Landing From Lakes: Your Lake Trout Fishing Guide

by | Published on: Jun 5, 2023 | Fly Fishing, Trout

Lake fishing drastically differs from river fishing. Lakes can be an excellent location for sport fishermen due to their ability to be stocked. Lake-stocked trout have less need to expend energy fighting currents, compared to those in rivers. As a result, they may display less feeding activity. It is important to note and utilise this point when fishing lakes.

Across many lakes in the UK, you’ll find both brown and rainbow trout, but there are usually more rainbow trout than brown trout. Typically, you’ll find one brown trout for every ten rainbow trout.

Locating Trout In Still Water

As logic would suggest, fish feeding on the water’s surface are the easiest to spot from a distance, and trout doing so are said to be ‘rising’. When fishing on lakes, look out for the rippling effect that trout generate when they are rising, as this is the best way to identify where they are feeding. Casting over a rise will drastically increase your chances of getting a bite, and this is even truer when fishing dry flies.

Spotting and fishing over rises can be more difficult in certain weather conditions. On calm, sunny summer days, the water’s surface is smooth, making it easier to spot rises. However, it’s not as straightforward on stormy days with choppy and uneven water.

If you cannot locate rising trout, you should target the lake’s surrounding structures and fish up close to them, e.g. an overhanging tree or bridge. Trout will lie in shaded areas and river outlets, underwater vegetation, or thick reeds. Targeting these areas will increase your chances of receiving a take.

Although, it is important to note that if there is no surface movement, the body of water being fished may not hold many trout. As trout are highly active and aggressive fish, surface movement is a common characteristic of any water source that holds them, with fish frequently breaching the surface.

Sunset at a local trout-stocked lake in Ireland

Techniques for Catching Lake Trout

1. Fly fishing

Fly fishing is a challenging but rewarding technique that can be used when lake fishing. When fly fishing, the line is an essential aspect as it provides weight and the ability to cast. It is crucial to use a high-quality line as it will greatly affect the distance of your cast. The higher the quality of the line, the further you will be able to cast.

When casting a fly line, the angler has the ability to retract the line before it hits the water. This technique allows for greater precision. Fly line is available in a range of weights, but most rods come with a recommended weight to use, which will allow for optimal performance.

A small lake caught brown trout in the hands of a gentle fisherman

A fly rod with a faster action allows for more power, resulting in longer casts. Because fly rods need to be lightweight, they are typically made of materials such as fibreglass, graphite, or bamboo. Each material will cast slightly differently and has unique characteristics. Premium fly rods aren’t cheap, so I recommend experimenting with different rod lengths and materials before purchasing an expensive rod.

I always recommend that anyone starting out with fly fishing take lessons with a lake trout fishing guide to learn the basics.

For a comprehensive look at lake trout fly fishing, check out our guide here!

2. Lure Fishing

Lure fishing is an adaptive form of fishing. You can fish various sizes of lures to target different lake species. Smaller trout can be caught using lures such as the Miniature Memphis, while larger trout are more likely to be caught using larger lures, such as those in Abu Garcia’s range of trout lures.

To master lure fishing, you need to manage various skills and consider several factors. These include retrieval speeds, knowledge of deep water retrieval methods, and effective use of breaks and stops.

A beginner-friendly fly rod, waiting to be cast

Casting can be one of the most challenging aspects of the technique, especially on trout lakes. Most trout lakes will have vegetation and a thick tree line surrounding the lake’s perimeter. When casting, you must be aware of these as it is surprisingly easy to get your lure caught up in a tree branch or bush.

A large lake, which has been stocked with rainbow trout

Purchasing the correct rod and reel is vital if you want to be a successful lure fisherman. Durability, functionality and design are all important when selecting a lure rod. Make sure you consider the size of fish you are chasing, the size of the lure you’re fishing and the length of your session. As you would expect, smaller rods are better suited for playing small fish, whilst larger rods are required to land larger fish.

You can find details on my favourite lure setup for lake trout here.

3. Rig fishing

When rig fishing on a lake for trout, it is essential to research the trout’s diet in the specific venue and understand which baits have the best results. This is unique to every trout lake, and it is hard to make sweeping statements on what to use.

I use a mixture of sweetcorn and dried ham for the lakes I fish rigs on. From my experience, these have been superb baits for rainbow trout, but as I mentioned, this will differ from venue to venue.

A standard triangular weight used in rig fishing

Rig fishing can be a highly relaxing form of trout fishing and is more akin to coarse fishing. It is advised that you use two rods if possible; monitoring two rods is more challenging but much more likely to produce bites.

