Well, it would seem that Winter’s cold hand has taken hold around the country, but that doesn’t mean the fly fishing itch doesn’t need to get scratched. Whether you’re planning a multi-day weekend trip or just sneaking out for a few hours, we’ve got a few pointers for you, if winter trout are on your list this holiday season!
Snow Can Be Your Friend
In my experience, I have found snow to be largely in my favor when it’s safe enough to drive out to the trout stream. Not only does it help reduce the angling pressure, but it can also work in your favor fishing wise. The grey cloud cover that comes with snow will help you out by reducing your shadow and making it more difficult for trout to make you out. Snow on the banks, while dangerous, will also help muffle your footsteps again, allowing you to sneak closer to where you think your trophy is holding.
Sub-Surface is Your Best Bet
While there are still plenty of flies that will be hatching during the winter, these hatches can be sporadic and very dependent on conditions. When I head to the river in the winter, I usually either have a streamer or a nymph at the end of my tippet. Many say the wintertime can be the best time to get aggressive strikes on streamers as the browns and brookies finish up their spawning and are on the feed. But one thing is certain, trout will continue to eat all winter, all you need to do is get the right flies in front of them!
Focus on Deep Water
As water temperatures drop, trout tend to head towards deeper water, to find the warmer water in the middle and bottom sections of the water column. This typically means if you find water that is too deep to see the bottom, usually there will be fish holding there just out of sight. When we’re approaching holes and deep runs in the winter, we usually do our best to make sure our flies are ticking and rolling along the bottom. The takes may be subtle, but the fight will be anything but.
Fish During the Warmest Parts of the Day
Just like you, in the winter, trout like to be as warm as possible. This means that the best time of the day to be out is from mid-morning until mid-afternoon. The warmer air and water temperatures will kick off any hatches that are in the system, and get the fish moving and feeding more actively.
Dry Droppers Are Your Friend
While trout may not be looking up for dries and hoppers on the surface, dry-dropping is always a solid strategy for presenting nymphs in shallower water, especially if your trout are warier in the colder conditions. This technique is especially helpful where spring creeks are concerned, as deeper pools and cuts may not be in high supply. This is one reason we always keep a few bushy stimulators and foam ants in our boxes all year round!
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!