Winter Fishing can often be a challenging time of the year to fish for trout. Here in VT we have plenty of open rivers year round, but much of it can be frozen from shore to shore making fly fishing a challenge. There are a couple simple tips and tricks that will make spending the winter fly fishing easier for you regardless of what state your fishing in. First off is locating trout, being able to locate trout is obviously quite crucial in catching them. Places to focus on include and areas below dams, these can sometime have warmer water temps and are typically less likely to freeze. Warmer water can also be found in tailwaters, and although sometimes fishing the actual tailwater may not be legal, fishing confluences and downstream sides of confluences of warmer water can often be good places to fish. Water type is another very important part of location. Because the water is cold, the fish are not going to want to fight the current to feed, therefore they’re much more apt to be found in deeper, slow moving water below riffles and other fast water. Next up in catching winter fish on the fly is how. Nymphing and streamer fishing are the most productive ways to get after these fish and having two rods ready in your arsenal ready to fish is a wise idea. Start off by setting up a 5-7wt with either a sink-tip line or a sink-tip leader ranging from a 5’ to a 15’ depending on water depth. Run a piece of 0x-3x tippet material ranging in lengths between 3 and 5 feet off of the sink tip. Productive flies include wooly buggers ranging from a #2-#12 depending on the size of the fish, muddler minnows, zonkers and any of leech/baitfish patterns that can be fished slowly. The trick to when streamer fishing this time of the year is to fish it very deep and slow. These flies should be fished within a foot or so of the bottom of the river because typically the fish will be located in the lower column of water.
When it comes to nymphing fish a 3-6wt depending on fish size. Using a raven float is one of the most productive ways to nymph this time of the year. Because you need to get down so deep, the raven float system will help you get you fly down deeper quicker which will allow you to be in the game for a longer period of time. Be sure to have stonefly nymphs, copper johns, pheasant tails and don’t forget to pack a couple egg patterns and san juan worms in case the traditional nymphs don’t work.
When fishing this time of the year there are a couple other things you want to keep in mind. Having several pairs of insulated socks is very important to wading in icy cold water. Being aware of where you place your equipment is very important as well. A common rookie mistake is to dunk your reel underwater. In sub-freezing air temps, submerging a reel can be the difference between fishing all day and heading home early with a locked up reel. Also make sure you have some Stanley’s Ice Off Paste made by Loon Outdoors which helps greatly reduce guides icing up. These few tricks will help make winter fly fishing a much more enjoyable excursion and help increase yours odds at getting into some winter fish!