Winter Trout Fly Fishing: To Go or Not to Go- That is the question

Prior to checking the weather for last Saturday I committed to go fly fishing with a longtime fly fishing buddy. That was my first mistake. Agreeing to a 5am departure was probably the second. Quizzical looks were not limited to family and friends whom we informed of our plans- the gas station attendant also got in the game, as did the sweet old woman who made us hot breakfast biscuits and her husband who manned the griddle. I could only see the top of his head but it was definitely shaking back and forth, and the gas station attendant said “You’re going WHERE to do WHAT?!”.

Our view upon arrival to cross the river and begin fishing...
Our view upon arrival to cross the river and begin fishing…

Yessir, that’s right. Trout fishing. Up in the mountains. Yessir I’m aware it’s snowing. Yessir we’re hoping the temperature will get above freezing sometime mid-morning. Why are we doing this? Well because it’s Saturday and today was the day we could both go of course! Now it was our turn to shake heads. Silly man. We were going because we could! Weather be darned.

It was to be an exploratory day on a river I was well familiar with, but that my fishing buddy has never fished. We would be exploring new water for both of us regardless and looked forward to seeing some new places. The day before had been beautiful- bluebird skies, sunny, and a balmy mid 60’s temp. The front came through overnight as expected and temps dropped below freezing. Snow swirled in the headlight cones and gravel laid down for traction on a four lane highway pinged off the rear of the truck. It was 0 dark thirty and it dang sure felt like it.

We didn’t get a take. Not a single twitch in the line we could definitively say was a fish and not a rock. All day. 0 strikes yields 0 fish. We fished hard, we varied flies, we varied techniques, we did a lot of tight line deep nymphing, and we varied water. Long casts, short casts, no casts. I added weight until I was sure the flies were bumping every rock. Nothing. The cold had shut them down and we had expired our bag of tricks. We explored a lot of really pretty new water with some beautiful riffles, runs, and holes that any other day but a frozen Saturday morning should be holding nice fish!

A quick count at the end of the day yielded appropriate numbers of fingers and toes, and the heater in the truck got a workout on the way home. Upon reflection, it was a really great day. If you’ve been fishing for any length of time you know the type of day. The day was well spent with a good friend, we explored and added some great new spots to the catalog. Most importantly, it got me thinking and doing some research on what really happens below the surface before, during, and after a hard Winter cold snap. Check back Friday for the follow-up to this piece and the results of the research so we can all catch more fish this Winter!

Later, someone else asked why we fish in the cold (the wife doesn’t ask anymore- she knows). It’s a serious question- why do we? My best response was that the suffering made it better somehow.

Catch ‘em up and check back Friday for the follow-up piece on Winter trout fly fishing techniques and tactics!


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