Driftless Trout Anglers

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Smis  
#1 Posted : Saturday, December 29, 2018 7:02:12 PM(UTC)
Smis
Rank: Midge

Joined: 5/28/2018(UTC)
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United States
Location: Chicago

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Hey everyone,

I'm looking for some advice for catching trout on the fly during the winter months. I made it a couple times last January and February and had a rough time catching fish. I used mostly smaller (18-22) nymphs like scuds & midges and caught a couple fish, but I really think the conditions were the root of my problems. Both times I fished the water was low and clear (as expected) and the air temps ranged from 20-high 30s with sunny skies. This made for a pleasant day outside but it made it difficult to present my fly without spooking fish. I'm also guessing snowmelt later in the day locked fish down, despite the little black stone fly hatch I witnessed.

Typically when I'm nymph fishing I prefer to quarter my casts upstream and let it drift downstream of me a bit. I feel I have the most control over my drift this way, but it also means I have to get in pretty close to the fish. However, even getting withing 50ft of a pod of fish without spooking them seemed near impossible. Positioning myself directly downstream and bombing long casts didn't exactly make for stealthy presentations either as my thing-a-ma-bobber would splat on the surface. At the end of one day I decided to position myself at the top of a riffle and just let my fly drift straight downstream for 15-20ft before they hit the deeper pool below. Once my weighted nymph drifted through the pool for a bit I would strip it back through the pool. As I was stripping my tiny midge through the pool I finally got a strike from a sizable trout that would eventually end up shaking the hook. This experience definitely made me consider the importance of positioning and stealth. I'm guessing the broken water from the riffle I was in masked my presence and the downstream drift ensured my fly was the first thing the trout saw and not my fly line. However, it also contradicted the low & slow approach I was going for the rest of the day.

With that said...

- Are there certain ways you like to position yourself in low & clear water conditions?

- Are super long leaders (12-15ft) and ultra light tippets (7x-5x) necessary?

- Have any of you used yarn indicators? Do they make for a more delicate presentation? Do they telegraph more subtle takes?

- Is there a preferred air temperature range you like to fish in?

- What types of water should I be focusing on? (I suspect I need to focus more on deep slow pools)

Thanks for any tips!

Only one more week for opening day in WI!

- Steve

Edited by user Saturday, December 29, 2018 7:04:03 PM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

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William Schlafer  
#2 Posted : Saturday, December 29, 2018 8:50:56 PM(UTC)
William Schlafer
Rank: Super Fly

Joined: 7/24/2011(UTC)
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Typically in the winter time there will be a short window between 10AM-2PM when Trout are most likely to be active. You want conditions where the water temperature is rising, usually along with the air temp. Sunshine can help raise the water temp, but when the sun is shining in January it usually means the thermometer is taking a nose dive. If there is snow cover on the ground, any rapid rise in temps can inject lots of cold water runoff into the stream. This can shut down Trout as their body temperature is regulated by the water temp. If the water temp is below 45 degrees, go home. Trout will be inactive.

Trout seek out stable water temps in the winter time. Places where seeps or springs feeding into the creek should get you attention as they may be nosing up into this warmer water. Bait fish and other food sources will also seek out warmer water, attracting Trout.

Low and slow is the preferred winter method, fishing pools and deep runs or cuts. There is always a slight chance of risers feeding on small midge patterns, but the best bet is small thin bodied scuds and small streamers fished right near the bottom. Although in the right conditions larger streamer patterns can work weel too. Fish em deep and slow at water current speed, the takes will be light to almost non-existent. Riffles and shallower water aren't likely to hold many Trout in the winter time, although it never hurts to toss a cast or two there. The Trout won't be moving much, so you'll need to figure out where they are laying and put your fly right on their nose.

Long light leader are generally not needed. I fish 8' 3X-4X leaders all year long without any issues. I feel long leaders are only needed for fussy top water top water feeding Trout in clear water conditions. Plus I always feel foolish tying on leaders that are longer than the stream is wide.

The Trout will be in deeper water and fairly inactive, so you should be able to get relatively close without detection. If the water is very clear and the sun is shining, avoid profiling your outline against the background of the bright sky and casting shadows on the stream. Fish upstream, although downstream presentations are always possible if you can stay out of view. Be patient and work every good holding spot thoroughly. Winter fishing can be slow and you probably won't hit too many big numbers days.

I would generally avoid wading, although on cold days the water will be warmer than the air which makes it tempting to linger in the water. You want to avoid taking a swim in winter time at all costs. Hypothermia is a real threat and can set in a short time after you get wet.