The two most popular categories of rigs are sinker rigs and bobber rigs. When using sinker rigs, I usually reach for a c-rig, and my favourite bobber rig is the slip bobber.

Find my favourite lake trout rig fishing setup here!

4. Ice fishing

In the UK, ice fishing is uncommon as temperatures do not consistently drop to the low levels required for long enough. Ice fishing is prevalent around the world, especially in Northern Europe. A benefit of ice fishing for trout is that you can access those deeper waters, which are incredibly challenging to cast to in the warmer months. If you are ice fishing, casting is not required, as you can simply walk over to areas of deep, untapped water.

A fisherman on a frozen lake with a hand-powered auger. An auger is a drill used for cutting holes in ice.

Baits for Lake Trout

When fishing lakes, there are various baits available to the angler. These include:

  • Baitfish (minnows) – dead or alive
  • Sweetcorn
  • Canned meats (spam)
  • Nymphs – can be fished alive

It is best to experiment with freshwater baits until you find what works. It should also be noted that the bait to use will differ across different techniques. Minnows are extremely popular with ice fishing anglers, while sweetcorn is popular with fishermen using rigs.

A minnow which can be used as bait for trout

Lake Fishing Conditions For Trout

Good conditions for trout fishing in lakes are very specific. Trout feed better on lakes when the sky is overcast; they don’t surface as much if there is bright sunshine reflecting on the water.

Mild temperatures are best for trout fishing. When temperatures are extreme, either hot or cold, the fish enter a dormant state where their activity decreases, and they are less likely to feed or move.

On commercially stocked lakes, trout are generally less aggressive than those found in rivers. This is because they are more likely to have been caught by other anglers, and as a result, become “jabbed”. This happens more in enclosed lakes, as fish cannot leave through a river passage. Once jabbed, the individual fish becomes wary and is less likely to be caught in the future. One of my local lakes was repetitively fished, and most of the fish stopped feeding after being jabbed.

A grass bank covered in frost as extreme winter conditions enter Ireland

Equipment & Tackle for Lake Trout

When lake fishing for trout, selecting and using the correct equipment is vital. High-quality, durable, and budget-friendly gear is very important for any trout angler.

With the number of different tackle companies generating new products seemingly every day, it can be challenging to understand what is essential and what isn’t for your lake fishing adventure.

Examples of Essential Fishing Equipment Include:

  • Rods
  • Reels
  • Nets
  • First Aid Kit
  • Bait/Flies/Lures
  • Hooks
  • Line
  • Landing Mat
  • Headtorch
  • Scissors

Examples of Non-essential Fishing Equipment Include:

  • Nippers
  • Tippet holders
  • Forceps
  • Fishing Vest
  • Caps
  • Fluorocarbon
  • Tippet

A small brown trout caught from a lake, next to a 7 weight fly rod

5 Tips For Lake Fishing For Trout

1. Stay quiet

When lake trout fishing from the bank, try to maintain a distance of at least one metre between you and the lake as you approach your fishing spot. If trout sense vibrations from your footsteps through the ground, they will leave the area. This is known as spooking the fish and should always be avoided.

2. Stay safe

When casting, it’s essential to be aware of overhead electricity lines. These are more likely to be present on lakes surrounded by civilian life. Whilst we’re on the topic, another critical point: do not fish in thunderstorms. Your rod is a conductor of electricity.

3. Consider other anglers

When fishing for trout, stay at least three metres away from other anglers. It’s important to be mindful of your surroundings and the other anglers nearby. Firstly, it shows respect for the other anglers. Secondly, trout are easily spooked, and repetitive casting will scare them into moving away. Always find a location secluded from other anglers if possible.

4. Stay mobile

When spinning or fly fishing, it’s worth frequently changing locations, especially if you’re not having much luck. Trout often gather in groups and may be concentrated in a specific area of the lake; moving around increases your chances of finding these productive areas.

To fully master lake trout fly fishing, check out our separate guide!

5. Vary your depth

When fishing for trout in lakes, it’s essential to vary the depth at which you fish. Lakes can be deceiving and may be deeper than they appear, so it’s important to explore different depths to increase your chances of success.

A large lake caught trout


Lake trout fishing can be both exhilarating and relaxing; it just depends on your preferred approach.

  • Before fishing lakes for trout, learn how to identify the locations where the fish are feeding. Look out for those rising trout.
  • You should select your preferred angling technique. Thoroughly understand the benefits and drawbacks of each method before choosing a way forward. Find what works best for you.
  • Get a set of essential equipment that you enjoy using. If your budget allows it, slowly collect non-essential equipment to make your fishing experience more enjoyable.
  • Follow the essential tips to ensure a successful and safe trip.
  • Enjoy your adventure.