Finding trout in the winter can seem like a daunting task. With no hatches to show you rising or feeding fish, this is the time of year when being “water-literate” is key. Once you learn to read the water and find the prime pieces of winter real estate, tricky winter fishing will be a problem of the past!
Water Deeper than 3 feet
In the Winter, trout tend to hold in deeper, more temperature stable water. This allows them to conserve energy for feeding. Additionally, most of the food trout are on the hunt for in the winter, lie closer to the bottom of the water column.
Cover in the Water
Look for logjams, rock piles, pieces of cover that slow the current down and allow the trout to hold and feed with minimal effort. This can be key to their survival in the Winter when food can be scarce!
Slow Moving Water (Frog Water)
Requires less energy to feed, and conserving energy is what Winter trout are all about. Slow moving, cold water is a prime breeding ground for midges, you know those little size 22s that are almost impossible to tie on, yeah fish those. You will be surprised at the size of trout that will snack on teeny nymphs in the water.
Keep an eye out for fog or steam rising from pockets along the bank. This is a good sign that there is groundwater bubbling up. Groundwater is almost always warmer than the water on the surface, and trout will rush to this thermal refuge. Think of it as a hot tub, but for trout.
Deep Pools and Riffles
Similar to the point before, trout want deep moving water in the winter. Don’t overlook riffles either, moving water will freeze last, so that is where the fish will be waiting for that unlucky stonefly to get knocked loose and make a move.
Bonus: The Magic Temperature
40 degrees can be a magic number for a variety of aquatic animals. It can kick off a small hatch, or push the temps up enough to get trout in the mood to eat in the winter. Keep a stream thermometer on you and pay attention. You’ll be surprised how quickly you find your creeks magic temperature!
Dan Zazworsky’s passion is sharing his love of fly fishing with anyone that will listen, read or watch. You can find him exploring new waters every day while chasing any fish that will eat a fly!
Hi Dan. Interesting article and most appropriate for those fishing the Winter months. In fact, I saw 3 folks fishing the Hoosic River here in The Berkshires of Western Mass. this very afternoon. If you’ve never heard of it, Google it. It runs through town and on into the Hudson River. Great Brown Trout water. It has a bit of everything discussed in the article. Keep up the great articles. 🙂