don't forget the winter trout...
1. Relish the Winter 2. Tips and Techniques (a. Stay Warm, b. Find the Fish)
RELISH THE WINTER
In the mountainous West, like certain other parts of the country, we joyfully experience four very distinct seasons. Winter is heavily upon us now and we are blessed with a multitude of outdoor recreational opportunities. We have downhill skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, hot springs soaking, sledding (we're even lucky enough to have a resident-built ice skating rink right in our neighborhood and we love to get a pick-up game of hockey going) and too many other activities to list. However, some of our neighbors and friends choose to have a vacation home or at least travel to warmer desert, subtropical, or tropical areas to bask in the sun as we who chose to stay behind are doubling up on our clothing.
So, while some leave the snow-laden lands and others simply dream of sunny, shorts-and-tee shirt days (we're dreaming of our upcoming saltwater fly fishing trip too!), well....we choose and implore you to RELISH in the cold temps and white fluffy stuff! The summer heat will be here soon enough and everyone will be blasting their AC wishing it were cooler! So, we argue, to be present and thankful for our seasons!
Winter trout fishing may be last on the list for many. For some, it simply means less pressure on the rivers and great fishing all to ourselves! You'll want to check your local regulations, of course... some rivers and some lakes/specific lake areas will close Nov-May to protect spawning fish. But if your local river, or one nearby, remains open all year....you're in luck!
TIPS AND TECHNIQUES
A. Stay Warm!
First off, your layering is VERY important: start with your base layer pant and top, add a mid layer pant/top or even two if necessary, great wading-specific socks (wool, wool blend, or polyester) and your outerwear. Choose a good windproof/waterproof shell with or without insulation as per your preference. Glo-mitts (gloves/mittens in one) are essential...you'll be glad you can peel back the mitts to expose your fingers to be able to tie your bugs on. I would also recommend wearing your beanie over your ball-cap or finding a beanie with a built in bill. The bill comes in handy if there is any sun or diffused light by keeping it from penetrating your eyes over the top of your sunglasses. It also adds protection from flying hooks! Take a couple of hand-warmers too. You'll be glad you did.
* A note on footbed warmers... I've tried them a few times but when you stuff them into your wader bootie, the lack of oxygen stymies their warming lifespan. Then, you're just stepping on something cold and annoying all day. Battery socks may be the only alternative...hopefully your waders don't leak. I go without either. Just expect your feet to get a little chilly but take breaks from the water to walk around and warm them up.
* Yes you should wear sunglasses...even on cloudy, snowy days! Polarized glasses cut the glare of the water surface. You may think it looks "darker" through your polarized glasses but that's not the point...look at the water...you'll be able to see INTO the water much easier and be able to read the stream much better. Lens color matters too...darker or mirrored lenses for sunny days, lighter lenses for darker days. Also, SUNGLASSES PROTECT YOUR EYES FROM FLYING HOOKS! Yes, I HAVE seen eyelids and brows get hooked before!
*FELT SOLES ARE A BAD IDEA! Felt grabs the snow and builds it up and up and up....pretty soon you'll be 6 inches taller and prone to twisting an ankle with every step!!! If it's not snowy, well, felt builds ice too! Add cleats to your rubber soled boots for best performance.
B. Find the Fish!
Winter trout lies are usually much different than warm-weather lies. In the warm weather, bugs abound and fish can be found targeting them, cooling themselves, and looking for more oxygen in shallow, faster riffles. In contrast, cold weather usually means fish move to deeper, slower pools as the warmer water is found here...away from the cold air and warmed slightly by the earth. This doesn't mean you won't find a fish in shallower water, just that the higher concentrations won't be there. I'd suggest focusing on the tail end of the riffle. Look at where the riffle meets the pool....where the water just begins to slow to a crawl and deepens up. Work that water and even down into the slow depths of the pool itself...as long as you can get a drift (even if your indicator/dry dropper rig is moving what seems like 1-2 mph downstream, you're still getting a drift!) Remember, everything is cold and slow in the winter! I would suggest going a little lighter on your nymph setup...less weight, smaller indicator = more sensitivity. Just because your indicator is barely twitching or it seems to be dragging bottom all the time, don't just ASSUME it's bottom...winter takes can be very light!
If you're lucky enough to have a tailwater nearby, winter fishing can be lights out! Bottom-release tailwaters are very kind to winter fishermen and fisher-women. The deeper, warmer water from the reservoir is spilled into the river meaning a higher rate of bug and fish activity compared to most freestone (non-dammed, natural flowing) streams. Spring creeks are similar to tailwaters in regard to warmer water temps. Here, water bubbles out of the warmer ground and hasn't been chilled by the air for long periods of time. In both tailwaters and spring creeks the warmer water temps mean more active fish. I've had some of my best midge and BWO dry fly days on winter tailwaters and spring creeks. With tailwaters and spring creeks, you're usually more open to explore the water than on freestones because of said temperature. I'd still shy away from fast and shallow riffles in lieu of something with at least 3 feet of depth or more. On a freestone, many times your winter streamer techniques are very slow crawl retrievals or even just dead-drifting. On tailwaters and spring creeks, I've had stellar days filled with active streamer stripping! If your retrieval isn't getting any takers, change it up!
For winter fly selections look us up on Instagram! We've been adding our winter favorites in our recent posts! (click image below or look up dnstrmwear on Instagram).
Get out there, brave the cold, and show us your winter trout! (#downstreamwer, @dnstrmwear)
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