What Is The Best Trout Fishing Line? (Explained)

PUBLISHED 21 JUNE 2021

by Bill Laney

Trout fishing is one of the most popular types of fishing in North America, and every year thousands of anglers pursue these wily and beautiful fish in lakes, ponds, streams and rivers.

However, if you want to catch trout successfully, it’s necessary to use the right tackle for the job. And since trout have a keen eyesight and tend to be line shy in heavily fished waters, you need to choose the right fishing line to catch them.

A good trout fishing line not only needs to be inconspicuous in the water, it also needs to have the right casting properties, be sensitive enough to detect subtle bites, and strong enough to set the hook effectively, and to land big trout.

What is the best fishing line for trout?

The best all around trout fishing line is 4 to 6 lb test fluorocarbon. This is light enough to cast lightweight lures and rigs, and also has very low visibility in the water, making it ideal for fishing clear water for finicky trout, and is superior to both braid and mono in this regard.

In addition to working well for finesse application, 4 to 6 pound test fluorocarbon is also strong enough to use for trolling, and can even handle the fight that big trout put up. So if you had to choose just one line for trout fishing, this would be it.

That being said, if you are targeting trophy size trout, it’s better to bump up your line size to a minimum of 8 or 10 pound test. Also, braided fishing line and monofilament each also come with distinct advantages for trout fishing, which we will discuss in the next section.

See also: The best rigs for trout fishing

What type of fishing line is best for trout?

Before deciding anything else, you need to choose which type of fishing line to use for trout. This is not a simple decision, however, since each of the three types of fishing lines can be used effectively for trout fishing (including mono and braid), and each comes with its own pros and cons when it comes to the pursuit of these wily fish.

So now let’s look at the line types in detail, and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each of them for trout fishing.

Fluorocarbon

There can be no doubt that fluorocarbon is the most important type of fishing line for trout, since it has the lowest visibility underwater, and this property is essential for catching line shy trout. If you submerge a fluorocarbon fishing line into a glass of water, you’ll see what I mean – it becomes almost invisible in the water.

Trout are highly intelligent fish, and in waters where they get a lot of fishing pressure, they learn to avoid anything that has a conspicuous fishing line attached to it. This is especially true for bigger fish, which have been around long enough to learn the difference between a baited hook and natural food. That’s why fluorocarbon is usually my top choice as a leader for trout fishing (though you can also use it as your main line).

Another advantage of fluoro is that it has low memory compared to mono, and is also more resistant to abrasion and UV light. So overall, fluorocarbon is the best ultralight trout fishing line.

When fishing in streams and stocked ponds and lakes, I prefer to use a 4 to 6 lb test fluoro leader, and a 8 to 10 pound test fluoro main line (though my top choice of main line is usually not fluorocarbon – more on that below). When trolling for trout, I use a 6 to 8 lb test fluoro leader.

When compared to mono and braid, the main disadvantage of fluoro is that it tends to sink rapidly in the water, which is not ideal if you’re using bobber rigs or other topwater presentations. That’s why I prefer to use braid or mono as my main line, since these float on the water.

See also: What are the best rods for trout fishing?

Monofilament

Mono is the most commonly used type of fishing line, and comes with the advantage that it’s significantly cheaper than the other line types. Monofilament is also very versatile and easy to use, which is why most beginners start their trout fishing journey with mono.

The biggest problem with mono is that it has a high memory, which results in a wavy line coming off your spool after the mono has been wound up for a long time. This is especially true if you don’t change your monofilament for a long time, and can be a big nuisance when casting light lures. The high memory of mono also results in more line twist and birds nest formation. Braid doesn’t have this problem at all.

In addition to its high memory issue, monofilament is also very susceptible to damage by UV, which means you have to change it at least every 6 weeks if you fish a lot. Otherwise you risk losing good fish due to a weakened line strength. 

