Read the Stream: Catch More Trout by Understanding Their Habitats


A big part of the adventure of trout fishing lies in the thrill of the chase. We know that just because the fish we’re trying to catch aren’t in plain sight doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t there. Streams and rivers afford trout many hiding places, and they can be well camouflaged at the muddy bottoms as well. Determining where they might be lurking require us to consider their basic needs. In a way, we have to think like fish. Where we would find food, oxygen and shelter from predators if we were trout living in that stream?

Trout tend to let the water’s current bring their food to them. Rivers and streams sweep fallen insects along in their flow, conveniently delivering them to the hungry fish below the surface. A line of drifting bubbles or foam is a common indication of places where insects are being swept along. Chances are good that there will be trout in the vicinity, come to gulp down this easy provender.

Along with food, fish must have oxygen. Trout actually have an easier time getting an adequate supply during the colder months. The summer heat bubbles much of it out of a stream. Warm water just can’t retain as much oxygen. A trout’s metabolism is higher when the weather is warmer, as well, and its need for oxygen is therefore more pronounced. When temperatures become extreme, both of these conditions can make suffocation a real possibility for the fish we’re trying to catch. In the middle of summer we would be wise to avoid slow moving branches of a stream and stagnant pools

The best place for us to start searching for trout in the hot summer months is around waterfalls or other areas of whitewater – anywhere where crashing water creates air bubbles. Consider the way that fish tanks are aerated. For sheer survival reasons, trout tend to gather in places where the water is being churned to a white froth.

Trout also have to keep themselves hidden from winged predators. They can make easy prey for blue herons and kingfishers when they’re out in open water. They learn to watch for quick moving shadows above the water, and dart into little crevices within rocks and hollows inside of logs to conceal themselves. They find sanctuary in the shade of overhanging banks and fallen trees. They also feel safest in the deepest waters. Though we may not be able to actually see trout in a stream, we’re likely to get some bites if we cast our lines into these areas.

Ideally, we would want to fish in areas that satisfy all of these criteria. Can you think of sites where trout could find shelter from predators, nibble on food brought within their reach by the current and breathe easily thanks to the churning action of nearby falls? Such an area could bring you good fortune on your next outing.