Tips & Tricks

Winter fly fishing 101

The rationale many anglers both keep away from winter fishing fully or wrestle after they select to tangle with trout through the colder months has as a lot to do with notion because it does with actuality. It’s frigid exterior. Possibly there’s snow on the bottom. The water is chilly. Odds are, fishing goes to be sluggish. Proper?

Thankfully, that’s not the entire story.

Trout do decelerate within the winter months, however they by no means actually cease consuming. It’s true that meals availability in some rivers and streams is proscribed throughout winter time. And it’s additionally true {that a} trout’s metabolism slows as water temperature drops, lowering the quantity of energy a trout wants to soak up to outlive. However survive they need to, and consequently, trout eat all winter lengthy. How a lot and the way typically is basically depending on the place and while you discover them.

So in the event you’re winter-curious and even winter-skeptical, know that there are anglers on the market, doubtless as you learn this, who’re related to fat-and-happy, feeding winter trout when you’re gazing your display.

The water

I’ve caught trout through the worst of winter situations—in blustery wind-ripped blizzards the place temperatures hovered within the single digits and on shiny, sunny days the place the mercury managed to push above freezing. Actually, some winter days are higher than others, however, fact be advised, the climate above the water is much less vital than the water itself. If you happen to’re standing on an ice shelf attempting to dredge a deep run with a heavy nymph when you’re dodging ice floes, your prospects are most likely fairly bleak. However in the event you’re fishing a river or stream that could be influenced by spring water or a river that advantages from bottom-release dam flows (a tailwater), your prospects could be fairly favorable, even in actually chilly climate.

Tailwaters are extraordinarily productive in winter. Water launched from dams is chilly, however not frigid — normally above 40 levels relying on the depth of the reservoir. That is perfect for opportunistic trout that not solely get the good thing about water that may be a lot hotter than the air above the floor, however from meals sources that may be prolific in tailwater rivers even through the lifeless of winter. Assume scuds and mysis shrimp, stoneflies, caddis and, in fact, midges.

The downfall to tailwaters? Most are hardly secret locations. In winter, anglers in search of productive water will flock to tailwater fisheries just like the Blue River or the Taylor River in Colorado, the Inexperienced in Utah, the White in Arkansas, Connecticut’s Farmington, and so forth. Chances are high, tailwaters received’t be the place you discover the lonely fly fishing expertise many anglers crave throughout winter, particularly as you get nearer to a dam.

However it’s not all about tailwaters. Many nice trout rivers throughout the nation are in prime form through the winter months as a result of a lot of their flows come from spring upwelling. Springwater flows vary in temperature, however some are a wonderfully balmy 50 levels and, even when it’s 12 levels exterior, trout are having fun with virtually perfect situations beneath the floor.


Bugs hatching within the winter time? Sure. Completely. There are prolific insect hatches even on the coldest trout streams. Granted, you’re not prone to see sizable bugs, however dry-fly fishing to trout rising to midges could be really exhilarating when winter’s quiet cloaks the river. If you happen to’ve by no means skilled a fantastic midge hatch throughout a snowstorm, you’re lacking out.

After all, midges are tiny. A measurement 24 might be about the most effective you possibly can hope for (though I’ve seen massive winter “snowfly” midges on Wyoming’s Snake River that doubtless pushed a measurement 18). A measurement 20 Griffith’s Gnat — a fly meant to mimic a cluster of midges trapped collectively within the floor movie — is a good go-to fly throughout a midge hatch.

On hotter days, even within the depths of winter, baetis mayflies will hatch. These prolific fall and spring bugs will hatch all winter lengthy when temperatures aren’t too chilly. On cloudy days the place the mercury may climb above freezing, a measurement 20 Blue-winged Olive is usually my fly of selection.

