Fly-fishing tactics for targeting trout in winter
I recently spent a chilly day on a water that has been good to me in the past, but on this particular day it was ruefully unforgiving. After six or so hours of fly fishing for trout I hadn’t even had a take, and yet, other anglers around me were hooking up on a few trout. It wasn’t as though I was ignorant to which flies were working or where the fish may be hiding, the other anglers were sharing intel. It was just one of those days in which I was reminded why the sport is called fishing, not catching; and that winter fishing for trout can be a challenge.
Over dinner that evening with my fishing companions, I began checking off the list of factors that contributed to my unproductive day on the water. To start with, the conditions were less than ideal – bluebird skies meant the fish would likely be hugging the bottom and/or structure.
The water flow was also a bit on the high side but subsiding from what had been an intense level above 500 cfs a few days before. This would also likely push the fish down to where the water flow was gentler at the bottom of the river. But it would be too easy to blame the conditions; my companions had hooked up on trout that day, and I fished many of the same holes with substantially similar fly offerings.
On this day it was without a doubt the skill and tactics of the angler, or lack thereof!
When the sun is high in a cloudless sky, stealth is your friend. It may have been that I did not take enough care approaching the water. Also, rather than fish a downstream drift, I probably would have been better served by casting upstream. This also would have allowed my fly to sink deeper into the water to where the fish were likely holding. I was also dead drifting my fly under a largish and brightly colored indicator, which was probably a bad tactic, as well. I should have gone with a smaller indicator in white to better blend in with the bubble line in the current – or better, a less obtrusive yarn indicator.
Reflecting on this with my fishing companions was humbling. I know better because I have written about fly-fishing tactics for trout in winter. Winter fishing is already challenging enough but absent-mindedly stumbling and bumbling on the stream will guarantee I wear my "I suck at fly fishing" hat on the drive home.