Top Rainbow Trout Fishing Charters
I had a great day on a remote Alaskan stream with Shaun who is an excellent guide. The best fish of the day managed to get away but we netted a few others and had a fun day and with was cool to share the stream with a few bears. I enjoy fishing with Dave Fish, this was my third trip with them so that is probably best recommendation I can give, and highly recommend them if you are in the Talkeetna area.
Simon S. with Dave Fish of Talkeetna, Alaska
This was my second trip with Ken and the first was excellent... but he still managed to provide us with another fantastic day. I had a novice fly fisherman with me but Ken put us on lots of brown trout, some rainbows and a rare Tiger trout. He is a great guide and I will use him again and highly recommend Ken to anyone of any level who wants to fish in Denver area.
Simon S. with Ken Robak of Littleton, Colorado
Had a great trip on the Missouri River drift boat fishing with Shelly. Extreamly knowledgable & helpful for a couple of first time fly fishermen. Caught my first Rainbow off of a fly rod. Highly recommend for the beginner or veteran fisherman.
Bob F. with Nate Stevane of Craig, Montana
We had a great day on Montana Creek with DFA. I brought along a novice fly fisherman and we were still able to find lots of rainbows, some close to 20", even though it was early in the season and river was still high. Everyone at DFA was very friendly, the guide Sean was knowledgeable and patient with new fisherman and Heather in the office was always very helpful. Will definitely use DFA again.
Simon S. with Dave Fish of Talkeetna, Alaska
One of the things I wanted to be dang sure I did while I was there was fish the Yellowstone in a drift boat, and was lucky enough to get it done. With lots of fishing travel under my belt you never know how it will go and in this case the plan came together and it was a good day to be alive. The Boss and I met our guide Nathan at the ramp at 8:00 and it was not long before we were on the water. The Boss and I are really fly fishing neophytes with lots to learn and Nathan was a perfect guide and teacher for our day on the water. He has fished those rivers for 35 years, was patient, technically proficient, and just an overall good guy to spend the day with. As I noticed in the park there were lots of grasshoppers and it turned out to be our plan for the day. In my case catching any particular fish on topwater is the bomb, and we spent most of the day fishing larger hoppers with a smaller floating “something or other” on a dropper around 8″ behind. And it was so interesting to see the fish react. A few smashed it, (At least for a trout.) most barely slurped it under, and others could not resist rolling on it, or just taking a look. It took me a bit to get the hang of setting the hook like you need to and after a while I managed to toss a couple of small rainbows completely over the boat. It really was a new way to fish for us and it took a while to get the hang of it but I intend to put those lessons to work in Colorado when I head there this fall. Since this was our 5 or 6th run at it the Boss commented that each place and method was different, it is all part of the learning process. I probably went about 10 for 20 with one whitefish, the Boss struggled. So late in the day Nathan put us on a nymph rig with an indicator. (Or as we regular folks call it, a bobber.) He wanted to be sure the Boss caught a fish and she finally boated a rainbow and a native whitefish. But the Boss was happy just sitting in the back and enjoying the day and the view, but I give her credit, she kept casting like a trooper. He was so patient as we tangled, crossed, casted like the rookies we are, and he just continued to act like the professional he is. (Except we all laughed like crazy when at one point when we were thrashing multiple messes he said; “Stop casting!”) Of course I told him I would trash him here so let me do it now – One of the best guides to spend the day with I have had the pleasure to fish with. So take that homie. From the Great Barrier reef, Belize, Colorado we have fished with our share and today was one of the best all around experiences we have ever had. The fishing was not fast by any means, but the bite was consistent. I was not surprised by the number of refusals with the traffic and it being late in the season. Nathan made several fly changes during the day until we finished the day with the nymph rig and put the last couple in the boat. He worked hard to put me on a little bigger fish and his efforts were appreciated. Probably if I would have bullshitted less and fished harder I might have boated one of the better fish I missed, but I could have cared less as numbers were not the reason for the day. Being a Saturday there was quite a bit of traffic, but it is a big river, and when compared to Froggie’s on the weekend no big deal. Of course we had a few incidents where both guides and the public cut us off, or were just plain were clueless. (Sound familiar you coastal boys?) As you know one of my rules to live by on our busy waterways – Be nice, be the bigger man, and just because you have the right of way let them go. Nathan naturally lives and practices that making our day on the water pleasant and fun and he is a credit to the profession. I can be pretty hard on guides. It really was comfortable fishing from the drift boat. The Boss loved the safe manner he operated and being able to stand up and cast from the leaning post, or whatever it is called. I learned a lot about the drift boat and how it preforms on the water. As we accelerate our search for our place in the mountains Montana has made the list. Of all the places I have fished Montana gets an A+ for the access available to the public. (So thanks Nathan for offering to be my new best friend and take me fishing all the time if we end up in the area. At least I thought I heard him say that!) And a big thanks to Jonathan of Captain Experiences, https://captainexperiences.com/ , for booking and following up on our trip. The home of Damn Good Fishing Guides, this site has guides all over the country and they lived up to their name when they hooked us up with Nathan. Nathan guides out of Bozeman, Montana, fishing the Yellowstone, Madison, and a couple of other great Montana rivers. Nate, the owner, kept us informed with a full written itinerary, with constant follow up both before and after the trip. It was a professional job all the way around. So if you are looking for a guide anywhere, or wanting to fish the Yellowstone area, give Jonathan a call and he will put you with the best. Overall a first class trip. So when it is all said and done it was a great way to spend a day along with our park expedition. And here is a taste of what is next, as soon as I organize all of the park stuff. We saw almost everything we wanted to this trip and were so fortunate to see the wolves everyday along with enough wildlife to keep us happy. (For a while!) And to Nathan, I have added the Madison to my bucket list. Thanks for reading my stuff.
