Whether your state allows year-round trout fishing, or the season starts sometime in the spring, there is no doubt that the beginning of April has every trout angler excited to get on the water for browns, 'bows and brookies.
Whether you're soaking Powerbait for stockers in the local pond or waving dries in your favorite river, April is the official unofficial start to trout season. We came up with 10 trout fishing trips you can take this spring to get on some of America's best waters. If you don't find a trip to your liking, don't worry, we've got all your spring fishing covered.
Why: Ennis, although it doesn't offer much in the way of city life (you'd be more likely to see Bigfoot than a Yellowcab), is at the heart of Montana's best trout country. It lies in proximity to some of the best Blue-Ribbon trout rivers in the state, all within a relatively short driving distance. Here, you can position yourself in a place to hit the hottest water, bouncing around to in accordance with conditions.
Which Rivers to Fish: The most famous river in proximity to Ennis is probably the Madison, but it's far from the only one. You're not far (by Montana standards) from the Gallatin River either, which offers great fishing as well.
How to fish: This time of year, your approach will depend very much on spring temperatures and runoff from snowmelt. During warmer springs, you'll see higher water levels from snowmelt. If it remains colder, rivers will run low and clear. Your best bet is to spend a few bucks in the local tackle shop and ask questions, or better yet, spend a few more bucks and spring for a lodge, like the Orvis-endorsed Madison Valley Lodge in Ennis. Their guides make a living by putting clients on the fish of a lifetime every spring.
Caption: Greg Thomas holds a Montana rainbow trout.
White River, Arkansas
Why: The White River area of Arkansas might not get the notoriety and fame of Montana's fabled trout waters, but that's not for a lack of big trout (like these monstrous fish). You'll remember that the world-record brown trout was caught here at one time. These monstrous trout have little in common with the stockies you're pulling out of your local creek. Like Ennis, this area offers more than a few options for great trout water. The White, Red and Little Red are all in close proximity and all have world-class trout fishing. Unlike Montana, however, you won't have to pay quite as much money to have access to trout every bit as big.
Which Rivers to Fish: The White, Red and Little Red are all fantastic options. You really can't go wrong. Seek some local intel on which are producing best when you arrive.
How to Fish: Typically, hucking big streamers on sinking line is the name of the game here, as these fish are carnivorous. However, baitfish-imitating lures like stickbaits and soft-plastics can be effective too.
Caption: Jeff Hearn holds an Arkansas brown.
Heart of the Driftless Region, Iowa
Why: This is some of the most beautiful country in the heart of America and offers some great trout fishing. The scenery will blow you away and the fishing doesn't disappoint.
Which Rivers to Fish: The Northeast corner of Iowa, part of what is known as the Heart of the Driftless Region, is home to dozens of small creeks and tributaries, many of which are packed with wild trout. Bring a map, fill up the tank and keep your eyes on the water and explore some of our country's most scenic landscape on your own.
How to Fish: Use spinners and small stickbaits for the biggest trout. Gold will catch the eye of a hungry trout in murkier water, and at the end of the day nothing beats a blue-and-silver Rapala fished at a steady, enticing pace.
Why: Many people think that great trout fishing only starts West of the Mississippi, and those of us that know better weren't sharing our secrets... until now. However, while you're wading or drifting the Deerfield in Western Massachusetts, you will forget almost instantly that you're halfway between Boston and New York City. This is truly some of New England's most beautiful trout water, and it lies right on the border of Massachusetts and New York. You'll have a shot at big, wild brown and rainbow trout in many stretches of the river.
Which Rivers to Fish: The Deerfield
How to Fish: Pay attention to the dam releases on the river, as increased water flows will bring trout close to banks, in undercut areas and into structure, while dropping flows will push them into deeper holes. The standard fare of small spoons, spinners and stickbaits will produce here as well. Pay attention to the water temperature and snowmelt and adjust accordingly. If the water is murky and stained, opt for a gold-colored offering. If it's clear and bright, go with silver, or silver-and-blue. I prefer a medium-sized Phoebe, worked slowly and erratically against the current, concentrating on pockets and holes behind rocks, fallen logs or underneath banks.
Caption: The author holds a Deerfield rainbow.
Why: Western Colorado has some of the most beautiful landscape you'll see anywhere in the West. Teddy Roosevelt was known to travel to Meeker as often as he could to hunt Mountain Lions and fish for trout. There is a statue in the center of town of a mountain lion he supposedly shot and killed. It's far removed from the hustle and bustle of Denver and Boulder, and the trout are as wild as the landscape.
