What Colors Do Trout See Best? Facts You Can Exploit Today

A debate has been going on for a long time about whether choosing specific colors is really that effective in trout fishing. Researchers have recently proven that colors matter when it comes to catching the trout’s attention, some colors appeal to it and it won’t harm you to consider using them as lures the next time you go fishing.

So, what colors do trout see best? Trout see red, orange, and yellow best in clear waters. In darker waters, yellow and green are better choices. At night, you should go for black and use contrast in your lure to be visible for trout that can’t discern colors at night

Keep scrolling to know more about how trout see the world and how you can use these facts to improve your fishing experience.

What Colors do Trout see best? 

trout swimming underwater to illustrate what colors do trout see best

Trout can see all colors, but in a different way from what we do. Given that the water is a poor light conductor, it distorts the nature of the color depending on how much light it absorbs depending on its wavelength or color. Long-wavelength light, colors like red and orange, get quickly absorbed and fade to black, while short wavelengths like blue and purple are absorbed more slowly. 

Red appears brighter to trout than it does to humans at a closer look, but it turns black at a greater distance. Going for red, orange, and yellow are the best choices in clear water as these colors are visible and catchy. In darker waters, yellow and green are better choices because they stand out well in brownish muddy water.

The trout cone cells allow it to perceive color only in clear, shallow water. The full detail of color is seen only at a close range. The ability to detect color becomes completely eliminated within 12 feet (3.6 meters). Shades of blue, then red, and then green shades are more distinguishable to trout from further distances.

What Colors Do Trout Like?

So, what colors do trout like? Trout like any color that matches their forage such as white, gold, brown, green, black, silver, pink, orange, yellow, and red.  In muddy, unclear water go for yellow and green. In clear waters go for red, orange, and yellow.

When you want to decide what lure pattern or color to use for trout, it’s important to remember the old saying “match the hatch”. Using colors and patterns that imitate trout’s forage is undeniable in getting successful strikes from trout any day, any time. 

What Is The Best Color For Trout? 

There are lots of options you can choose from when you’re picking the trout lure color, I made you a list with the best colors to use and when it’s best to use it:

ColorBest Way to Use for Trout Fishing
Black– In muddy water
– In Deep water
– Night fishing
– Clear water
– Shallow water
– Sunny days
Yellow – Muddy water
– Cloudy days
Brown Combined with another natural color to be used anytime
White – Cloudy days
– Night fishing 
Green Muddy water
Deep water
– Muddy water
– Deep water
– Cloudy days

You can get creative and make combinations of two or more colors to imitate a specific pattern. Combinations like Chartreuse and white or red and white can produce contrast that works in any light.

Does Color Matter When Trout Fishing?

Does color matter when trout fishing? Yes, color matters when fishing for trout as you have to know what they see and how they see it to pick a lure color that can attract them. To catch them you need to pick a color that is visible according to the water clarity and the depth you’re fishing in.

Colors matter in trout fishing, or any other fishing, because you need to know what appeals to your target to be able to catch its eyes. If you use the wrong color you may miss your chances to get a strike the whole day even if you jig your arm off. Picking the color for trout also depends on various factors that you should take into consideration to get satisfying results.

If you are going trout fishing soon, you really should take a minute to check out my recommended Bait Casting Rods here. These are the ones that I have finally settled on after years of testing and many, many experiments with all kinds of rods, so they are definitely worth checking out and I think they will earn a spot on your gear list.

Water clarity

Water is a poor light conductor that can absorb much of the lure light (color) which causes the intensity to decrease and the color to change. When the water is not clear, the light becomes more absorbed and scattered when it enters decreasing the color intensity more and more.

In clear water, the best colors for trout lures and flies are red and orange. Combinations like Chartreuse and white or red and white produce the most contrast and stand out especially in the shallows.

In muddy water, it’s better to use dark-colored lures because they contrast well with brownish water and can be easier for trout to see. Lures in black and green really stand out in brown water. Other colors may not be visible in muddy waters.

