Articles in the Category Winter Fly Fishing

Fly Fishing in the Winter — Egg Tips

Smith and I found ourselves on another late December, post-Christmas fishing trip. But Smith was fishing and coming up empty, while I was catching trout . . .

. . . “Alright, Dom. What the hell are you doing?” he demanded boldly. Smith takes pride in finding his own path and solving his own puzzles. But like every good angler I know, he’s humble enough to ask the right questions at the right times . . .

The predictability of the winter egg bite can be excellent — if you’re nymphing skills are tuned up. It also takes some extra refinement . . .

. . . So here’s what I told Smith . . .

Gear Review: Simms Bulkley Wading Jacket

Weather be damned. We’ve come a long way from your grandfather’s yellow rain slicker. The Simms Bulkley insulated wading jacket is the perfect cold-weather fishing coat. And after spending about a hundred days in it over the last year, I can tell you why . . .

Fly Fishing in the Winter — The Secondary Nymphing Rig

Every winter our rivers go through changes, and the trout follow suit. Regardless of how much water flows between the banks, I encounter a predictable slowdown in trout response at some point. Call it a lack of trout enthusiasm. Or call it hunkering down and waiting for warmer water. However you look at it, the trout just don’t move as far to eat a fly.

For some, the solution is a streamer — to go bigger. Get the trout’s attention and add some motivation to peel itself from the river bed and move to a fly. It works — sometimes. (everything works sometimes.) But just as often you’re left with an empty net and more questions than answers. I do love fishing streamers in the winter though. I use it as a chance to build body heat, to warm up by walking and covering more water. But my standard approach is a highly targeted pair of nymphs, right in the trout’s window. Served up just right, you can almost force-feed a trout that didn’t even know he was hungry.

Fly Fishing in the Winter — Ice in the Guides?

Nothing about having a winter system or using a specific nymphing rig makes any difference if the guides of your rod are frozen. And every fly fisher who has stepped into a winter river with the air temps below, let’s say, twenty-five degrees has dealt with some kind of trouble. Every angler has his own advice about eliminating guide ice too. And here I guess it’s time to give you mine . . .

Gear Review: Simms Bulkley Wading Jacket

Gear Review: Simms Bulkley Wading Jacket

Weather be damned. We’ve come a long way from your grandfather’s yellow rain slicker. The Simms Bulkley insulated wading jacket is the perfect cold-weather fishing coat. And after spending about a hundred days in it over the last year, I can tell you why . . .

Fly Fishing in the Winter — The Secondary Nymphing Rig

Fly Fishing in the Winter — The Secondary Nymphing Rig

Every winter our rivers go through changes, and the trout follow suit. Regardless of how much water flows between the banks, I encounter a predictable slowdown in trout response at some point. Call it a lack of trout enthusiasm. Or call it hunkering down and waiting for warmer water. However you look at it, the trout just don’t move as far to eat a fly.

For some, the solution is a streamer — to go bigger. Get the trout’s attention and add some motivation to peel itself from the river bed and move to a fly. It works — sometimes. (everything works sometimes.) But just as often you’re left with an empty net and more questions than answers. I do love fishing streamers in the winter though. I use it as a chance to build body heat, to warm up by walking and covering more water. But my standard approach is a highly targeted pair of nymphs, right in the trout’s window. Served up just right, you can almost force-feed a trout that didn’t even know he was hungry.

Fly Fishing in the Winter — Ice in the Guides?

Fly Fishing in the Winter — Ice in the Guides?

Nothing about having a winter system or using a specific nymphing rig makes any difference if the guides of your rod are frozen. And every fly fisher who has stepped into a winter river with the air temps below, let’s say, twenty-five degrees has dealt with some kind of trouble. Every angler has his own advice about eliminating guide ice too. And here I guess it’s time to give you mine . . .

Troutbitten Fly Box — The Sucker Spawn

Troutbitten Fly Box — The Sucker Spawn

You can get a trout’s attention with a host of different patterns. Bright beads, flashy materials, wiggly legs and sheer size all stand out in the drift, and trout take notice. But interest and curiosity do not necessarily lead trout into the net. In fact, many of the attention getting materials we attach to a hook simply turn trout off, giving them a reason not to eat the fly.

On the other hand, while drab and flat patterns have their moments, it often takes a little sparkle, a little color, flash or wiggle, to turn trout on. The trick then, is finding the right elements to seal the deal — a simple combination of materials that is just enough to convince a trout, but not too much either. Enter: the Sucker Spawn . . .

Fly Fishing in the Winter — The Go-To Nymphing Rig

Fly Fishing in the Winter — The Go-To Nymphing Rig

I walked to the familiar counter and laid a small bag of orange material among the aged fly fishing stickers covering the coffee stained wooden slab. Seated on a stool, the shop manager looked up from his magazine and over to my bag of orange fluff. Then he slowly brought his gaze up to mine. We made eye contact and he grinned until we both slowly chuckled.

“It’s all you need out there right now,” he said . . .

Fly Fishing in the Winter — The System

Fly Fishing in the Winter — The System

What follows below is an overview of a winter system. As our winter season progresses, I’ll flush out more of these topics in detail. But here are my methods for catching trout in my favorite season.

I’ve grown to love these bitter months, not only for the solitude and peace beyond the dead end roads, but for the challenge of a different game. And once you dig in, when you spend some time fighting, and you finally gain comfort against the elements, you’ll find a season more predictable than any other. Because winter feeding options are limited for a trout, and the angler may take advantage of that — if he’s persistent.

The rewards for finding a winter fishing system are both high numbers and larger trout. The range for error is wider. It’s harder to hit the mark. But when you do find the target, success flows freely . . .

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Fly Fishing in the Winter — Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Fly Fishing in the Winter — Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Yesterday afternoon topped off at thirty-eight degrees. That’s warm for a winter fisherman. I had five hours until dark, and I knew the temp would drop a bit at the end. There wasn’t much wind, no sun, and I had a long walk upstream to start my day. I thought about all those factors when I lifted the hatch of my SUV. Staring at the big bag of winter gear that goes everywhere with me, I knew exactly what to wear.

What follows here is my own system for staying comfortable (enough) while fishing the winter months. Soft, snowy days in the silent forest, with the solitary song of flowing water passing through are my favorite. I prefer January over July. I welcome the first crisp days of fall and the wool gloves that come with me.

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Fly Fishing in the Winter — Your Hands

Fly Fishing in the Winter — Your Hands

I fish with some very tough, die hard trout fishermen. But cold wind and colder water gets the best of everyone who isn’t prepared. And when we get temps down into the low twenties and teens, that’s when the guy who stubbornly wants to wear a ball cap and no gloves simply doesn’t make it.

The toughest thing facing a winter angler is not picky trout. It’s the weather.

There’s a good solution to every winter situation we encounter. And all of those solutions require your hands to operate.

Good winter fishing starts and ends with warm fingers . . .

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