There are many anglers who consider winter to be the most enjoyable time to be out on the water.
Solitude is in short supply during these cold months, and the fish still have to eat despite snow and cold temperatures! The situation changes in many ways when targeting trout in the chilly air, and just like any other time the fishing tactics must change with it!
As water temperatures fall, trout move into the deeper holes and channels. It’s only natural that our efforts be focused on these areas. Keep note of particularly deep holes throughout the year, and go back to them in winter to find productive fishing. Fishing trips in summer can yield an unbelievable amount of information that can be used later in the year!
The days of using #12 terrestrials and a #14 nymph trailing behind are long gone! During these frigid months the bugs get smaller, with midges ruling the diet of trout around the country. Our fly selection should mirror this change. Using smaller flies, in the #20 to #26 range, will help hook more trout and better imitate the naturals present in winter.
One of the hardships of winter fly fishing is how sluggish trout can become. Cold water understandably forces the fish to remain as motionless as possible to conserve precious calories. For us, that means fishing likely-looking spots very methodically. Our flies usually have to land right on the nose of a trout to get it to eat, so that might mean two or three times as many casts in a spot to achieve the desired drift.
How the heck could fishing less be a tactic for winter fly fishing?! Cold, snow, and wind consistently drives anglers off the water. Now, sometimes the only time we can go fishing is when we can, but if possible check the forecast for the warmest days and spend time fishing during those spells. It’s also productive to sleep in a little and fish during the warmest parts of the day. While that might be in stark contrast to summer when we wake up early and hit the water at daybreak, fishing less can lead to more productive time spent on the water!
Opportunities abound for the fly angler willing to adjust their winter tactics. By fishing deeper and slower with smaller flies we can capitalize on those small breaks in the weather and get our fix throughout the year!