What Colors Do Trout Like? Best Colors For Any Condition

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A Wisconsin brown trout. Notice the shape of its eye!

Trout have a keen eye for colors and can see red, blue, UV, and green

But water and weather conditions affect a trout’s detectable colors. Understanding how conditions affect a trout’s sight will give you an advantage next time you’re on the water. 

What Colors Can Trout See?

Trout are most sensitive to blue, red, and UV in clear, shallow waters, while green is the least vivid. These colors affect your lure and wardrobe options. So when trout fishing, wear drab colors such as tan, green, and brown to avoid spooking trout.

A trout’s ability to see colors depends on water clarity. Murky water, distance from the lure, and dark conditions decrease a color’s visibility. 

Under these conditions, anglers should rely on single-colored lures contrasting their habitat. White, black, and purple are the most popular options. Even fluorescent tones become undetectable in murky water as their UV light scatters in dirty conditions. 

What Colors Do Trout Like?

A trout’s color preference can depend on water and weather conditions. But in my experience, that color preference varies by stream, where fishing pressure influences a trout’s aggression.

So, knowing the best colors for any day is more of a hypothesis than a set of rules. To get started, here are some general guidelines.

Zoom in on the crimson spinner.

Sunny Weather 

Vivid colors are most visible to trout on bright days. This means red, pink, orange, and fluorescent are viable options. Whether you’re fishing spinners or flies, a bright accent on your lure, such as a collar or flash, may catch a trout’s eye.

But using vibrant colors on clear days does not mean you will catch trout. After all, these fish are picky. 

Sometimes a high sun will lock a trout’s jaw, and their wariness warrants a more natural looking lure. I prefer brown, black, or silver flies and spinners if my flashy lures fail to catch trout. These colors replicate trout’s prey, such as nymphs, baitfish, and silver fry. When it feels like nothing is biting, go natural. 

Overcast Skies

Cloudy conditions are a trout fisherman’s dream. These days provide hatches and camouflage. So the easiest color option is to “match the hatch.” If you are fly fishing, identify the color of the hatching bug, and find your closest match. Most often, brown, tan, olive, and black will work. 

Dark colors will be your best option if you’re fishing with spinners. Black, purple, and blue will stand out against a dark sky. But if dark colors aren’t working, tie on a fluorescent lure. A fluorescent lure’s vibrance may stand out against a darker sky. 

Clear Water 

Even though the water and sky follow the same general color rules, my experience shows water conditions affect colors more than the weather. In clear water, aggressive trout will chase bright colors from a surprising distance. This is most notable during the spawn.

But these bright colors could deter trout if you’re fishing in an area with high fishing pressure. Instead, try an all-natural color lure (black, brown, tan, or olive) or a mundane lure with a bright feature. Sometimes, trout chase something just because it looks different from everything else.

Dirty Water 

These are my favorite conditions to fish because the options are endless. If the water is murky, start by tying on something flashy. You can oversize your lures, but ensure your spinner or fly matches the natural prey available.

My favorite colors in dirty water are black, purple, or white because these contrast with a muddy background. If I’m indecisive about my fly selection, I will fish a nymph dropper below a black streamer. That dropper is usually a Pink Squirrel or any fly with some unnatural flash. 

Fish can’t see bright and flashy colors in dirty conditions, but they won’t harm fishing either. In these murky conditions, I like to roll the dice and have something bright as a second option. 

Isolated vs. Pressured Water 

If I had to choose one factor that affects trout behavior, it would be fishing pressure. In my experience, isolated rivers with low fishing pressure produce aggressive trout. In these cases, I love tying on a bright fly that features hot pink, tinsel, or flash. 

On the other hand, pressured water, such as two popular rivers in my area, require small, natural presentations. Often, something as insignificant as a beadhead can turn fish away because they’ve seen it so many times. When fishing water with heavy wader traffic, size down your lure and try something natural with an unfamiliar feature. 

A box with various color options will keep you prepared and confident on the stream.
A box with various color options will keep you prepared and confident on the stream

Related Questions

What Colors Do Brown Trout Like?

Trout species see the same colors, but their sight varies by conditions. For example, brown and rainbow trout can see better in low-light conditions compared to brook and cutthroat trout. 

A brown trout’s superior night vision explains its pickiness during the day. So when targeting brown trout, start with colors that match their forage. Brown, black, tan, and olive are great options. 

But if they’re in a feeding frenzy with an aggressive demeanor, tie on something flashy, bold, and vibrant. 

What Is The Best Spinner Color for Trout?

Silver, bronze, gold, and red-spotted are the most popular color spinners for trout. But these aren’t your only options. If you find the right conditions, rainbow, fire tiger, and black and yellow can also work.

What Colors Are Best for Trout Streamers?

Tying flies can become a money pit because of the endless options of colors and materials. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try tying your own streamer! Black, olive, white, and green are common starters

I recommend getting as much material as possible and letting your imagination run wild!

What Colors Should I Wear When Trout Fishing? 

Stick to earth tones and drab colors while trout fishing. This is important in clear conditions, particularly when fishing small streams

Final Thoughts 

Trout can see red, blue, UV, and green, but these colors diminish with various conditions. To ensure you are prepared on the trout stream, prep your box with natural and vibrant color options. 

Some old pros at the fly shop taught me a little trick for buying your fair share of lures: Use cash so your husband or wife can’t trace your purchase!

David Linsmeyer Avatar


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