Winter fly fishing is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding seasons for getting that stud fish you’ve been waiting for all year. Trout are a cold water species, they thrive in cold temperatures. Although when it is really, really cold, they tend to get lethargic. Winter hatches of midges or the occasional Blue Wing Olive does not keep a trout happy and full. Although a random sculpin, dace or baitfish does just the trick as a high protein source through the winter months.
Streamer fishing is one of the most effective ways to land more fish, or a very large trout in the winter. These fish are not incredibly active, but are willing to move on a big appetite. It is key to choose warm winter weather days or low pressure system type of days. We are talking about snow storms, the big nasty. Get your thermals on with your gloves and a hand warmer stuck to the vein on your wrist, get to stripping or swinging. Fishing your streamer in deep, structure-filled water will produce the best results. Brown trout are post spawn after their fall fun. These big brown trout will be exhausted from laying eggs or making redds, now they are looking for big meals to fatten back up, specifically in these winter holes. Make sure to be appropriate as an angler and wait for the spawn to be over. All rivers are different, most would be finished by the middle of December. Not only do the brown trout get fired up, but expect your horny rainbow trout to get some winter colors and be hot. I’ve had days catching 20” plus rainbows on massive yellow sex dungeons, these fish are not the only ones looking to grow.
Grab your 6wt, 7wt or 8wt rod when Streamer fishing. I fish the 8wt white series. This rod is a bit slower action as I double haul a heavier grain fly line and larger flies. It allows me to slowly pick up line and the big fly with ease, re-laying it forward with little effort. I love it!
Fishing a heavy sink tip off the boat or an all floating line with a long leader and a heavily weighted streamer from foot will be your best bets. It is great to match the hatch, predict that the fish are quick striking sculpin on the bottom as they ditch one rock to the next. Jig your fly with your rod tip or with quick, minimal strips to imitate that short distance, erratic movement along the bottom. Find yourself getting both numbers or size as you match the hatch and fish smaller presentations. This approach is best in clear, low water. Option number two would be if you’re after that one bite. Fish the biggest fly in your box, swim it slowly with confidence. Be prepared for zero strikes or follows, but that one mega that awaits a big bait fish meal like the one you’re presenting.
Flows on the river also have a great impact on your success when there’s ice melting or recent storms. Days with a small spike in flows and maybe a slight color change could get the fish excited. Go brighter with your fly or darker. Try all black or all white with straight flash, find what the fish want. I tend to fish crazier flies on cloudy, stormy days and smaller, flashy, more natural streamers on bluebird days.
A warm, cloudy day calls for a drive to your favorite spot where you know some monsters lurk. Look through your streamer box, tie a solid leader with 1x or 0x and get to rippin’!
Photography & Written by Joe Evans
Follow Joes's Instagram Below: