Determining causes of variation in population size and identifying factors responsible for fluctuations in species abundance are crucial questions both in theoretical and applied ecology. Based on the analysis of abundance time series, many studies have concluded that population dynamics of the stream-living brown trout (Salmo trutta L.) are mainly driven by year-to-year variation in the discharge level during emergence. Endogenous regulatory processes have often been considered as weak explanations for these fluctuations. This led some authors to consider that brown trout was able to persist in time with no operation of density-dependent processes. Using a model of population dynamics, we studied the influence of both discharge level during emergence and density-dependent regulatory processes on population limitation and fluctuations. We show that density-dependent and density-independent processes can act together on population density and stability at equilibrium (limitation process). We also show that the effects of internal feedbacks regulating population may often be invisible when analyzing abundance fluctuations at the interannual scale. Our results question the accuracy of studies based on the analysis of interannual fluctuations in abundance to identify processes driving population density at equilibrium.