Selecting the most suitable trees to plant alongside a trout stream or pond.

There are many reasons why you might want to landscape around a trout stream or newly developed pond. Trees and plants do bring many benefits and a few downsides to a trout fishery.

If I were to offer one piece of advice, is to try and plant a good selection and mix of trees. Try and avoid a monoculture of just one type.

Later in this article, I will also discuss some common trees commonly found around ponds, believe me this is far from an exhausted list.

I probably should also include the likes of Dogwoods, Flowering cherries, birches, and Maples.

Benefits include

  • – Looks pretty
  • – root mass slows nutrient run-off into the water
  • – provides shade that limits weed growth
  • – Overhanging vegetation provides shelter for aquatic life
  • – Provide a host for insects (aka trout food)
  • – blocks and slows the wind, reducing evaporation.

Downsides include

  • – Impedes casting
  • – Block access
  • – Grow into thickets
  • – Dead leaves can lower oxygen levels.
  • – Can acidify the water
  • – Transpiration can lower water level

A good tree enhances the benefits while minimizing the downsides. There is no perfect tree for all fisheries, and the exact choice can depend on many environmental variables, but there are certainly some characteristics that work better than others.

Consider native trees

No matter where native vegetation is often the best choice. After all, they adapted well to the local conditions.

The local climate will also largely dictates the trees that will not only survive but likely thrive. The more temperate the climate, the better selection of evergreen broadleaf trees will grow, as the climate becomes colder the broadleafs are largely replaced by conifers and deciduous trees.

Consider wind direction

If your local area has a dominant wind direction in the fall, I will avoid planting deciduous trees upwind of a man-made pond, otherwise, all of the leaves will get blown into the water.

Consider planting evergreen trees, that drop their leaves over a longer period of time.

Trees that will self colonize a pond

If you build a pond and keep grazing animals away. It is only a matter of time before trees start to appear. We built a large, clay-lined goldfish pond in our house grounds and by the next spring, we had over 30 willows, poplars, and alders sprouting along the shoreline.

They grew like rockets, and by the next year, they were well on the way to taking over. Some of which were over 12ft in height. This motivated me to start cutting them down and positioning the stump. I feed the branches to my pet goat. Every year new ones kept sprouting, and I constantly have to remove them.


I have a love and hate affair with willows. In many ways, they benefit trout streams, but their rapid growth and the hybrid’s tendency to drop branches can quickly overwhelm an area. Their low hanging vegetation can also make them a nuisance to cast around.

There are too many species of willows to list individually, plus I do not even know them all.

If nothing is done, in many areas willows will likely colonize themselves, then it is just a matter of cutting down and removing any of the less desirable ones.

If I were to plant willows, I probably would go for pussy willows due to their more upright nature, or weeping willows because they are unlikely to spread, are pretty, and their overhanging branches provide anexcellent shading.

I tend to avoid crack willows or hybrid crack willows. Their tendency to drop branches can be a headache. Willows can also be extremely thirsty trees, lowering water levels in drought conditions.


Poplar is another tree that will likely introduce itself. In general, poplars grow taller and more upright than willows but are more likely to produce suckers.

They can also produce an enormous amount of organic matter, from rafts of white fluff in the late spring to heavy drops of leaves in the fall. All of these can end up in the pond causing oxygen levels to drop as they start to decompose.

With high pruning, poplars can be trained to grow with clean trunks, so will cause fewer problems when fly fishing compared with most willows.

Another downside is that poplars can be very thirsty trees with massive root balls that can lower water levels. I am personally not a fan of poplars too close to the pond edge.


Alders are another group of trees that will establish themselves.

Alders are a bit easier to control than both poplars and willows. Their seed pods are heavier so they disperse over shorter distances. If there are no alders nearby, they are unlikely to appear.

I have also not seen them produce suckers, and they do not typically grow from cuttings either. But, if there are mature trees in the area their seeds can sprout readily and can quickly overtake an area.

They grow into fairly tall, well proportion trees. A bit like poplars they can drop a lot of large leaves, and their seedpods can be messy/uncomfortable.

Some other trees worth considering


Oak trees are a popular choice, they are quite ionic and attractive trees after all. Oaks grow relatively slow, and the combination of a thick canopy and I assume tannins from their decomposing leaves do a good job at controlling weed growth.

Oaks also drop a lot of leaves that tend to stick around. Acorns in the fall can attract ducks and other wildlife. Depending on how much you like ducks this can be positive or negative.

In more temperate climates evergreen oaks are also worth considering, their leaves are typically much smaller and are less likely to be blown around.

Conifers / Pines

Conifers are a massive group of trees, and they become increasingly dominant in cooler climates.

How suitable they are for pond trees also varies widely. Pines and cedars do have a reputation for increasing acidity levels which is of little benefit to trout. They also require an enormous amount of water and can even lower water levels.

In contrast to that, some conifer forests such as the Hemlocks are of benefit to trout. Hemlocks also require relatively little water and trout do seem to benefit from their presence.

With that said, if planted somewhat away from the pond, their needles are unlikely to blow far.

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