Modern day trout fishermen have a wealth of fishing tackle to choose from, and much of it thoroughly adaptable to any situation in trout fishing. Spinning and fly fishing equipment seem to be the most popular. Everyone has a different idea as to which bait or method is the best for catching trout. Anything that works is good, I will assume you would like a basic outfit to get started. An acceptable starter trout fishing outfit would include:
an ultra light, fast action spinning rod between 4 and 5 feet long,
a light duty spinning or spincasting reel outfitted with 4 to 6 pound test line.
#10 to #14 regular shank bronze hooks
a few small split shot for those rare occasions when you need to get your bait down in swift water, and a canvas creel and a small knife.
Of the two types of gear, spinning is most frequently used by trout fishermen. Several important points should be kept in mind when selecting spinning tackle for this type of fishing. Ultra-light equipment is usually preferred because of its usefulness for casting very light and small baits and lures. It is also best at handling light monofilament line of 6-pound test or less, and it allows for the maximum excitement when fighting a trout. About any type of spinning reel will work as long as it is balanced with the rod. The rod should have a quick, sensitive action of 5 to 6 feet in length and be capable of using lures of one-sixteenth ounce and baits of that weight or less.
Standard spinning rods and reels can be used very effectively to fish with spinners and spoons or with bait. A vest or small tackle box containing a dozen or more spoons and spinners of different sizes and color patterns will usually be sufficient. For bait fishing you should obtain egg hooks in sizes 10-12, bobbers or bubbles for weight and flotation, and slip-sinkers plus split shot.
Backpacking rods that break down to short lengths to fit within a typical pack are available at most sporting goods or hiking equipment stores. Some backpacking rods will double as spinning or fly rods fairly well. Very little rod effectiveness is sacrificed for spinning or bait-casting, but most combination rods are only moderately good (at best) for fly fishing. Trolling flies can be easily done with these outfits.
Fly fishing and trout are synonymous. Tackle for this type of angling comes in a vast array of styles and models, like most fishing equipment. But there are some important considerations for a comfortable experience. The rod, reel, and line should be matched — use the manufactuer’s recommendation that is listed on the rod. In general, a 7 1/2 to 8 foot flyrod with medium to slow action is just about ideal for Iowa trout fishing. The reel is least important since it merely stores the line; pick one that suits you best. Fly lines come in various weights and styles. Again, use what you are happiest with. A leader, preferably tapered, with a 3-pound test tippet should be attached to the heavy line — there are small barbed eyelets available to do so.
Fly fishing can be very effective in the high lakes under many weather conditions. Back-casting room is often a problem, though, unless you go to the effort to bring in a small raft or float tube. Typical fly rods and reels that you would use in low lakes or streams will work, with the main concern being rod length when broken down while hiking. Medium-weight lines (5-7 wt.) will handle most conditions for casting and presentation, while long leaders (12’+) work better than short ones. Leader tippets should be as small as possible, while maintaining 2-3 pounds breaking strength.
Trolling requires a raft, float tube or similar device. Medium-priced inflatable vinyl rafts are available at many sporting goods outlets. A one-person raft may weigh about 5-7 pounds and have moderate durability (two to four years). More expensive rafts are available, providing greater durability, carrying capacity and less weight. Be sure to wear additional flotation (a PFD) while in a raft or other water craft, as a puncture in mid-lake creates a sinking feeling and a substantial risk of hypothermia and drowning. This is especially serious as mountain lakes are very cold. Don’t count on swimming far in water that’s typically less than 50 degrees.
Other potentially valuable gear includes: needle-nose pliers, hemostat or other gripping device for removing hooks; line clippers; knife; point-and-shoot camera; sunscreen; insect repellant; first-aid kit; and all standard hiking safety gear.