However, in spite of its weaknesses, mono is a great all around line type that can be used for almost any kind of trout fishing, from bobber fishing to casting lures, as well as for trolling. Since monofilament is more visible in water I prefer to use a 2 to 4 pound test mono leader for most applications (except for trolling, where I use 6 pound test), tied to 8 to 10 pound test mono as the main line.

Braided line

More and more trout anglers have switched to using braid as their main line and tie this to a fluoro or mono leader. Based on my personal experience, I highly recommend this option.

Compared to monofilament, the most important advantage of braid fishing line is that it has almost no stretch, which provides a very high degree of sensitivity in terms of being able to feel what’s going on with your lure or hook in the water. This property of braid is extremely helpful for detecting subtle bites, especially if you’re fishing for trout in deep water, where the stretch of monofilament can prevent you from detecting soft bites.

Another advantage of braid is that it floats on the water, which is very helpful when you’re fishing with bobber rigs, and especially when you’re using a bobber rig for drift fishing streams and rivers. When doing this, you want to be able to keep your braid above the water as much as possible, which allows the bobber to move naturally in the current.

A third advantage of braid is that it is thinner in diameter than either mono or fluoro (when comparing lines of the same pound test strength). This property of braid is great when you’re trolling, as braid fishing lines generate less friction in the water, making it easier to get your trolling rig down to deeper water.

And finally, the fourth advantage of braid is that it has almost no memory (which is especially problematic with mono), resulting in less friction due to coiling of the line during the casting process. This property of braid is great when throwing lightweight lures, and is exactly what you need for trout lures such as small spinners and spoons.

Because of these advantages, braided fishing line is my top choice as main line for all trout fishing applications. The only disadvantage of braid is that it has a high visibility in the water, but you can easily take care of that by tying a mono or fluoro leader to the braid.

What size line should you use for trout fishing?

For regular sized trout between 10 and 20 inches, it’s best to use an ultralight line between 2 and 6 pound test. For trout species that grow bigger (such as steelhead and lake trout), increase the line strength to 8 to 10 pound test. These sizes are for the leader, while the main line is usually 8 to 15 pound test stronger than the leader.

See also: Rigging for lake trout

When choosing the best fishing line weight for trout, the first consideration is the size of the trout you expect to catch, which is primarily connected to the trout species you’re targeting. Stocked rainbow trout rarely grow bigger than 30 inches and 10 pounds, which means you can catch them with ultralight gear without any problems. Likewise, if you’re targeting trout in streams and creeks, the average size of fish is usually below 10 inches, making ultralight fishing line the ideal choice. 

However, when it comes to species such as lake trout, steelhead, and brown trout that live in big lakes, you can expect these trout species to reach sizes bigger than 10 pounds quite regularly. In fact, lake trout can grow to giant sizes north of 30 pounds, and you need to make sure you choose a line that’s strong enough to handle these big fish. If you’re specifically targeting trophy sized trout, upgrade your line size to 20 pound test or more.

In addition to the size of the trout you’re expecting to catch, you also need to adjust your line size to the technique you will be using. Trolling generally requires heavier line than bait fishing trout or casting lures.

See also: How to rig for trolling lake trout

Does line color matter for trout?

Yes – trout have keen eyesight and in many lakes have learned to avoid baited hooks if they can spot a nearby fishing line. As a rule of thumb it’s best to match the color or your line to the color of the water. The exception to this is when you’re fishing in water that is crystal clear, when it’s best to use clear (or colorless line). 

If you’re fishing in stained water, it’s good to have a selection of lines of different colors, so you can choose the one that is most similar to the water. Monofilament is the best option in this regard, as it comes in a wide range of different colors at most tackle stores.

See also: How to night fish for trout

What is the best line for trout in clear water?

The best line to use for trout in clear water is 4 to 6 pound test fluorocarbon. This is almost invisible in the water, and won’t spook the fish. In general, fluorocarbon has the lowest visibility in the water, and therefore is the best choice when dealing with finicky trout that get a lot of angling pressure.