Doug C. with Nate Stevane of Yellowstone River, Montana
We had a fantastic day, caught four species of trout and I learned a lot from Ken. Will fish with him again for aure!
Simon S. with Ken Robak of Littleton, Colorado
Had a really great time fishing the Yellowstone, Upper Madison on drift boats. Caught nice browns and rainbows. Wades the Gallatin and caught nice fish on dry flies. Our guide was Matt and he was great to work with not to mention he’s a trained chef so the lunches were fantastic. Highly recommend these trips. The booking process was simple and effective thanks to Captain Experiences.
Jay W. with Ennion Williams of Gallatin Gateway, Montana
Drifted the Yellowstone and Upper Madison this week. Awesome trips, experienced and thoughtful guide, dry fly and nymph fishing. Hoppers and ants on top, small droppers trailing. In addition to great fishing, the lunches were excellent, as our guide is also as professional chef! Captain bookings and system worked perfectly. Very happy customer.
Jay W. with Ennion Williams of Gallatin Gateway, Montana
As a beginner, I was nervous to go out on my first fly fishing trip, but Chris made the experience incredible! I was able to reel in 4 fish (my boyfriend reeled in another 5), including some rainbow and brown trout. However, the best part wasn't actually catching anything but learning the technique and patience that goes into fly fishing. Chris was a great instructor! Would absolutely book again or recommend to a friend!
Ansley W. with Chris Jackson of New Braunfels, Texas
Everything You Need to Know About Rainbow Trout Fishing
What is a Rainbow Trout?
Arguably the most iconic freshwater species to catch on the fly in North America, the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) is a salmonid native to cold-waters feeding into the Pacific Ocean on both the Western side of North America and the Eastern part of Asia, although the species has been introduced worldwide. It is actually one of the top invasive species around the world, mostly due to the breadth through which the fish has been manually spread, but they can also have a big impact on native species mostly through out-competing them. Rainbow trout have been transported around the world mainly for sport, and are now found on every continent except Antarctica, in many places providing a great gamefish opportunity where previously there was little.
Steelhead (steelhead trout) are a distinct anadromous form of coastal rainbow trout, meaning they live in saltwater but return up freshwater tributaries to spawn after a few years. Steelhead are the state fish of Washington, and are much more threatened than rainbow trout due to a much lower distribution and greater changes to their native habitat. While rainbow trout have been introduced into streams all over the world, steelhead rely on clear waterways in the Pacific Northwest to spawn.
Steelhead have also been introduced and do well in the Great Lakes area, spawning upstream from the lakes and erstwhile living in the lakes. Adult rainbow trout can vary in color depending on habitat and location (and steelhead trout vary even more), but they are generally distinguished by a broad red stripe along their lateral line that is most prominent along the line and fades as it expands out. They can often appear greenish/silver above and below the lateral line.
Rainbow trout are probably the most common trout globally and therefore the most commonly caught, and they are a many a beginner’s introduction to fishing in streams around the world, particularly those fishing on the fly. They can be somewhat picky with presentation and skittish in general, which makes them all the more of a treat and a challenge. Aside from bass & panfish they are the most common freshwater fish sought in the US.
How big do Rainbow Trout get?
Rainbow trout size is an interesting question, because a “good” sized rainbow trout depends entirely on where you are and how big the waterway is. Fishing the streams of the Appalachians you’ll be happy with a 1/2 pound fish but head to Alaska and you’ll expect 10 pounders.
Generally most rainbow trout are between a half pound and 5 pounds, and lake-dwelling or anadromous fish can get to 20 pounds or more, behaving and appearing much more like a salmon than a trout from a small stream.
What's the biggest Rainbow Trout ever caught?
The world record rainbow trout belongs to Canadian Sean Konrad (who has been sharing titles back and forth with his brother). The fish is an absolute monster at 48 pounds and 42 inches, and was caught in Lake Diefenbaker, Saskatchewan, Canada. There is some controversy here though, as many have pointed out that there was a fish farm nearby that held triploid trout which may have escaped, and which some believe are clearly causing these massive fish.
