Fly Fishing In Winter

Posted: November 19, 2008 by fishbwana72 in Fishing Colorado
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With winter just around the corner, most will hang up the fishing gear and call it a season.  For those hard core anglers who just can’t get enough, you will be greatly rewarded. Although the fishing tends to be a little slower, you will find a whole new generation of insect larvae moving around the stream bottom , actively feeding and growing, even with the cooling water temperatures.  There are also a few species that emerge as adults through the winter.  The hatches will not be as dense as during the summer but they can still prompt a trout to rise to a dry.


Fishing in the morning will be one of the coldest times of the day.  Since the insects and fish are cold-blooded, their body temperatures will be the same as the water temperature so they will not be very active.  When the first few rays of sun hit the water and it begins to warm, the fish will also begin to move and feed.  The main source of food will be the nymphal form of the insects that are on the bottom or drifting in the currents.  It may be beneficial to seine some insects from the water column to see what in most abundant.  With the insect populations being more diverse during the winter months, figuring out just what the fish might be feeding on may take a little more time to figure out.  You will certainly polish your nymph fishing skills during the winter.  With the trout being sluggish due to the colder water, the take will be subtle and you will practically have to drift the nymph right in front of the fish because they are not going to move far to feed.  Make sure you are using some sort of strike indicator or you will miss a lot of the takes.


With the arrival of midday, the water temperatures will have risen, the fish should be more active and any insects that are going to hatch should between 11:00 and 2:00.  You should not have a problem determining what insects are hatching since there is usually one Predominant species on the water.  When the weather turns cold, you should look for three species of bugs: midges, winter stoneflies and blue winged olives.   If you see midges on the water, make sure you collect a sample of the naturals floating downstream to determine their exact size and color.  To make the most of fishing midges, fish the pupa just under the surface with a small dry or indicator on top during the hatch. 


Fishing the midge pupa in the surface is another very effective tactic in the winter because the naturals tend to hang longer in the surface film due to the colder water temperatures.  There are also a lot of stillborn adults that cannot escape from their pupal shucks and are either dead or dying in the surface film.  A hatching midge pattern can be very effective to imitate this.  

The winter stoneflies are usually very small and dark brown to black in color.  They will emerge and fly to the bank to mate.  A dark colored stonefly patter in a size 16 to 20 can be very productive.  Just tie a pattern using peacock hearl for the body and put a very sparse wing on the top out of dark deer hair of CDC.


The Blue Winged Olive hatch in the winter can be a real joy.  Depending on the stream, hatches will usually occur between November and March with some of the hatches almost reaching those that occur in the spring.  Always start fishing with a small BWO nymph until the hatch starts.  It would be wise then to switch to a BWO emerger just under the surface.  When the trout begin keying in on the adults floating on the surface, switch to a dry like a comparadun BWO or a parachute BWO in the correct size.  Make sure you make a good presentation and get a drift right down a trout’s feeding lane when fishing dries since the fish are still going to be sluggish with the colder water temperatures.


When the sun begins to disappear, the stream will begin to cool quickly as well as the hatches.  The usual spinner falls of spring and summer will generally not happen at dusk during the winter.  If they have not happened by late afternoon, they will usually wait until the next day.   During this period, you may want to switch back to fishing nymphs near the bottom or just head home and warm yourself up.


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