After hooking a trout, the fight is on. A commonly asked question is which type of trout fights the best?, well, all trout species are capable fighters, but fight differently. Rainbows put on powerful runs and airborne displays, while browns fight in a calmer, more calculating manner. They seek out structure hoping to foul the line.
Many other factors, independent on trout species influence how well a trout fights. The biggest influence by far is Water temp and wither the trout are wild or stock fish.
My views on which trout is the best fighting trout
Rainbow trout are powerful fighters
Rainbow trout are feisty, they fight hard, and go on powerful runs. They leap through the air putting on attention grabbing acrobatic displays. The fight is short and intense, involving a initial burst of adrenaline fuelled action, but all too soon, they lean to their side accepting their fate.
Steelhead trout, are the sea run version of rainbows. I describe their fight as a turbo charged rainbow. They are immensely powerful, and can pull serious string. In my experience, they do not jump as much but they fight harder for longer. The same applies for the closely related Cherry trout which is found in East Asia.
While I consider Rainbow trout, to put up a exciting fight. I also consider them among the easiest trout to actually catch. That is because they are much more willing to grab a lure or fly than the more curious brown trout and once the initial burst of energy is spent they become quite docile.
How hard do Brown Trout fight?
Brown trout can be difficult to hook, but I consider them one of the easier trout species to land. They simply do not have the same amount of power as Rainbows or even Brook char.
Brown trout fight with tactics, while rainbows go for power.
Brown trout fight with smarts and will head towards logs, overhangs or anything which will give them an advantage. I have had them wrap my line around water branches and dive deep beneath weed beds. It is important to keep them under control and steer them away from obstacles.
In rivers they have no problem rushing downstream, forcing the angler to give chase down rapids. They use the currents and underwater structure to their advantage.
While brown trout are smart, with experience they are still easy to control and steer. It is usually possible to keep them away from structure by applying sidewise pressure. Like all trout they prefer to swim in the direction of less resistance.
Size is not always a factor on how hard a brown trout fights, I have fought small browns which fought with vigor, and large browns which barely pulled any string. My largest brown trout to date, went on a couple of short runs before accepting its fate.
I can not prove it, but at times I suspect Browns which have been caught before become more docile. They just want the process over with. Or maybe, it is just the warmer water late in the season which reduces their vigor to fight.
Brook Trout can fight hard?
I still remember my first brook trout. I describe its fight as “An angry, aggressive little fish which did powerful runs, jumps, and even rested once or twice before charging off again”.
Brook trout can have a real temper to them, they dislike being on a hook. They fight harder than browns, and nearly as dirty.
They have no problem busting off a line against underwater structure. They certainly fight harder Brown trout.
Maybe controversial, but pound per pound I rate them as harder fighters than Rainbow.
Lake trout can fight like champions
Lake trout grow large, and size alone can make them challenging to land on light gear.
How hard a lake trout fight, can largely depend on water temperature. On warm summer days, Lakers just want to relax. They just kinda give up and feel like winding in a log or clump of weed.
Things change in the fall, with colder temperatures they fight like champions taking advantage of their greater size and can pull a serious amount of line.
Luckily, most Lake Trout are caught in deeper water, so they are unlikely to snag the line on underwater structure.
Do Bull Trout fight hard?
I have never caught a bull trout, so have to rely on the feedback of others.
A mate of mine who targets them in the Kootenay region of British Columbia describes their fight as “Everything from wet log to the fiercest fight of any fish”
Like with the Lake Trout above, their willingness to fight, probably relates to water temperature.
Do Cutthroat trout fight hard?
My experience with cutthroat trout is limited, their fighting ability greatly depends on water temperature. They are quite closely related to rainbow trout, and both species share many similarities in how they fight
In cold lakes, Cutthroat trout fight hard. Cutthroats often dive for the bottom, looking for foul and snags rather than putting on aerial displays. They are probably tricker to land than Rainbows which trend to stay more towards the surface.
Other conditions which might influence how hard a trout fights
Trout fight harder when the water is cold. This applies to all species of trout. Cold water simply holds more oxygen. When the water gets too warm, trout really struggle. Many experience anglers stop trout fishing over the hotter weeks in summer.
Stock vs Wild
In most situations, wild trout fight harder than stock trout.
Stock trout typically spend their lives living in managed pools. Often swimming in circles, they have not developed the survival insects or endurance to survive in a fast flowing river.
Stock trout, also feed by grabbing pellets which drift down towards them. While wild trout actually have to actively search for their prey, sometimes it is drifting side to side in the current or by going on long patrols looking for emerging insects. Wild trout are simply fitter, and usually in much better conditions.
Of course, a chubby stock trout, will still likely put up a better fight than a malnourished wild fish. But if both are healthy, the wild fish will pull more line.
River vs Lake
I have had great fighting fish in both rivers and lakes. I do not believe there is much of a difference. Some people believe trout which live is boisterous fast flowing rivers, have to be fitter to survive in the current.
But, trout which live in lakes have to actively swim to look for food. While river trout can just lay there, while waiting for the food to come to them.
Catching trout which live in Rivers is certainly harder, that is because trout can use the river to their advantage. I am sure we have all experienced a trout running down downside to use the power of the currents to escape.
Sea run trout fight harder than river trout
Trout which live in the sea, not only grow larger, but they are also more predatory. They have and gorge themselves on baitfish, krill and other marine life.
They also must have the speed, and endurance to escape all the toothy predators which they share the ocean with.
Sea run trout, wither they are browns, steelheads or coastal cutthroats are simply more powerful fighters.
Do large trout fight harder?
In my experience, on average large trout fight harder than smaller fish, but it is no guarantee. Some trout are simply harder fighters. I have caught several large trout which were actually quite docile, while some smaller trout fought with a lot of energy.
So, while Brown trout might fight the dirtiest, rainbows impress with their aerial displays and powerful runs. On their day, any species of trout can put up a worthy fight. Share your thoughts below on what you consider to be the hardest fighting trout.
I guess I should end with a short summary. How well a trout fight really comes down to water temperature. When the water is cold, they fight harder.
The best fighting trout, I will say are sea run rainbow trout, or steelheads. They are immensely powerful and grow to large sizes.
But, a large resident brown trout, is also a worthy challenge. Such large brown trout usually have a hide nearby, and if they can reach the protection of cover, before you can change their direction the chances are high they will break you off.