How To Fish For Rainbow Trout In Deep Pools: Location & Lures

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David’s wife, Nataya, fishing below a plunge pool in Western Wisconsin.

There’s nothing like wading around a river’s bend to see a perfect pool full of trout. But seeing trout and catching trout are two different things. 

The key to catching rainbow trout in deep pools is identifying trout location, lure depth and retrieval, and a careful approach. Don’t let these ideal spots fool you; no two pools fish the same, and they can be tricky to fish. 

How Do You Catch Trout In Pools? 

I’ve walked up to too many ideal holes without catching trout, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t any fish. Catching rainbow trout in pools comes down to pinpointing their location and offering an appropriate lure. 

Whether you’re fishing with worms, spinners, or flies, don’t cast your line willy-nilly. Take time, divide the stream into small sections, and remain patient. Here are some specific tips for finding trout and optimizing any pool. 

Locating Trout In A Pool

Head Of The Pool

The head of the pool is where water dumps in from upstream. This can be a plunge pool or a slow, meandering stream with a gradual bottom decline. Either way, feeding trout will sit at the head of a pool to catch drifting nymphs, baitfish, or any available food. 

Sometimes the head of a pool contains a drop-step, where fast, shallow water falls into a slow-moving pool. It’s a trout haven because of its protection from currents and food availability. Cast a nymph to the top of the pool to let it drop into a trout’s feeding zone.

Pool Body 

A pool’s body is the slowest and deepest part of the pool. Trout stockpile in the body, but catching them can still be challenging despite high numbers. Because of the slow water, fishermen can spook hundreds of trout in a pool. Take your time to offer spinners, worms, or nymphs

If you take time to watch a pool, you might notice flashes of silver. These are feeding trout. In my experience, a quick twitch or slow raise of your rod near these flashes will elicit a bite. 

Pool Tail 

The pool’s tail has a gradual incline to shallow, moving water. This is another location for feeding trout to take any emerging nymphs or washed-out bait. This is an overlooked, underrated part of the hole and should be the first place you cast your line. 

Fishing Tactics and Lures In Pools


Worms are a beginner-friendly yet effective option. You only need a worm, a #10-12 Aberdeen hook, and some split shots. 

Cast your line to the head of the pool and let your hook drift to the pool’s bottom. If needed, add weight to reach your desired depth. If you’re out of weights, cast further upstream to allow time for the hook to dive. 

Avoid using a bobber, as that can spook the trout and ruin your time. Your line will twitch or move when the rainbow trout takes your worm, so a careful eye is necessary.


Spinners are a popular choice for fishing deep pools. The key to their success in pools is versatility. 

My first concern with spinners is depth. I prefer fishing as deep as possible with my spinner and will let my spinner fall deeper with each cast. Over time, you can estimate the depth per second dropped to know where your spinner is in the water column. 

My lure’s retrieval rate is a secondary factor for catching trout in pools. If I am at the correct depth but lacking bites, the trout may want a faster or slower lure. On a typical day, lethargic fish at the bottom of a pool warrant a slow retrieve. 

Last but not least, consider your spinner’s size. Rainbow trout biting the entire spinner is a sign of an aggressive bite, so don’t be afraid to size up. However, if fish are there but not biting, size down. Their timid attitude wants a modest lure.

Fly Fishing Strategies In Pools

Fly fishing has many variables that affect your catch, so casting a fly can feel like a guessing game. This strategy will take time to master, but after some time can feel like a science rather than an art. 

Depending on the time of year, pools offer various effective flies.
Depending on the time of year, pools offer various effective flies

Whether you’re fishing nymphs, streamers, or dry flies, always start by fishing the water closest to you. In most cases, this means fishing the tail of a pool and working your way upstream. 

If fishing a streamer, give plenty of time for your fly to reach the bottom. Because your streamer replicates a baitfish, you can fish a streamer in any direction through the pool. I prefer twitching the streamer off the bottom to tease any bigger fish. This tactic takes time, and the take is subtle but worth it! 

Don’t let the lack of bites discourage you if you are using a nymph. My recommendation is to adjust your indicator depth before changing flies. Most often, you’re not deep enough. Then, position yourself to cast across one current. Doing so gives you better line control and fly for a natural drift. 

The slow current of a pool is optimal for emerging and dry flies. If using a dry fly, a pool’s body and tail are perfect locations. Be sure to fish the water closest to you, and don’t be afraid to twitch your fly. A quick twitch replicates a struggling bug skittering across the water’s surface.

Related Questions

What Depth Should I Fish For Rainbow Trout?

Never go to the stream with a predetermined plan. Watch for clues and let the river tell you what to do. Here are some popular clues to know trout depth. 

  • Splashes on the surface mean trout are feeding on dry flies. Usually, it’s terrestrials or stimulators that catch a trout’s attention from the bottom. 
  • Ripples on the water without a splash mean trout are attacking emerging flies near the surface. Or a prominent hatch is causing trout to sit below the surface and sip on a conveyor belt of flies. 
  • Flashes or trout moving side-to-side beneath the surface can mean trout are eating emerging flies or dead drifting nymphs. 
Hungry Trout Snack on Top.

Do Rainbow Trout Like Deep Water?

Rainbow trout will seek deep water for cooler temperatures and available food. But if the surface temperature is optimal, trout tend to move up in the water column. 

Are Bigger Trout In Deep Water?

Big trout love deep water for its protection and food source. These monsters can lie near the bottom and feed on baitfish or smaller trout. This makes catching big trout out of holes difficult but not impossible. 

Do Trout Swim Upstream?

Trout always face upstream for the river’s oxygen and drifting food. However, “upstream” is subjective and the meaning can change due to structure such as rocks, boulders, trees, and cliffs. 

The most famous example is a river eddy where the current swirls and fish appear to face downstream. Always remember that trout face upstream but orient to their local current. 

Final Thoughts

In pools, you can catch rainbow trout with worms, spinners, or flies. But your approach and location are as important as your lure. 

Start by casting into the pool’s tail, then work upstream toward the body and head of the pool. All three hold fish and present opportunities for catching rainbow trout.

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