water.

In addition to the line, you’ll need a leader and a tippet to attach your flies. A leader is a section of tapered fishing line that attaches your main line to your tippet, a thin section of fishing line to which the fly is tied.

Amazon offers a wide array of fly fishing lines, as well as leader and tippet.

Bait Choices for the Ultimate Trout Fishing Setup

After deciding on the type of trout fishing you’d like to do and some of the gear you’d like to have, you’ll need to consider the bait you’d like to use.

trout fishing setup

Lake and Pond Fishing

Fishing for trout in lakes and ponds can be a real learning experience. Artificial lures can be as effective, if not more so, than the live baits that are more commonly used in rivers and streams.

Also, using artificial lures as part of your trout fishing setup can help you improve your fishing technique as you use them at different depths. Also, using artificial lures will require you to move your rod and line to mimic the baitfish upon which trout feed, a skill that ultimately will improve your luck with trout.

River and Stream Fishing

If you’re fishing a river or stream for trout, there are four live baits you’ll want to try: worms, grasshoppers, freshwater shrimp, or minnows. All four, except freshwater shrimp, are naturally present in trout’s river and stream habitats.

In terms of artificial lures, there are any number available, many of which will imitate live earthworms, with the added advantage of lasting longer than live bait.

Fly Fishing

The best advice when fly fishing for trout is to avoid getting fixated on one particular fly pattern. Your best approach is to “match the hatch” with flies that imitate insects upon which trout feed, like mayflies or caddis flies.

You can also try matching your streamer flies to the baitfish upon which trout feed underwater. As an overriding rule, start your trout fly-fishing by using flies that imitate the natural world as it appears when you are fishing.

However, if you’ve been on the water for over an hour and your flies haven’t worked, it’s time to use whatever you have in your fly box. Even if you’re not particularly successful, you will have learned something about which flies not to use.

Popular Species for the Ultimate Trout Fishing Setup

Now that you have some idea regarding how to fish for trout let’s look at some of the most popular species.

Rainbow Trout

In waters across most of the United States, the rainbow trout — named for the rainbow-like iridescence of its scales — is a prized game fish. They will eagerly bite at both live bait and artificial lures and are challenging fighters on the end of a fishing line. As a final bonus, they taste great.

Cutthroat Trout

The cutthroat trout is another popular gamefish found in freshwater and saltwater along the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Golden-colored with a proliferation of black spots, cutthroat trout also are identifiable by a distinctive red mark under the jaw.

Interestingly, there are two types of cutthroat trout, one of which thrives in fresh water and the other in salt water. While freshwater cutthroat trout will occasionally be found in salt water, the two varieties don’t mix.

Brown Trout

Capable of living in both freshwater and saltwater environments, brown trout are found in lakes and streams along the eastern coast of the United States. Like other trout species, the brown trout is a slender-bodied fish identifiable by the dark spots covering its body.

The brown trout that eventually migrate to the sea become known as sea trout. Sea trout generally are regarded to have a better taste than freshwater brown trout.

Lake Trout

Present in waters across the United States, lake trout are an enticing species for anglers looking for large-sized fish. Lake trout can live for 20 years or more, reaching lengths of nearly 3 feet and weighing up to 10 pounds. They have green or grayish-brown scales marked with white spots.

When fishing for lake trout, you should get your bait into deep water, where the temperature is in the 50-degree range preferred by the species.

trout fishing setup

Ultimate Trout Fishing Setup Frequently Asked Questions

Now that you’ve learned about choosing the trout fishing setup that’s likely to work best for you, you may have other questions. Read on to learn how, when, and where to enjoy using your trout fishing setup.

1. What kind of license do I need for trout fishing?

Before fishing for trout, be sure you have the proper fishing license. Each state has its own requirements, so if you are fishing in a state other than your own, be sure to check their regulations. Many states have reciprocity agreements under which they honor out-of-state fishing licenses.

Also, some states will issue temporary fishing licenses to visiting anglers.

2. Where can I get a trout fishing license?

For the most up-to-date information on fishing license requirements, check with the state wildlife regulation office in your state or whatever states you might be visiting. Websites and contact information for those offices are readily available online.

3. What is the best time of year for trout fishing?

It’s possible to catch trout year-round, but years of experience among trout anglers suggest the best time is late spring. Water levels will be higher, and vegetation in the water won’t be as thick.

But the time of day you choose to fish, and the temperature at that time, also will be important. There is a rule of thumb for choosing the best time for trout fishing based on time and temperature. The higher the temperature expected for a given day, the earlier you should go fishing.

For example, if the high for the day is projected for the upper 80s, be on the water between 6 am and 9 am. Conversely, if the high temperature is predicted for somewhere in the low 50s, be fishing between noon and 5 pm.

4. What are the best baits for trout?

It may seem a bit cliché, but the best bait for catching trout may be the lowly worm. Worms are a common presence in rivers and other waters. As such, trout already recognize them as a viable food source.

The red wiggler is the best choice for trout fishing among live worms. Plastic worms are a great alternative to real worms because they will stay on your line much easier.

Other live baits, like maggots, grubs, mealworms, and fish eggs, also are good choices for trout fishing. And just as with plastic worms, there are artificial baits that mimic fish eggs in the form of plastic beads.

Wrapping up the Ultimate Trout Fishing Setup Guide for Beginners

Now that you’ve learned some basics, you’re ready to assemble your own trout fishing setup and head out to try your luck. For more on trout fishing and other outdoor activities, check out Life in Minnesota.