Loading... Please wait...
Shop Gift Certificates

Biologist Selected.
Fish Approved.

Give the gift of success on the fly to your family and fishing buddies with an Ascent Fly Fishing Gift Certificate.


How to Ethically Fish the Trout Spawn

You work hard, you diversify your assets, and you balance the potential risks and rewards with an eye to the future. Regardless of our previous vocations, we share common goals in retirement; a secure future and time to enjoy the bounty brought about by forethought and investment. It is with a similar eye toward the future that the fly fisher will ensure vibrant and healthy fisheries to be enjoyed for years to come.

Each spring as the snows begin to subside and the water temperatures creep up to 44°- 48°F, the Rainbow and Cutthroat trout prepare to spawn. Caution goes out the window as hormones drive these fish to gather in pools throughout the river before heading up into the shallows to spawn. For the fly fisher who has eagerly been awaiting warmer weather and the chance to fish flies larger than a size 24 midge, this season provides some amazing opportunities but also requires restraint. The uneducated or short-sighted angler can do significant harm to the river and the future of the fishery if they are not careful. While there is hot fishing action to be had during and after the spawn, we need to be able to know which trout are fair game, which are off limits, how to identify a spawning redd, and approach the spring spawning season by actively investing in our fly fishing futures.

Mind the Redd

Image credit to

A Redd is the spawning bed in which trout lay their eggs, and from which our hopes of a healthy, vibrant fishery are born. After staging in the deep, protected pools of the river, the trout that are ready to spawn move up into the shallow, fast-flowing riffles in roughly 4 - 18 inches of water. In these gravel-strewn, well-oxygenated reaches, the trout will actively fan the gravel with their tails to clear it of algae and silt, creating a distinctive bright patch on the bottom of the river. Like a flashing caution light, these bright patches are your sign to stand clear and are off limits to wading. A single mindless boot tramped through the redd can crush hundreds of trout still in the egg. When wading in the spring, watch out for these brightly marked redds and head to deeper waters if you must wade or cross the river.

The Shallows Are Off Limits

As tantalizing as the trout may appear as they dart and chase each other through the shallow riffles, these fish are there to spawn and are off limits to the angler. Mature trout feel most secure with at least 12” of water over their heads, and only move into the more dangerous shallows to spawn. Pursuing these fish is like buying into a ponzi scheme, with the immediate returns looking good, but the long term effect bringing ruin for all. So, if you see fish in the shallows, please leave them to spawn and focus your attention instead on the pools of the river.

The Pools are Fair Game

For every fish you see working the redds in the shallows of the river, there are typically 5 - 10 times that many holding in the pools that separate the riffles. The fish in the deep pools are either still preparing to spawn, have recently finished their courtship, or will be comprised of brown and brook trout feeding on eggs as they roll down the river. These fish are fair game, and their pursuit will not harm the fishery.

So, with that encouragement, break out your fly rods and head to the river to enjoy some amazing action on the fly this Spring. If you mind your step and fish with an eye to the future, these rivers will continue to produce numerous healthy fish that will welcome both you and your flies for years to come!

To learn more about this topic and to see some examples of active trout redds, check out our YouTube video titled How to Ethically Fish During the Trout Spawn.

View Comments

How to Photograph Your Catch Without Harming the Fish

We take pictures of the fish we catch because we want to share the moment with our family and brag to our fishing buddies. Instagram and Facebook, however, are regrettably full of photos of exhausted fish hauled limply onto the shore or held in the vise-like grip of grinning, oblivious anglers. The tragedy of [...]

Read More

Trout smart Series: Rainbow Trout

A rosy cheeked rainbow caught by Nate K.The grainy footage was captured on our family’s shoulder-mounted Panasonic Camcorder, technology so old that its probably come back into style with the kids wearing tight jeans and ironic mustaches. Hopping next to a pond on that Smoky Mountain morning, a towheaded kid fills the frame as [...]

Read More

How to Organize Your Fly Box - A Lesson from Mother Nature

The question was first voiced several hundred years ago when the grandfather of fly fishing pulled the first roughly-tied fly from the jaws of his primitive vice and mused, “Now what is this fly supposed to imitate and when should I fish it?” Echoing across the centuries, this same question can still be heard [...]

Read More

Trout Smart Series: Brook Trout

It was a beautiful day on the lake. The kids were splashing happily in the shallows while dad lazily cast a dry fly from the dock with a cold beer close at hand. Little did they know that there was a menace lurking just beneath the surface of the water. Beady little eyes [...]

Read More

Join Ascent Fly Fishing, Denver Outfitters, & Crazy Mountain Brewing in for our October Pop-up Fly Shop!

We are excited to announce that Ascent Fly Fishing will be partnering with Denver Outfitters and Crazy Mountain Brewing in October for our Monthly Pop-up Fly Shop! Makers of the Fly Fishing Rod Vault (formerly Titan Rod Vaults), car top popup camper, and now a whole line of cool fly fishing apparel and hats, Denver [...]

Read More

Trout Smart Series: Brown Trout

Photo by Mark Jessop of Troutfin Studio“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of 100 battles…” Sun Tzu, The Art of WarWhat is fly fishing if not a childlike game of war? We maneuver and position, count off our successful campaigns in [...]

Read More

They Need to See it to Eat it - Fly Selection Based on Water Color & Clarity

(This article follows up the previous article titled “Do You See What I See”, published in April of 2014. For an introduction to understanding and exploiting trout vision, take a moment and check out the previous article at world of trout is constantly changing from month to month, and sometimes even from hour to [...]

Read More

The 5 Steps to Choosing the Best Fly Pattern

(This article is a follow up to a previous article titled “Take a Moment and PAUSE” published first in July of 2016 and describing the 5 places around and in the river to identify what foods trout are most likely eating. If you haven’t read that article, take a moment to do so on [...]

Read More

Czech Nymphing: Simple, Responsive, & Deadly

Photo taken by Mark Jessop of Troutfin StudiosOften times, the angler who catches the most fish is the one who can best detect and swiftly respond to the lightning quick strikes or subtle takes of trout as they sip a passing fly from the current. The trout we pursue on the fly are a [...]

Read More

Back to Top