What Do Trout Eat In The Winter

Naturally, during winter and the colder darker months, anglers find it more difficult to catch trout and a question i am often asked by other anglers is what do trout eat in the winter? Trout become pickier about what they eat during winter, they become more lethargic as food is sparser unlike in the summer when there is an abundance of food around to feast upon.

They tend to prey upon smaller bait and anything that floats right by them. In this article, we will go over what do trout eat in the winter and some fly fishing tips on how to catch them. During the winter, the water temperatures also drop, and trout as we know are not warm-blooded types.

They tend to enjoy the summer months more when the warmer temperatures allow them to move through the waters easier and feast on the abundance of prey available. This makes fly fishing for trout a bit more difficult during winter however not impossible. I have had great days out on the water catching trout in winter so you just have to know what tactics and strategies to use by way of finding them and presenting them with the right bait.

Trout Food

Insects are a very popular food source not only during the winter but all year round for trout as they are vast and plentiful and thus become a common source of food. A good selection of bait to entice both young and mature trout is often nymphs, bloodworms and egg flies as trout like them a lot! These patterns are also relatively easy to tie if you fancy tying up a few to try out on the water!


Midges hatch from early spring to late-fall. They resemble mosquitoes in a way but are different. You could say they belong to the same genre but are in fact a different species. Trout tend to consume more midges than any other insect in the water as they are in abundance throughout the year and most flies are born from a midge.

The life cycle of midges is quite long hence they are also a popular source of food for trout as they exist and roam around the habitat of the trout frequently, even in winter. A good method to use as outlined here by the fly create is the two nymph fly rig

Egg Flies

Around the wintertime, trout reproduce, and many eggs are found floating throughout the rivers or lakes to which other trout are attracted to. I’ve had great success fishing fluorescent color artificial egg fly patterns in red, pink, orange, and yellow supported with a strike indicator bobbing on top of the water.

I also used this method to tie off the egg fly hook a meal or bloodworm pattern, usually a red color bloodworm and that has given me tremendous results from October to February.

Bloodworm fly

Bloodworms are usually found in sediment on the river bed and are present all year round. They are a popular food choice for trout in winter due to their abundance and they come in a variety of colors. My favorite go-to bloodworm fly pattern is usually in red color and the method I have used usually consists of using a strike indicator and allowing the fly to float at different depths of the water before enticing a trout to strike.

How to Catch a Trout During the Winter

As we have covered above, trout become more lethargic during the winter. It’s therefore worth keeping in mind that they tend to prey on bait that passes by them easily and without much effort required for them to eat with their teeth. Using the natural flow of the water and the flies we have discussed above, I tend to find myself using strike indicators during winter as they are easily visible in the darker times of the day which makes it easier to spot a strike from a trout.

Another advantage to using strike indicators are that they allow you to fix the fly to swim at certain depths of the river or lake. This is extremely helpful as you will be able to test the depths where the trout are hiding out and encouraging them to strike your fly. Some anglers think using strike indicators are cheating or not a natural way to fly fish.

I can see and understand their opinions around this but for me they allow me to fish easier and get results. I usually start off looking at the water and judging the speed of the flow as well as the approximate depth. Then set my strike indicator on the leader usually 3 feet above the fly to start with which will allow the fly to sink and float around the same depth in the river.

Make a cast and allow the fly to sink and the float indicator to sit on the surface of the water and float naturally with the current and flow of the water. It’s a patience game from here until a fish strikes. Should there be no strikes after several casts and repeating the above process, I would then start to either move the strike indicator down the leader towards the fly (to fish shallower) or further away from the fly to fish at a deeper depth.

I repeat this process with different flies also such as the bloodworm and egg fly patterns. Be patient throughout your fly fishing and try not to over cast which may result in spooking the fish. Usually, I spend time to also monitor any movement in the surface or water around me whilst I’m fishing and try then to cast at certain movements which tend to be moving or striking trout.

If you are new to fly fishing, you may also like to read some of the other articles we wrote:

Tying flies for fly fishing

Best Fly Reels for the Money

Where Do Trout Live