Why Trout Don’t Bite: Strange Trout Behavior Explained

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River near Jackson, Wyoming and a beautiful mountain.

Some reasons trout don’t bite include changes in water conditions, the time of day, the baits we’re throwing, poor fishing techniques, and weather conditions. At times it is a combination of various factors. Trout are finicky, and it’s not uncommon to have days you can’t figure them out.

Few things are more frustrating than perfectly placing a cast and watching a trout ignore your bait. I’ve had plenty of days where the trout will even swim away when they see my fly hit the water. Some days, trout won’t bite because I’m making mistakes. However, there are plenty of days when trout won’t bite, and there are numerous reasons why that might happen. 

Change in Water Conditions

Trout are extremely sensitive to their current water conditions. Most trout need water that is consistently under 65 degrees Fahrenheit. If there’s a sudden drop or rise in temperature, trout take time to adjust. They’re cold-blooded, so their body temperatures are the same as their environment. 

As the water temperatures creep closer to 65 degrees and go over it, their metabolism slows down, and they enter survival mode. They move to the deepest, coldest possible water until temperatures return to cooler levels. If the temperatures continue to rise, it’s not uncommon for many trout to die. 

Stay patient if fishing directly after a cold snap or heat wave. The trout will acclimate, but it may take a few days. You’ll have more success catching trout after a cold snap rather than a heat wave.

Water that’s between 40-60 degrees is perfect for trout. They move around and cover all sorts of water in search of food. So, as soon as those temperatures start to drop, hit the water. 

Fishing after any extreme temperature changes is the toughest. Sudden drops or rises in temperature will send trout into a state of shock until their bodies can acclimate a few days later. 

Consistent, comfortable water temperatures mean consistent bites. Growing up in Minnesota, I learned this lesson early in my fishing career. I’d spend much of the fall fishing for trout, but as soon as that first day of true winter weather hit, I learned to take a few days off. The fishing became too challenging until the temperatures became more consistent. 

Time of Day

If you’re anything like me, you lose track of time on the water. I’ll get to the river right around sunrise, fish the morning hatches, and keep fishing. It isn’t until I feel like all of the fish have left the area that I usually look at my watch. Odds are, it’s the middle of the day. 

Trout are the least active during the middle parts of the day. The sun affects their vision, the temperatures are the warmest, and their metabolisms slow. 

You won’t find consistent fishing if you primarily fish from 12-4 daily. You may get a few small bites occasionally, but not the regular ones you find during the morning and evening hatches. 

Do yourself a favor and fish the prime-time hours. Give yourself the best chance at success at fishing when the fish are feeding. You may not know if your skills are up to par if you don’t. 

Various dry flies in a container and a fish net in a wooden floor.
Various Dry Flies

Wrong Bait

In trout fishing, there’s something known as “matching the hatch.” Matching the hatch is the act of choosing the exact fly that the fish are feeding upon. It could be a caddis hatch, so anglers would want to fish with an Elk Hair Caddis. 

By matching the hatch, anglers use flies that the fish are eating. When they see your fly, they won’t think twice about it because it looks exactly like everything they’ve eaten for the past few minutes. 

Some anglers recommend using flashier-looking bait during the hatch. Doing this helps your fly or lure stand out and gives the trout something different to eat. They may be looking for something different, and your flashy pattern is precisely what they want. 

Before you head to the water, do some research. Look at hatch charts, talk to local bait and fly shops, and read online forums. These will tell you about what bait to use. Local knowledge is the best knowledge when it comes to trout fishing. 

If you’re using the wrong bait, trout won’t think twice about ignoring you. Give yourself a fighting chance and have a few different flies or lures representing the food the trout eat. 

Danny Fly fishing in Sedona, Arizona river.
Fly fishing in Sedona, Arizona

Poor Fishing Techniques

While many don’t want to admit it, our fishing techniques might prevent us from catching trout. When I first started fly fishing, I spent all of my time casting downstream and stripping my flies upstream. I also let my flies and fly line slap the water because I thought it would get the attention of all the trout in the area. 

I struggled to catch fish until I learned to cast my flies upstream and lay them down as gently as possible. 

Learning how to fish for trout takes time. Whether you’re spin fishing or fly fishing, trout prefer different techniques and styles. Some general rules for trout fishing to consider are to make your drifts as natural as possible, cast near foam, and let your bait do the work. 

Trout want natural-looking food. It’s our job as anglers to make everything look as normal as possible. When you first get to the water, take some time to observe. Look how insects are swimming and see if you can find trout feeding. 

By observing the behavior of everything in and on the water, you’ll put yourself in a better position to succeed. 

Foggy in Lake on Vancouver Island.
Lake on Vancouver Island

Weather Conditions

As mentioned earlier, air temperatures impact trout bites. Sudden air temperature changes can pause the trout bite for a few days. Other weather, like high winds and bright sunlight, can also impact the trout bite. 

Heavy winds blow food to one side of the lake, pond, or river. Anglers should spend time fishing the shoreline that is getting the most wind. Everything drifts naturally in that direction, and fishing the opposite bank hurts your chances of catching trout. 

Also, trout don’t have eyelids, so if you’re only fishing during the brightest parts of the day, you may struggle to catch fish. During the bright sunlight, trout move to deeper water where they can see. The bright sunlight hurts their eyes and prevents them from seeing everything around them. 

Alpine lake in Colorad with beautiful mountains and pine trees.
Alpine lake in Colorad

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are trout jumping but not biting? 

You’ll see trout leaping out of the water for food during a hatch. Many anglers cast near jumping trout but never get any to bite. If this is the case, do your best to use the exact fly that’s hatching and switch to a highly light leader or tippet. 

You want your fly to look as natural as possible, and a light tippet helps. Also, switch to your smallest hatching pattern. When in doubt, use a smaller fly. Once you make the switch, the fish will start eating your fly. 

How to Get Trout to Bite

Use bait trout are eating, make natural-looking drifts and retrieves, and fish where the trout are holding. If you can combine all of these things, you’ll catch trout. 


Trout cause anglers frustration. Even the most skilled anglers have days on the water where they can’t get anything to work. Tiny flies, perfect casts, smooth drifts, and time of day could all align, and the fish still don’t want to bite. Do everything you can to appear natural, and trust that you’re doing the right thing. It may be a slow day, but small tweaks in your setup and technique can make a difference. 

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