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I am a whitewater kayaker and my GF, who does not kayak, sometimes accompanies me on river trips. She loves the outdoors and is never bored when I am boating (besides driving my vehicle from the putin to the takeout, AKA "shuttle bunny") but she has mentioned that she wouldn't mind to do some trout fishing.

While the water level needs for kayakers (higher flows) are different than for fishermen (lower flows), some of the rivers I paddle are dam released, IOW, the basic flow is low and then the dam releases, injecting a necessary flow for kayaking for a few hours, then it is low again. So it could work out that she could fish on the same river where I am boating or find another stream with (stocked) trout nearby.

My question is, what is the basic setup for trout fishing with a spinning rod (which would be more basic than fly fishing)? What size of rod is optimal. Our rivers/creeks are mostly smaller (e.g. 30-100 ft across, 300-1400 CFS) with some rapids and some swimming/fishing holes in between and lots of trees around (which makes fly fishing less practical). What kind of bait and test lines? Other equipment?

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    Technique matters a lot, if not the most. I've fished on rivers where thirty feet apart I could get skunked with no bites or fill up a fry pan. Like hunting, you can have all the gear but if there's nothing to shoot at it doesn't matter. Spend a lot of time trying to see where the fish hide. In my area it's typically under the embankments, on the upstream part of a curve. Fish on one side and you're tearing it up, fish on the other side with the same set up and you get nothing. – Eric Jul 14 '15 at 18:25
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(Local regulations have a part to play in gear selection - e.g. are you allowed to bait fish?)

My personal preference in this situation is a telescopic rod.

They have a bad reputation, mainly because you get lot's that are really cheap and nasty. Get a decent quality one and its nearly as good on the water as a similar priced 4 piece. I go telescopic as they are so easy to pack and travel with, and when on the water can be folded down very quickly to move around obstacles (trees etc) without getting snagged. If you prefer sectional rods, go 4 rather than 2 piece. Teles are more prone to breakage so treat them gentler than you would a sectional rod, especially when collapsing them down.

In the rivers you describe casting distance is not so important, a light rod that can case small lures and soft baits is probably best - length is not everything and a short rod with a good action will be better than a long rod -again, think about the trees and snagging. The exception would be if you live in a very windy location, when you need weight in the lure to get a good cast.

Get a decent real with a smooth action. The last couple of seasons I have switched to braid and floro carbon leaders, mostly using small light soft baits. I keep a selection of small spinners and lures as often the trout will take one but not the other.

Other gear - a vest with pockets for knifes and lure boxes etc is almost super handy. As is a landing net - ideally a folding one.

Best be is find a local shop and talk to them, or a local fishing club. Fishing is on of those sports that local knowledge is very important, and the shops are usually manned by guys that live and breath the sport.

I am sure you are well aware, but I have to say it - She should not go near the river prior to dam release.

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    I am not a big fan of telescoping rods, as you said there are some crappy ones out there and the good ones are pretty pricey. A short two piece I think is the best option when fishing in the woods or along shrubby river banks. Something in the ultralight 5 ft range is good for most trout fishing if you aren't fishing for steelheads. Most trout you'll catch are under 18inches and that's big for many places and a small ultralight setup is perfect for that. – Escoce Apr 14 '15 at 13:41
  • a nice telescopic one would be perfect for storage and transportation. what are their main disadvantages? what are some decent brands ? – amphibient Apr 16 '15 at 18:03
  • Main disadvantage are they are easy to abuse and break. If you are the type that uses brute force, a tele is not for you. Talk to a local fishing shop for advise. Price will be you best guide - look towards the $100 (or more, how deeps your wallet) mark, not the $10 price (kids toys). – user5330 Apr 17 '15 at 20:11
  • Great advice overall and doubly so about seeking local wisdom. – Erik Apr 20 '16 at 4:42
  • @mattnz - could you please help me in this related question ? thank you. outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/19072/… – AgileFisherman Apr 17 '18 at 4:51
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Tons of rod and reel packages out there to get you started. I've had plenty of success with the basic Shimano rod/reel combos that are under $50. For bait and lures you have a some choices:

  • Spinners simulate wounded prey (minnows, etc) - the wobble action attracts fish through their lateral line
  • Weighted flies - wooly buggers, bead-head nymphs, etc. simulate natural bugs in various states
  • Jigs under a float - your weighted jig floats down river under the float
  • Bait - I'd recommend bait behind a back-bouncing rig (a weight that sits on the bottom)

Beyond that your success has the most to do with reading the river and understanding where fish like to hang out. There have been countless pages devoted to this.

Local knowledge will be a huge advantage and the guys at the shop where you buy will be able to tell you a lot.

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