Best Time to Fish for Trout: Prime Time Hours Explained

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Danny fly fishing in the river of New Mexico.

The best time of year to catch trout is during the spring and summer. The fish are hungry after a long winter, and the food options are plentiful. For the time of day, anglers should focus on fishing during the mornings and evenings when the insects are hatching. 

There’s nothing like timing the trout bite perfectly. The fish start breaking the surface, and the water comes to life. One cast, fish. Another cast, fish. While these moments don’t happen daily, getting to the water during prime feeding hours gives you the best chance at consistent fish. 

Best Time of The Year to Fish for Trout 

Trout feed during all times of the year. If you stay patient and study trout’s feeding habits, you’ll learn when, how, and where they like to feed. The feeding windows change throughout the year due to changes in weather, water flows, and insect hatches. Spring and summer are the most productive times of year for trout fishing.


I love fishing for trout in the spring. You’ll catch fish once you find the delicate balance between the proper flows and consistent weather. They’re coming off a long winter of slowed metabolisms and small feeding windows. 

The warmer temperatures and ample food sources cause trout to enter a feeding frenzy. They’re eager to fatten up and willing to eat whatever lure, fly, or bait you throw their way. Plus, trout aren’t as used to seeing pressure in the spring. 

Most anglers don’t fish in the winter, so the traditional hot “holes” are especially productive come spring. I always hit the most popular holes as soon as the weather turns. 

The summer anglers haven’t hit them yet, so the fish aren’t overly wary of my flies. I always pull a few fish from the hot spots before I move to my more secretive areas. 

The primary thing to be concerned about during the spring is the water levels. If you’re fishing lakes, the water levels can heavily fluctuate due to snow melt and precipitation. Figuring out how trout feed in lakes during the spring isn’t overly challenging. Stick close to shore and fish near cover and structure. 

Fish the prime feeding hours to give yourself the best chance. 

Rivers and streams heavily fluctuate in the spring. Snow melt can cause water levels to rise, turning the water dark brown. Flows increase when water levels rise a few feet, and fishing becomes more challenging

If possible, get out to the water during the early spring when runoff hasn’t started, but the temperatures are consistently warm. In most places, you’ll find pre-runoff in March and April.  These few weeks are when the fish feed like crazy. 

I hit the water as much as possible during these weeks to give myself the best chance at consistently landing trophy fish. They’re bold and eager to fatten up after winter. 

Peak runoff usually starts in late April and lasts through May. Even though the water may look unfishable, you can still find trout. Look for places where the flow slows. 

Odds are, you’ll find fish stacked in the areas because there are so few of them. Toss a streamer or large nymph into these slow areas and see what takes it. 

Danny flu fishing in the river of Arizona in the summer.
Fly Fishing Arizona in the Summer


Summer is the other time of year that’s best for trout. The days are long, hatches are consistent, and fish are ready to eat. Yes, you have to manage air and water temperatures, but most trout rivers and lakes stay below 65 degrees throughout the summer. 

If the water you’re fishing is above 65 degrees, stay away. Catching these trout can stress them out and potentially kill them. 

Summer fishing is a blast when you find safe and healthy water temperatures. You can throw all different types of flies, use all the tricks in your bag, and play the true game of fly fishing. 

High-stick your way through a small seam, cast your Mepps Spinner into a deep pool, and see what the fish want. 

You’ll land fish if you’re willing to try different methods and experiment with what might work.  

Study what the fish are eating before you hit the water. If you’re fly fishing, speak with a local fly shop and peek at a hatch chart. You’ll want a good amount of flies that keep you versatile. 

For spin anglers, take various spinners and spooks. You want different colors and sizes to help you cover more water and determine what the trout want. 

Hit the water in the morning, evening, or late at night for the best action. Fish stick to the traditional feeding hours throughout the summer. 

Be willing to cover all levels of the water column. Due to the higher temperatures, trout sit deeper during the middle of the day and move up shallow in the mornings and evenings. 

