I haven’t posted in a while, wish I could say it was because I’ve been busy fishing, or working, but mostly it’s just been winter time laziness. You see, when the weather gets cold my metabolism slows down and I won’t even move very far to eat, my girlfriend actually has to dangle my dinner in front of my face for a few seconds or I’ll just sit there waiting on someone else to do it. Okay, so this is a little bit of an exaggeration for me, but not for our slimy quarry.
Trout do have a slower metabolism in the winter and can become quiet lethargic, much like myself in January. The colder water temps as well as lower dissolved oxygen levels will typically keep fish holding right on the bottom in deep slow pools, and even when it’s dinner time it’s rare that they will venture into that fast riffle water where they so love to feed in the spring. Instead, they will sit there and inhale anything that drifts within a few inches of their face, or occasionally they will move up in the water column for a brief BWO or midge hatch, sometimes they will even slide over to the soft pockets and eddies below the riffles to munch out, before inevitably sinking back to the bottom where they will spend most of the winter.
To make the most of this situation, the best advice I can give is to make like a trout and slow down. Everyone knows to sleep in and to fish between ten and two, but I’m talking beyond that. Take a few extra minutes to locate fish and see where they are holding, because fishing blind in the winter can lead to a very long and unrewarding day. Winter is the perfect time for sight fishing with the low clear water that normally accompanies it, and of course if you see fish feeding up in the water column you’re better off to target these fish as opposed to the tank sitting in the bottom of the pool. Regardless of whether you are sight fishing or not, you will likely need to make numerous drifts before moving on, so a run that I may only make ten drifts through before moving on in the spring, will instead get 20 to 40 drifts and maybe even a smoke break followed by 20 more drifts, because 9 times out of 10 these fish are not gonna move far for a meal.
I don’t change bugs quite as much in the winter unless I’m matching one of the sporadic hatches. Instead I usually fish a two nymph rig, one small, dark bug trailing off a larger, lighter bug with a hot bead. I prefer orange hot beads to snap them out of their winter slumber and more times than not this combo will work just fine, but occasionally I’ll fish eggs or streamers if the nymphs aren’t getting it done. My logic behind this is that trout are opportunistic feeders and will eat anything this time of year provided that you take the time to bump them in the nose with it.
Winter fishing can be very rewarding, if it’s peace and solitude and the occasional big ass bow that you’re looking for, then winter is the season for you. With that being said, I love winter fishing, some of my largest trout have come in the snow, when my fingers were so numb I couldn’t tie knots and my toes were so numb I could barely wade. Not that I don’t eagerly await 70 degree temps and size 12 mayflies, but for the next few months I’m just going to slow down and enjoy having the river to myself.