Person fishing on the river in fall

With a vista like that, is it any wonder that millions of people would rather be trout fishing?

Karl Weatherly/Getty Images

In the man-versus-nature category of activities, fishing ranks as one of the most satisfying challenges. And trout fishing, whic­h requires knowledge of fish habits, stream characteristics and weather patterns, may be the pinnacle of the sport. Perhaps that's why almost 7 million Americans spend 76 million days a year on the hunt for brookies, rainbows, cutthroats and their spotted kin [source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service].

Of those 7 million anglers, not all are trout masters. It's often said that only 10 percent of all fishermen catch 90 percent of all the trout. Those elite 10 percent have more than a deep understanding of fish and stream -- they also have the ­right equipment. But even that's a challenge beginning anglers must overcome.

­Visit an­y tackle shop ­or outdoor retailer, and you'll find a dizzying array of trout fishing gear. What are the absolute essentials for successful trout fishing? How do you ensure that you won't venture into the field with either too little to get the job done or too much to carry from vehicle to stream? ­

These are the questions we're about to answer in our search for the perfect gear for trout fishing. Our focus will be trout fishing with bait and lures. Fly-fishing for trout is a specialty that demands its own article. So, in no particular order, let's get started.