The best bait choice for muddy water is dark-colored nymphs. The dark peacock body of the prince nymph, for example, contrasts well with the brown water and allows it to stand out more. While the soft wings of it allow it to imitate the movement of many different insects, making it the ideal choice for catching trout.

Pro Tip
Add artificial material like tinsel that reflects polarized light when fishing at night.

Fluorescent colors like green, chartreuse, and pink can also provide greater visibility under the water as well as reflects some of the ultraviolet radiation that strikes it as visible light. And since the UV radiation can travel a greater distance underwater, fluorescent colors can be very effective in fishing for trout. 


Colors like red and orange work best when you’re fishing in shallow water. If you’re fishing on a sunny day, you can try using flashy and reflective lures that can shine in the water to catch the trout’s attention.

If you’re fishing deep in the water, it’s best to go for darker colors like black, blue, and purple. The darker colors help the lures stand out as it provides contrast making it easier for trout to detect your lure. Using white can be a great bet as well, it contrasts well with the darkness of deep water.

Can Trout See in The Dark?

Can trout see in the dark? Yes, trout can see in the dark. They have rod cells that allow them to see around them in dim lights and darker water conditions. However, trout’s ability to see color in the night is completely eliminated as they switch from using cone cells to rod cells to be able to see in the dark. 

The trout eyes have photoreceptors in the retina: cones and rods. Cones respond differently to light of different wavelengths, and are responsible for color vision, while rods optimize vision in dim conditions to allow them to perceive the world in darker circumstances.

Unlike humans, trout use only one type of receptor at a time. They either use the cones or the rods, and the overlap at dawn and dusk can be an exception as they become able to use both. The cones are used during the day allowing sharp, full-color vision, while rods work the night shift turning the vision into black and white with better perception in the dark.

At night, the trout’s ability to discern colors becomes completely eliminated as the rods cells take charge and cones cells that are responsible for colors are disengaged. Black, then, becomes the most visible color making the best lure choice is the ones that use contrasts, not color.

Can Trout See You?

Yes, tout can see humans. When objects on the surface or beyond first appear in the window of vision or come in view on the edge of the circular window of vision, they appear much shorter and wider than they actually are. This could be one of the reasons why trout get easily spooked if they detect you from above. 

The more you get closer to the center of their window of vision, the less distorted you’ll look to a trout. You gain your natural form in their eyes when you get closer. Objects directly overhead appear exactly as they should. 

Another interesting thing about trout vision is that objects on the surface are a backlight from the fish’s perspective, appearing mostly as a silhouette as if you’re looking at someone standing with their back to a window on a sunny day. The reason why this happens is that the refractive index of its cornea is almost exactly that of water, allowing trout to see more clearly through water than air.  

I have made another complete post just about whether trout see you here, you can check it out for more info on the topic (yes, there is a bit more to it).

Related Questions 

Do Trout Like Pink? 

Yes, trout like pink. You can catch trout with pink lures but it’s preferred to save it for bright days in clear water. Pink looks special in a certain light so it’s better to use it in shallow waters on sunny days when the light entering the water is enough to make it visible.

Are Trout Attracted to Light? 

Yes, trout are attracted to light. Sometimes it’s all you can use to get their attention as their ability to see bright colors decrease at great distances or when the water is not clear enough. Flashy lures are successful in getting trout to strike.

Can trout be caught at night? 

Yes, trout can be caught at night. They can be found in shallow water feeding. To catch their attention you can use lures with color contrast like black and white, or you can use a spinner or bladed lures that produce vibrations in the water so they feel it instead of seeing it. 

Are Trout colorblind? 

No, trout are not colorblind. They can see color in its full details but their ability to see color is limited to relatively clear, shallow, water, and short distances. At night when the water is dark, trout lose the ability to see color because they switch to their rod cells.

Helpful Resources 

What do Trout See?