Low and Gradual

Truthfully, although, winter fishing is basically a subsurface endeavor. It’s a good time to place your Euro-nymphing expertise to work whereas high-sticking a double-nymph rig by way of doubtless tailouts or to forged tight towards the financial institution whereas drifting a few nymphs below an indicator. Similar to any time of the yr, throughout winter time trout earn most of their meals by ready for meals to return to them, so nymphing could be very productive, relying on the waters you select to fish. If you recognize that, each spring, a sure freestone stream sees a salmonfly hatch, certainly one of your nymphs ought to imitate a stonefly nymph. Is there a caddis hatch round Mom’s Day? Your second fly should be a caddis nymph. Midges? Take into consideration a small, easy fly, like a Zebra Midge tied with a small glass bead to mimic the rising air bubble the small bugs use to drift to the floor. Let the fly drift, after which swing out beneath you want a midge coming to the highest. You could be shocked how nicely you do.

The flies

Assuming you’re together with among the strategies above, contemplate the next bugs that must be in your fly field while you hit the river within the winter:

Griffith’s Gnat
This midge cluster sample in sizes 18-22 will cowl most of your dry-fly wants while you see trout rising to very small flies through the winter months. I are inclined to fish a Griffith’s Gnat about 18 inches behind a a lot bigger dry fly (like a measurement 16 Adams), just because, when there are many naturals on the water, I’ve a tough time telling when a fish is after my bug or the true deal. With the “indicator” fly on the water, I can at the least inform when a fish is rising close to my fly, and I’ll carry the rod and set the hook when that occurs.

Prince Nymph
This heavy, gaudy nymph is a good looking sample through the winter, and, relying on its measurement, it may imitate both a stonefly nymph or a caddis nymph. I prefer to tie my Princes massive — sizes 8-10 — with rubber legs. The iridescent peacock herl and the white goose biot feathers make this fly actually present up within the winter.

Girdle Bug
A easy fly is usually the most effective fly, and I received’t fish my favourite spring-fed river with no field of weighted Girdle Bugs. The rubber legs vibrate within the present and it’s simply buggy sufficient to get constant appears from winter trout.

Copper John
Tied with gold, pink or inexperienced wire, this John Barr creation is a superb winter fly. It sinks quick, boasts excessive visibility and could be tied a wide range of sizes. Larger variations are nice caddis imitations. Tied with inexperienced wire in sizes 18-22, the Copper John is a good BWO nymph sample.

Perdigon nymph
This Euro-nymphing staple sinks like a rock and, when tied with shiny “scorching spots,” actually reveals up below water. It’s a wonderful “level fly” on a double-nymph rig, but it surely’s simply nearly as good as a dropper below an indicator. Learn all about Perdigon nymphs right here.

Woolly Bugger
The great, previous Woolly Bugger. Sculpins are lively within the winter months, and ‘buggers could be the only approach to imitate them. Don’t hesitate to swing or drift streamers within the winter. Generally a giant chunk of protein will distract midge-sipping trout.

Bear in mind, it’s chilly on the market

Initially, earlier than you head to a stretch of river that could be only a hair above freezing, take the correct precautions. Put on layers of non-cotton clothes, notably the layer towards your pores and skin. Contemplate old-school neoprene waders, double up in your wool socks and ensure you’ve acquired a fleece layer between your waders and your legs. Gloves could be a good suggestion, however in the event you get them moist, it’s a recipe for catastrophe. Down frown upon battery-powered hand heaters or packet heaters that activate as soon as they’re opened (I steadily put a pair in between two wool socks on my toes, too).

Winter wind-burn could be depressing — put on a face-gaiter or one thing to beat back the worst of the coolness. Ditch the ballcap and go along with a fleece beanie as an alternative — most of your physique warmth escapes out of your head. A water-resistant puffy jacket or a heavy-duty rain jacket atop a number of layers is a good suggestion, too.

Lastly, drink numerous water to remain hydrated. Go away the boozy concoctions at dwelling.

If you happen to’re not protected whereas fishing in actually chilly situations, you’re inviting catastrophe. Hypothermia sneaks up on you, and by the point you notice you’re in bother, it could be too late.

Simply go

Most significantly, don’t be intimidated. If you happen to’re aching to go fishing, winter angling is completely doable. Be good, know your limitations and do some fundamental analysis. Go fishing. It beats staring on the display.

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