Danny fly fishing in the river of Terrace, British Columbia.
Fly Fishing Terrace, British Columbia


The fall is a severely underrated time to fish for trout. The summer anglers have left the water, the water is low, and the fish are prepping for a long winter. While you often have to use finesse fishing methods, you can still land fish. 

The changes in air and water temperature make fish a little more sluggish. However, if you get a random warm day, the bite turns on, and the fish go into a feeding frenzy. 

Like summer, look to cover all levels of the water column. The fish may sit deeper near the warm water and avoid the surface water if it’s extra cold. Also, be equipped with all different types of lures, flies, and bait. 

The fish are known to be temperamental in the fall, so you’ll likely have to experiment to figure out what they want. Stick to the warmer parts of the day and wait for those hatches to begin. 

I love fishing for trout in the fall. It’s always challenging, but fish reward me for good casts and drifts. If you can keep everything smooth, you’ll get bites. 

Danny facing the river fly fishing the Pecos River in New Mexico.
Fly Fishing the Pecos River in New Mexico


Winter is a fun time to fish for trout. Patience is always the name of the game. The fish are slow and waiting for the warmest part of the day to do most of their feeding. 

Generally, you have a few-hour feeding window in the middle of the day to find trout. You’ll struggle to find a consistent bite for the rest of the day. 

Your top priorities should be small flies and lures, slow drifts, and slow retrieves. Don’t try and use your aggressive tendencies you do in the summer. Stay patient and let your flies do the work. 

Mountain lake in the morning.
Mountain lake in the morning

Best Time of Day to Fish for Trout 

Successful trout anglers understand when the trout feed throughout the day. While trout feed at all times of the day, set yourself up for success and fish when the trout want to eat. They turn aggressive when hatches start, temperatures are comfortable, and the light levels are safe. 


Always fish for trout in the morning. As soon as the sun comes up, trout start feeding. Hatches begin, and trout move to shallow water to eat their fill before the sun reaches its peak. 

Trout utilize the low light and comfortable temperatures to their advantage. They’ll cover all levels of the water column for the perfect meal. 

The morning feeding window lasts until 10 or 11 a.m. As the sun gets higher, trout move deeper. They don’t have eyelids, so the bright light makes it difficult for them to maneuver the water. 

Plus, the deeper water is more comfortable in the summer during the warmest parts of the day. In the winter, the fish sit in the deepest water because it’s the most comfortable and stays warmer than the surface water. 

The morning is prime trout feeding time. 


Anglers should also prioritize fishing for trout in the evenings. When the sun drops in the sky, the fish move from their holding areas and start feeding. Hatches begin, and the fish cover as much water as they need to feed. 

Trout aren’t afraid to move through open water in the evenings. They’ll locate a smaller fish, insect, or crustacean and attack. 

The lower light works to their advantage. They use their ambush skills and aggressiveness to exploit the weaker prey. The bigger trout start moving around in the evenings while waiting for the night to fall. 

Colorado stream in the evening.
Colorado stream in the evening


If you’re up for it, you’ll catch a ton of trout during the night. The trophy fish feed in the pitch black. They’ll wait along the banks for larger prey. Even though trout can’t see too well at night, they can still make out shapes and see contrasts in the water. 

They’ll eat large lures and flies as long as they sit above them in the water column. When you’re fishing at night, stick to the shallower water. Stick to the obvious areas when fishing for trout at night. There’s no need to force your fly, lure, or bait into a tight seam. 

The pools, banks, and seams hold fish at night. 


Avoid fishing for trout in the middle of the day. Yes, they feed, but they’re nowhere near as active as they are during the mornings, evenings, and nights. The trout sit in the deep water, waiting for the light levels and temperatures to drop. 


The best time of year to catch trout is the spring or summer. The mornings and evenings are the best times of day to fish for trout. Plan your fishing excursions around these times, and you give yourself the best chance at landing fish. There are always variables that interrupt the normal feeding habits, but start during the prime times and work your way from there. 

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