Which Rivers to Fish: The White River
How to Fish: Anglers ply the White with everything from dry flies to San Juan Worms to spinners. John Kobald, a guide for 23 years, mostly in Colorado, recommends using smaller spoons like a Kastmaster to cover as much water as you can this time of year to find promising pools and seams where trout will be holding. Pay attention to regulations as some stretches restrict anglers to flies and lures only.
Caption: Kobald holds a White-River brown.
Puget Sound Sea-Run Cutthroats
Why: In Puget Sound near Seattle every year, sea-run cutthroat trout attack the harbors and bays feeding on small baitfish and moving with the tides. These are trout that in essence behave like saltwater fish, blitzing on top and feeding on the prevalant bait in the sound, which are usually small minnows or other baitfish.
Which Rivers to Fish: The Green River
How to Fish: Chris Senyohl has been guiding around Seattle and Puget Sound for more than 23 years and this fishery is one of his favorites. He'll tell you that there's often evidence of these fish on top, and while their migratory patterns are still a mystery to a large degree, anglers can spot them feeding under birds on small baitfish near the surface in bays and inlets in Puget Sound. It's very much a search-and-cast adventure for sea-run cutthroats, so you'll want to fish small, shiny lures that cover a lot of water fast so you can keep moving until you locate the area where these fish are feeding.
Why: Only a few hours outside of New York City lies some of New England's best trout water. You can choose from the Connecticut, Farmington or a variety of other smaller streams and rivers, but there's no denying that the small state has a big variety of promising trout water for those looking to escape the hustle and grind of city life.
Which Rivers to Fish: The Farmington has an especially strong supply of stocky brown trout that wake up in a big way when water temperatures begin to warm in April.
How to Fish: Connecticut angler Matt Wettish has perfected a system for Farmington browns that mixes fly-fishing with ultra-light spin fishing. He uses 2-pound-test fluorocarbon on a long (6-to-7-foot) light rod and drifts mealworms with a very light split shot, or no weight at all depending on current. He targets promising pools and eddies for the river's biggest browns. A super-subtle approach and delicate feel for these fish is needed, and playing them carefully is a big part of the challenge and fun, but the reward is more than worth it. Set your drag light because the size of the fish in this river will surprise you. After a prolonged fight, be sure to release fish quickly and carefully.
Caption: Wettish displays a 20-inch Farmington brown.
Wild Virginia Brookies
Why: The Mountains in the interior of Virginia provide some of the most gorgeous landscape along the eastern coast for trout fishermen, and the only thing more breathtaking than the view of the landscape is the color you'll find on the wild native brook trout swimming in some of the streams.
Which Rivers to Fish: The Rapidan River
How to Fish: These fish aren't going to be huge so you want to keep your presentation light and subtle. Go with the lightest line that you can get away with, small spoons, spinners and Mepps and dial everything down. You'll be targeting breaks in the current, shady spots and areas of structure. Fallen logs and tree branches area great place to start. Be sure to handle and release these beautiful fish with care.
Caption: A Rapidan-river native brook trout.
Cape Cod Sea-Run Brown Trout
Why: When People think of Cape Cod, they typically envision striped bass, bluefish and bluefin tuna. That's all fine and well, but April is a bit early for those species, but it's not too early to hit the water. Every year the state of Massachusetts stocks select bodies of water with sea-run brown trout to give anglers a new and exciting challenge in the spring. These fish fight hard, they're stunningly colorful and they're hungry come the minute they're wet.
Which Rivers to Fish: Scorton Creek, Sandwich
How to Fish: Approach the creek on a moving tide, preferably closer to high tide than low tide. You'll want a light-colored soft-plastic bait like a Slug-Go on a jighead between ¼ and ½ oz. Bounce the jig along the bottom and vary the pace until you find out exactly what works. These fish will move in and out of the creek with the rising and falling of the tide, so pay close attention to your tide charts. The two hours before and after high tide should be prime time. Spinners and spoons can also be effective.
Caption: Jimmy Fee holds a sea-run brown trout.
Fort Smith, Montana
Why: The Southeast Corner of Montana is home to some of the best big brown trout water in the world. With its distance from Bozeman, Billings and Missoula, it's not quite as pressured as other popular Montana rivers, and the fish are enormous. A 20-inch brown is an everyday occurrence in these parts, and more than one shouldn't surprise you.
Which Rivers to Fish: The Bighorn
How to Fish: The biggest browns and '˜bows will be looking for sheer substance, feeding on smaller baitfish like chubs. Imitators like Rapalas will work wonders. Be sure to pay attention to regulations depending on which section of the river you're fishing. Small Rat-L-Traps, Mepps and spoons can also work here, depending on water clarity. The biggest fish will be holding underneath banks and behind structure.
Caption: The author holds an early-spring Bighorn brown.