To land brook trout in clear streams, find pools and other holding areas where brook trout feel protected. The clear water makes them susceptible to different predators, so they’re always skittish. Once you find the fish, ensure you have lightweight gear that doesn’t give you away.
If you want to fish in some of the most beautiful places in the world, target brook trout. They need cold, highly oxygenated water, often found in places with picturesque vistas, abundant wildlife, and unique vegetation. You may get more time than you want to soak up the views because brook trout don’t always bite.
Brook Trout Behavior in Small Streams
Brook trout aren’t overly different than other trout. While they don’t grow as large, they have aggressive tendencies when they’re ready to feed. They face upstream, sitting behind rocks, under logs, and under cut banks. During the middle of the day, they often look for deeper water, especially in clear streams.
As the light fades, they move shallow and take advantage of all the hatching insects. They’ll sit in the open to feed but don’t overexpose themselves to larger fish or aerial predators.
Anywhere, they can hide and access the open water they like. They’ll dart around. Casting into the open current doesn’t lead to as many fish as casting near cover and structure will.
Reading Water For Brook Trout in Small Streams
Small streams are my favorite bodies of water to fish. Despite the challenges they present, they showcase your skills as an angler. You get to know exactly what the fish want. Reading the stream gives you a great idea of exactly what the trout are doing.
Look for Bends
You want to look for bends in the stream and deeper water sections whenever possible.
The bends usually have deep sections that collect debris that drifts downstream. Logs and rocks pile in these areas, and so does food. Brook trout sit within these bends, waiting for insects and smaller fish to drift past them.
Plus, the current is slower throughout these bends, so trout don’t have to fight to keep themselves in one place. The less energy they have to exert, the better. Stand below the bend, cast your lure or bait upstream of it, and retrieve it through. A waiting fish will pounce.
Always look for deep water in streams. Even a section of water that moves from eight inches deep to two feet is perfect. The deeper the water, the more cover and structure for the fish. These transition points from shallow to deep are the ideal places to target brook trout.
They use the slack water and extra protection to do their hunting. Cast into the shallow water and retrieve your lure or bait through the deeper water.
Fish Along the Banks
In small streams, brook trout almost always hug the banks. They’ll sit under the banks and stare out and across the current. Since the streams aren’t very wide, brook trout can survey everything that happens with time to recover and return to hiding.
Casting along the banks and retrieving downstream is the perfect strategy. Even casting up and across the stream to the opposite bank and letting your lure drift with the current for a little while before you retrieve is a good strategy.
You want to pull fish away from the bank to pursue your bait or lure. If your lure is appealing enough, you’ll land aggressive brook trout.
How to Fish Specific Lures and Bait
Spin anglers use four primary lures and setups when fishing for trout in streams: spoons, spinners, jerk baits, and jigs. You can fish each lure a little differently. They’re all effective lures to use for hungry brookies.
Spoons work great in smaller streams. They’re aerodynamic and easy to cast into tight areas. Brook trout love to hit spoons as they fall in the water column, so as soon as they hit the water, be ready for the immediate strike.
I like to cast my spoons up and across the stream to the opposite bank and above your target area. Let it drop for a couple of seconds and begin the retrieve. If you want to fish a pool, cast above it and into the shallow area.
As you retrieve, make sure you’re pulling it directly through the pool. As you get towards the middle of the pool, let it fall for a few seconds.
Stay patient, and don’t rip it through the pool. You want it to fall if the fish are sitting at the bottom of the pool. You can jig the spoon up and down to see if the brook trout want the action.
The movement on the spoon with the jigging motion is perfect for those apprehensive brook trout. Their aggression kicks in, and they can’t help but strike.
Spinners move water and gather the attention of all the fish around them. As you retrieve, the blades spin and flash. The flash is exactly what the brook trout want to see. Like the spoon, you can cast upstream and retrieve the spinner through the ideal strike zoons.
A consistent retrieve keeps those blades spinning.
You can also swing spoons like a streamer on a fly rod. Cast up and across the stream and let the spinner drift downstream. The current and resistance from your rod keep the blade spinning.
As it drifts downstream, it’ll start swinging back towards you. Brook trout love to hit those spinners as they swing. Once the spinner is directly downstream, start the retrieve. Be ready for a brook trout to strike.
You can cover a lot of water with the swing technique.
When using jerk baits in smaller streams, keep them in the 2-inch range. They’re great minnow representations. Cast behind rocks and logs in the pockets and twitch your jerk baits through those slack water areas.
Brook trout can’t help but pursue any bait that looks like an injured or fleeing minnow. You can be particular with where you cast these baits and keep those in those strike zones longer than you would with other lures.
Jigs are some of the best baits to use when you’re dead drifting streams. Attach a soft plastic to a jighead and put it below a smaller indicator or bobber.
Cast the jig upstream, and let it drift into the strike zone. Pools, pockets, cut banks, eddies, and foam lines are the perfect place to find brook trout and let your jig drift.
Let line out as your jig is drifting. Fish likely won’t hit it on the retrieve. They want to hit it as it’s drifting naturally.
If you’re fishing live bait, let it drift as naturally as possible. Worms, minnows, and eggs attached to a hook and paired with a small split shot will keep it towards the middle and bottom of the water column.
I like to fish my live bait along the banks to start. If the trout are sitting under the bank, they won’t take long to dart out and grab it. A natural drift downstream is all you need.
Gear Needed to Fish for Brook Trout in Small Streams
You don’t need gear built for power when fishing for brook trout in small streams. Keep things small and light to get as much feel as possible. You need accurate casts and the sensitivity to feel every bite.
Rod and Reel
A 6’ light or ultralight rod paired with an ultralight reel is perfect. You’ll feel every little tick, and the fights are more intense than you would think.
Use 2 to 4-pound ultralight fluorocarbon line when fishing in gin clear streams. You want to stay as inconspicuous as possible. The light can pass through the fluorocarbon, and the brook trout won’t spot it.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Best Bait for Brook Trout in Streams?
When you’re fishing for brook trout in streams, minnows, worms, and spinners are the best baits. Live bait always catches the most fish, but spinners aren’t far behind.
How Do You Fish for Trout with Spinning Tackle?
Cast past the area where you want your tackle to fall. Retrieve your lure/bait through the strike zone and wait for the fish to strike. Don’t cast right into the area you think the fish are holding. Let your lure and bait move naturally through it.
Brook trout are my favorite trout to catch. They’re unique and aggressive and possess all the characteristics that make trout some of the best fish in the world to target. Read the water carefully, stay hidden, and trust your lures to do the work.