Most streams, rivers and lakes where trout thrive are crystal clear, which means it’s easier for trout to spot your line. Add to this their keen eyesight and ability to learn from experience, and it stands to reason that using a line that’s highly visible in the water is going to reduce your ability to catch fish. 

See also: How do you catch trout from shore

If you can’t get fluorocarbon, then clear monofilament line is the second best option for fishing clear water, but you’ll need to downsize it to 2 to 4 lb test, because even clear mono is more visible than fluorocarbon in the water. 

Braid is not a good choice for fishing clear water (due to its high visibility), but you can definitely use it as your main line, but combined with a sufficiently long fluorocarbon leader. You may even want to use a fluorocarbon bumper line, which is about 10 feet long. The best way to do this is by tying the fluoro to your braid with a double uni knot, and then spooling 10 feet of fluorocarbon onto your reel before you tie your rig to the line.

See also: Trout rigging for streams and rivers

What is the best line for trout in stained water?

When fishing for trout in stained water, fluorocarbon is still the top choice, but you can also get away with using monofilament. If you go with mono, it’s best to choose a color that matches the color of the stained water.

Some lakes with stocked trout have stained water, and this makes it much easier to avoid your fishing line being detected by finicky trout. However, even in such a setting, you’ll probably catch more fish if you use a line with low visibility, since it’s likely that the trout experience a lot of fishing pressure from other anglers, and it’s generally good to do anything that will help your presentation to stand out from the crowd.

See also: Spinning rod setup for trout

What is the best line for bait fishing trout?

A great strategy to catch trout in lakes and ponds is to cast out a baited hook on a rig, and wait for trout to pass by and eat your bait. The best line to use for this depends on the type of rig you’re using:

  • Best line for bottom rig: monofilament
  • Best line for bobber rig: fluorocarbon

The reason why you should use different lines for the two different types of rigs is that you need to present your baited hook suspended at exactly the right depth in order to target trout. So when using a bottom rig, you need to make sure that your baited hook floats up in the water, but when using a bobber rig, you need to make sure your baited hook sinks down in the water.

Since fluorocarbon fishing line sinks in the water, it can cause a floating bait (such as powerbait) to sink down to the bottom when you’re using a bottom fishing rig, where it won’t be found by trout. Mono, on the other hand, floats in the water, and will help your floating bait to stay suspended above the bottom.

See also: What hook size to use for trout

One of the most common bottom fishing rigs for trout is the slip sinker rig, and if you use mono with this rig, choose a clear mono to make it less visible in the water. If the water is super clear and you’re dealing with finicky trout, you may even want to downsize your mono leader to 2 pound test, to avoid the trout spotting your line.

When using a bobber rig, it’s the opposite way around – you want your baited hook to sink down to the right depth (usually a few feet above the bottom, or just above the weeds), and it’s better to use fluorocarbon for that, since it helps to make your bait sink down.

See also: Trout rigging for lakes

What is the best line for throwing trout lures?

A very effective and fun way to catch trout is to throw small lures, including trout spinners, spoons, and soft plastic baits. When it comes to casting these lightweight lures, braided line is the best choice, since it has virtually no memory, which enables highly accurate casting. Mono, on the other hand, is the worst choice, since it has the most memory.

Being able to cast accurately is especially important when fishing for trout in streams and creeks, as you need to place your lure in the right spots with pinpoint accuracy.

See also: Trout fishing with spinners (comprehensive guide)

However, while braided line has the best casting properties, it is also the most visible in the water, which is why you should always use it with a fluorocarbon leader that’s at least 4 foot long. If you’re dealing with particularly shy fish in crystal clear water, you may even want to tie extra long fluorocarbon or mono leaders (up to 10 feet long) to your braided main line.

See also: Carolina rigging for trout

What is the best line for trolling trout?

