top of page

A Beginner's Guide to "Out West" Trout

Updated: Feb 6, 2023

It would be hard to write about targeting other species of fish on a fly rod without mentioning the trout. Despite having fly fished for a few years beforehand, I did not catch my first until a trip to Montana with my father in 2019. My first trout, a juvenile rainbow, rose from deep in the glacier blue pool to sip my Caddis pattern before turning back down to the depths. They are undoubtedly some of the prettiest fish to catch, with colors that range from deep blues and browns to bright red and oranges. Trout also tend to live in some of the most beautiful and undisturbed parts of the United States, making their pursuit more enjoyable.

While there are areas to fish for trout on the East Coast, few compare to Western fly-fishing. In the Western United States, the waters are not only more protected and accessible, but cold runoff from melting ice keeps the water temps cool year-round, allowing fish to survive and grow for multiple years. Food sources for trout are also rich; hoppers, caddis, salmonfly and stonefly hatches can be exceptionally thick in certain times of the year. The scenery is also stunning, with dramatic mountain ranges in the background of the landscape as you fish and wildlife around every corner. There is also significantly more casting room.


There is a vast array of different trout species to pursue on a fly out West, but most will be Brown, Rainbow, Cutthroat, or brook trout. Depending on your approach, your rod, reel, and flies will vary. Smaller streams and rivers will typically only have one or two of a species, while the larger rivers will contain a larger variety. Some, such as waters within Yellowstone National Park, will only have native Cutthroat trout and strict regulations for catching any non-native species.


For the most part, a standard fly rod is a 5wt rod with floating line. There are relatively cheap options on the market, but I would stick to respected companies (go and see the separate article over fly fishing equipment). A net is a must to keep the fish wet and oxygenated, as trout are highly sensitive to stress and oxygen deprivation. A small box of varying flies from your local fly shop and you should be ready to go. Also, pinch the barbs on your hooks. Not only does this make it easier to remove but puts less stress on the fish.


Frankly, this will depend on your approach, but most people use dry fly patterns with a nymph (juvenile bug) tied underneath it, called a hopper-dropper rig. Dry flies such as Hoppers, Caddis, Stonefly, Stimulator, and Chubby Chernobyl patterns work consistently, while nymph patterns like Prince Nymphs, Patts Rubber Legs, Hares Ear, and Perdigons work as droppers. I highly suggest you go into detail reading what each pattern imitates. Of course, if you want to target bigger trout, you can use streamer patterns like the Galloup Dungeon, Bangtails, Wooly Buggers, or Sculpin patterns.


I’m not a fan of giving out specifics on rivers or streams, but I’ll happily give some good advice. Stick to tributaries or smaller streams that empty out of mountain ranges. They stay cool and hold a lot of fish, albeit not huge ones. Typically, these fish are not pressured as much, and you’ll have the stream or river to yourself. Talk to a nearby fly shop for advice and fly recommendations, they’ll be happy to help. I would highly suggest going out with a guide for your first time, and while it can be expensive it will be well worth your money (Make sure to research your guide beforehand, this will dictate whether you have a good day on the water or a bad one).


Frankly, trout can be caught any time of year when the river isn’t frozen over. That being said, spring and summer are incredible. The hatches are thick, and the trout are hungry after being locked under ice for several months. If I had to pick a few months to go, it would easily be June, July, and August.


If it is your first time, make sure you look up or YouTube some tutorials on fly fishing well in advance. Huge Fly Fisherman, Mad River Outfitters, and Orvis are some great places to start.

Ellis Wynn

11 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page