Photo: Drake Roskelley (@drdrake.onthefly)


Tigers vs. Brookies vs. Browns

Best Flies for Tiger Trout

3 Tips to Catch Tiger Trout

One of the most vividly-decorated and least-encountered trout in the water is the tiger trout. As its scientific name, Salmo trutta × Salvelinus fontinalis suggests, the tiger trout is a sterile hybrid between the brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) and the brown trout (Salmo trutta). They’re known for having very distinct vermiculation, the same pattern that’s more subtly seen on the backs of brook trout.

Tiger trout are found across much of the country, as they are almost entirely a stocked fish. While they can occasionally occur naturally in areas with brook and brown trout, they aren’t nearly as easy to produce as other hybrids, like cutbows. Brook trout have two more pairs of chromosomes than brown trout, making it much harder for these two species to produce viable offspring in the wild. 

However, using a method called heat shocking, scientists can quite easily create tiger trout for stocking. They’re stocked for a variety of reasons, from being a sport fishery to controlling other fish populations (tigers are both sterile and piscivorous, so they can control the populations of other species without becoming a problem themselves). They’re found in many of the same types of habitat as other species and are frequently accompanied by other trout species like brooks, browns, and rainbows.

Tiger trout are aggressive, and although they have similar diets to other trout species when they’re small, most switch to a diet of baitfish once they grow larger. Because of this, they can get fairly large. Tigers of two to five pounds are commonly caught, and the record is over 20 pounds.

Photo: Whitney Rushton (@wadingwithwhitney)

Tigers vs. Brookies vs. Browns

So how do tiger trout stack up against their parent species, the brook and brown trout? In my opinion, they take more of their looks from brook trout but definitely have a personality closer to that of a brown.

The deep, vivid vermiculation across their sides and back is reminiscent of the brook trout’s patterns. They also sometimes have a duller version of the red belly and fins of a brookie. However, they’re easy to tell apart from a brook trout, as the red generally isn’t as vivid, and they lack the iconic blue halo spots.

The color scheme of tigers is similar to a brown in that they often have a tan background coloration, but their size, aggression, and diet are what really give away their relation to the brown trout.

Photo: Whitney Rushton (@wadingwithwhitney)

Best Flies for Tiger Trout

Luckily for the tiger trout angler, the hardest part of catching tiger trout is actually finding them, since they mostly exist only where they’ve been stocked. Once you’re into them, though, getting them to take a fly isn’t any more complicated than fishing for any other species of trout, and many would argue that they’re easier to catch than other species due to their aggressive nature.

When tiger trout are small, their diet is similar to other trout species, and insects will be on the menu. Most standard nymphs or dry flies work great. Beadhead nymphs, generic dries, and any “match-the-hatch” flies are a go-to. 

Once they start to put on some size, they can still be caught on typical dries and nymphs, but many start to target larger prey items like baitfish. At this point, it’s time to switch to streamers to match that change. 

Once again, fishing streamers for tiger trout isn’t rocket science. Don’t fall into the trap of choosing flies that catch anglers instead of fish. Woolly buggers, sculpins, and other large, fishy flies with some action should be enough to trigger a tiger to feed.

Photo: Whitney Rushton (@wadingwithwhitney)

3 Tips to Catch Tiger Trout

Photo: Whitney Rushton (@wadingwithwhitney)

Tip 1: You find them where they are stocked

Encountering a tiger trout by chance happens, but it’s rare. If your strategy for catching one is to just keep fishing where there are brooks and browns and hoping for the best, you’re fighting a losing battle.

Luckily, because they’re easy to create and stock, it’s often not hard to look to your state’s fish and game agency to find out where they live. And often, because they’re stocked in large batches, if you go to a place that has tiger trout, you’re likely to find many. Many lakes and ponds contain primarily tiger trout.

Photo: Whitney Rushton (@wadingwithwhitney)

Tip 2: Fish flies you think are a bit too large

Tiger trout are a classic example of hybrid vigor or heterosis. In a nutshell, it means the tiger trout is more than the sum of its parts in terms of growth and aggression. If you want to catch large tigers, don’t treat them the same way you’d treat mellower species like the brook or rainbow. Use large, animated flies and give them something to chase!

Photo: Whitney Rushton (@wadingwithwhitney)

Tip 3: Be stealthy

Although tiger trout are aggressive feeders, this doesn’t change the fact that to catch big ones, you’ll need to be careful about how you approach. The same way you wouldn’t try to walk right up on a large brown trout, you need to be stealthy when targeting big tigers. This includes approaching quietly and from the correct side and casting discreetly and efficiently (especially on stillwater). If you’re fishing subsurface, it may also mean making leader changes, like switching to fluorocarbon.

Happy fishing and good luck out there!


This article was developed by Flylords’ content team member, Katie Burgert.

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