Many determining factors come into play when deciding what kind of a fishing day you desire to have. My main three are the size of fish you wish to target, followed by fishing location, and lastly, the weather. You can go fishing and catch tons of 18” rainbows and dinks, or you can try for one whopper brown trout.

In the trout world, there are anglers that touch big trout and then there are anglers that do not. I believe for the people that do catch big trout, that it does not happen at random. If you can handle a little bit of risk and focus on only larger trout, sooner or later you will get your trophy. Large trout do not live where there are small trout and you cannot catch large trout if you do not fish for them. If you only stay on easy small trout programs and fish locations that you are comfortable with, you are not going to catch them.

Additionally, more experienced anglers catch bigger fish. That is the reality. I spend every weekend fishing different rivers in Montana, and as I become a stronger angler, bigger trout have come along. I always learn something from each fishing trip no matter what the day produces. I practice casting, stronger hook sets, and better rod position, constantly striving to advance to the next level. I treat every day on the water like it is my first. It takes risk, time, effort, many miles in my truck, having an open mind, and heartache to finally land a dream trout.

I have found that as my skills improve and I give up opportunities to catch small trout and only target big trout, I eventually land an older age class of trout. Leading up to my big brown I had many big trout break off, I missed a lot, and I fished where I thought big trout live, only to find out there were not around. The more time I spent stalking, hunting, doing my homework on new locations, learning what big trout eat, and where they eat, my odds of catching a big brown increased and then one day I landed a beautifully colored up giant buck! I do not catch big fish every trip, I tend to strike out often, but every once in a while all the hard work and dedication pays off. 

You can play it safe or you can roll the dice and end up with a catch of a lifetime. What kind of fishing day do you want to have?

Whitney Harchenko is a PH.D. candidate at Montana State University. When she isn’t studying you can find her catching massive trout all over the West. Check her out on Instagram @whitney_walleye_slayer for more awesome fishing content!