Put simply, a triploid trout is one with an extra set of chromosomes. This renders the fish infertile, and the resources the fish would have spent on reproduction instead move towards growth and girth. This is great for fish farms that aim to provide the biggest fillets, but not for allowing a fair record fight.
That record was caught on a spinning rod, but the record on a fly is still a whopping 30 pounds 15 ounces, caught by Dietmar Jeschke on the Ruhr River in Kreuzau, Germany on 12 lb line.
Where is the best place to catch Rainbow Trout?
Honestly - everywhere. This is one of the widest-ranging fish in the world. From small mountain streams to giant lakes to even some anadromous fish, you really won’t struggle to find rainbow trout.
The species is native inland up to British Columbia and Alberta, and in the Pacific Northwest in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and arguably Nevada. Steelhead occupy much of the same area on the coast, plus across the Pacific into Kamchatka and the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. The species has been introduced to much of the rest of the US, Canada, and the world.
While you can catch fish in many places, there are many reasons to want to catch native trout (more meaningful for one, but the fish also fight better on the line and generally speaking present more of a challenge to the angler). For the same reasons, it is preferable to fish where the trout are spawning on their own, rather than being stocked year over year, which expands your areas of opportunity quite a bit, as rainbow trout can and do sustain natural populations in many places around the world.
Rainbow trout tend to live in cold water, generally fast-moving rivers and streams with gravel beds, and generally freshwater (aside from steelhead).
Alaska has some of the largest rainbow trout in the wild (excluding large stocked fish some locations release). Head to the Kvichak or Naknek rivers. You can also head over to Kamchatka which is rumored to have some huge wild rainbows (along with some other monsters - see siberian taimen).
When should I catch Rainbow Trout?
The best time to catch rainbow trout will depend on the time of year, time of day, location, and importantly the water temperature. They can be fished year-round, but late spring is generally considered best, when waters are still cold and water levels have not receded in the summer yet.
Later in the season in the heat, trout also are more sensitive to pressure and if the water is too hot they will often not recover from the fight and being handled, so it is best to be mindful of the water temperatures when fishing catch and release.
Steelhead can be caught as they move upstream for their annual spawning runs, but when this occurs depends a lot on where you are. Steelhead can spawn in winter or summer and, appropriately, their runs will be called either the summer-run or the winter-run. Some waterways hold both, one, or neither, so it is best to let your guide or some quality research help you determine what would be best.
How do you catch Rainbow Trout?
Trout fishing is partially satisfying purely because of the effort it can sometimes take to get to quality fishing spots, and some liken trout fishing more to hunting and tracking due to the active nature of the hiking and searching for fish, especially since many streams and rivers are not accessible by boat.
Rainbows are also fun to catch - they often put up a good fight for a smaller fish and will jump when hooked. Since many anglers are using smaller tackle, these fights are even more challenging and enjoyable.
Fishing for rainbow trout can be done on conventional tackle or on the fly, with many anglers preferring the challenge of using a low-weight fly rod with light line for added challenge (not to mention the challenge involved in not hooking one of the many trees that are guaranteed to overhang many trout streams).
Catching steelhead will generally take somewhat bigger tackle. To catch steelhead with conventional gear, consider spinners with spoons as a good option, as well as plugs and jigs in the 1-3 inch range. Trout can be finicky, so sometimes one lure will turn off just as another turns on, so it’s good to be able to mix it up.
To catch trout on the fly, anglers usually try to match the hatch, meaning they pick flies that mimic not only native insect species or other food options in the area, but also will match insects that are breeding at that particular time of the year. Rainbow trout will often be seen eating the current hatch and nothing else that is presented. Rainbows also typically hunt beneath the surface so while some anglers might use dry flies, something that sinks is a little better, like a nymph or small streamer.
Make sure you cast well - sometimes a poor cast can spook the fish and ruin a spot for your afternoon. Your retrieve can be slow to match that of a floating, injured insect, and you can experience the true pleasure of watching a rainbow slurp your fly (and hope they don’t spit it right back out - set the hook quickly).
Are Rainbow Trout good to eat? What are the best Rainbow Trout recipes?
Cooking and eating rainbow trout is a true treat. Wild-caught rainbow trout taste absolutely incredible no matter who you talk to, having a tender, pink flesh and a mild flavor, often compared to a milder (and smaller) salmon.
Rainbow trout are also frequently farm-raised, although fish raised on pellets will not taste nearly as good as something wild. True aficionados can even tell the difference between a wild-caught stocked fish and one that was actually born in the wild. A true wild fish will have more depth of flavor and a slightly gamier taste (in a good way).
In some locations (like Montana) it is illegal to sell wild-caught rainbow trout, so in the fish market you will find farmed fish, which are known as one of the best farmed fish options out there.
Trout don’t need to be scaled or skinned to be eaten, and it is often preferable to cook them skin-on to hold the meat together. Sometimes the fish are not even filleted, although you’ll still want to debone. The fish are (according to us) best baked with some lemon and butter.