Trolling for trout requires heavier line than other methods of trout fishing, and is usually done with a 10 to 20 pound test braid with a 6 to 10 pound test fluoro or mono leader.

The reason why you need heavier line for trolling is that this fishing tactic usually involves targeting trout in deeper water between 20 and 50 feet deep. In order to reach these depths, you need to use either heavy weights, divers, or downriggers, which all generate a lot of extra strain on the line. 

Another way to get your trolling rig down into deep water is to use downriggers, which can help you reach greater depths compared to using weights or divers. The best line to use with downriggers is 15 to 20 pound test braid.

I prefer braid for trout trolling since it has a thinner diameter than the other line types, thus creating less resistance in the water, which helps to get your weight or diver deeper down. Braid also helps to set the hook on fish that grab your lure far away from the boat, since it has no stretch (which is especially problematic with mono).

However, as with all other tactics, it’s best to combine your braided main line with a fluorocarbon leader to decrease visibility of the line in the water, which will result in more bites.

Finally, in addition to using weights, divers, or downriggers to get your trolling rig down into deep water, another option is to use lead core line, which sinks down effectively without having to add any weights. Simply by letting out enough lead core line you’ll be able to get your lure down to deep water.

Since leadcore line is more expensive than other fishing lines, it’s best to spool a backing of monofilament on your reel, since you only need to use the top half of the spool with lead core line. The reason to use mono for the backing is that it’s the cheapest option.

See also: Trolling rigs for trout

What is the best ice fishing line for trout?

The best trout ice fishing line is a 4 to 6 pound test fluorocarbon line specifically designed for ice fishing, which you can use both as your leader and main line, tying it directly to your hook or rig.

The only exception to this is if you’re ice fishing for big lake trout in 50 feet water depth or more, in which case it’s better to use a 20 lb test braided main line with a fluorocarbon leader.

Trout are cold water fish and remain active throughout the winter, feeding on small invertebrates and minnows under the ice, which makes them a great target for ice fishing. You can expect to catch plenty of rainbow trout in stocked lakes, as well as brook trout, brown trout, and lake trout depending on the lake.

Similar to open water trout fishing techniques, stealth is the name of the game for trout ice fishing, which means that fluorocarbon line is my go to choice. In addition to being almost invisible, fluoro is also more abrasion resistant than mono.

The abrasion resistance of fluorocarbon is very important for ice fishing, and puts it ahead of monofilament, since big trout are guaranteed to put up a determined fight under the ice, causing your fishing line to chafe against the bottom edge of the ice hole. And if your line isn’t up to that kind of punishment, it can cause you to lose good fish due to line breakage.

Also, since fluorocarbon doesn’t stretch as much as monofilament, it also provides more sensitivity in terms of being able to feel soft bites under the ice. While trout are definitely active during the winter, they usually don’t bite quite as aggressively as during the summer, so you need to use a line that allows you to detect even subtle bites.

Finally, some fishing lines tend to become stiff in very cold weather, and so you may want to choose a fluorocarbon line that’s specifically designed for ice fishing, since these stay supple even during the coldest winter weather. 

What are the best brands of fishing line for trout?

Seaguar red label

Once you have chosen the type of line you want to use, as well as pound test strength, it’s not that hard to find a good line from a reputable brand. As long as you don’t go with the cheapest options, you can expect to get a high quality performance from all the major brands of fishing line.

Here are some of the best lines that I like to use for trout fishing: 

Fluorocarbon:

  • Seaguar Red Label
  • P-Line Floroclear

Monofilament:

  • Berkley Trilene XT
  • Stren High Impact

Braid:

  • Suffix Superline
  • Spiderwire Stealth
  • PowerPro Spectra

Final remarks

To sum it up, it’s best to use the lightest pound test fishing line possible when it comes to trout, to avoid the fish spotting your line. By far the best option for this is 2 to 6 pound test fluorocarbon, though both braid and mono also come in handy for specific trout fishing tactics.