I always seek out streams in the winter time that I've very familiar with, and have a good idea where I might find Trout. This is not the time for exploring unfamiliar waters with slippery footing, hidden holes and hazards to get tangled up in. Short walks to and from the car are good idea and can be a life saver if you get into trouble. Bring along a change of dry clothes, just in case.

If you get a good weather day with light winds, winter fishing can be a lot of fun and rewarding.

Stay safe. Good luck.

UserPostedImage
UserPostedImage
UserPostedImage

-Bill

“You'll never look back on your life and wish you had spent more time in the office." -- Brian Trautman, Captain SV Delos
thanks 2 users thanked William Schlafer for this useful post.
Smis on 12/29/2018(UTC), Z4c64 on 12/30/2018(UTC)
trapper  
#3 Posted : Saturday, December 29, 2018 9:02:48 PM(UTC)
trapper
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I use many tactics
Try a black milwaukee leech available from many fine fly shops locally.
Use an added weight(s) to get your offering down into the strike zone
Get Reel
madguy30  
#4 Posted : Saturday, December 29, 2018 9:28:32 PM(UTC)
madguy30
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Lots of layers is maybe the most important thing....speaking of which anyone have tips on a less expensive neoprene waders? I don't use waders after April usually so might as well just have warmth out front.

Ugly scud/bug looking bead heads work.

My fishing time in winter is usually 10-2 and then it gets cold.

I caught fish in riffles last February but it was on high sun and no wind in the middle of the day.
weiliwen  
#5 Posted : Sunday, December 30, 2018 12:36:33 AM(UTC)
weiliwen
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The temps will be right around freezing on opening weekend, so the bitter cold of last year won't be a big factor. I'm pretty happy about that. I plan to get up at my normal hour, have a nice breakfast, and then head out; no real reason to get to the stream at the crack of dawn. I'm going to find areas that get more light, sort of the opposite of my summer strategy.

Other than that, the folks above have already given you the answers. Myself, I'm going to try to find areas where the river is deeper and more likely to have trout all year - that leaves out the smaller streams, generally speaking. I'm willing to bet that some of the experts above know some sweet spots in those smaller streams that will still hold trout, though!

For me, it'll be mostly new or relatively unexplored (by me) water, as I'm sticking close to Madison. I'm bound and determined to gain some experience in that area this year.
Bob Williams, "Weiliwen"
Hoggies  
#6 Posted : Sunday, December 30, 2018 2:00:35 AM(UTC)
Hoggies
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If you have boots already, Caddis Wading Systems makes stocking foot ones that go for ~$50 on Amazon.

I've had good luck with a black zonker or bugger on a slow sink polyleader cast across/up to the opposite bank and stripped back just enough to keep it out of the thick.
Gurth  
#7 Posted : Sunday, December 30, 2018 2:23:56 AM(UTC)
Gurth
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Not a fly fisher but the biggest factor that I encounter is water temp - especially when the melt drops the temp.

They shut right off and I don'y even see them anywhere.

Beyond that, much like you guys, I fart around with size and color until I figure out what they'll eat.
Private correspondence at: jkschind "at" tds.net
thanks 1 user thanked Gurth for this useful post.
Z4c64 on 12/30/2018(UTC)
Gurth  
#8 Posted : Monday, January 7, 2019 4:22:24 PM(UTC)
Gurth
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For the most part, what fish I did get this weekend only hit on this:


UserPostedImage


I almost always have two rods with me so that I can use a couple of options on any given spot. I was using the above black but also trying other colors when a good looking spot failed to produce.

The typical go to of black body/gold blade failed as did my next two go-to's of orange or white. Tried pink... silver...

This over both days - one full sun and the other completely overcast.

Got 4 nice browns out of one hole yesterday and fished it for a good half hour and threw several other colors in between using the black and didn't get a single strike on anything else.

Panther Martin had these on clearance a couple years ago and I bought up all of the size 9 and 6's that they had left. Had my doubts as to whether they'd work as is, but figured I could strip the paint and have some inexpensive silver and gold colored lures.

I've heard many times to go small and dark in the winter, but I've rarely needed to. In fact, it's been hard for me to find fish that will ever take a black painted spinner at any time of year.

They worked one day last January to great success when nothing else would and then never again and never before that.

Anyway, fwiw. Have some black in your stash for winter fishing.

On the size thing, I was using a 9 all weekend, so didn't go small and did well. I think it's more important to have the lure down near the bottom than it is to worry about whether it's too big.

I'm not targeting 10" fish afterall.


.

Edited by user Monday, January 7, 2019 4:29:34 PM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

Private correspondence at: jkschind "at" tds.net
William Schlafer  
#9 Posted : Monday, January 7, 2019 5:03:03 PM(UTC)
William Schlafer
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I can't find it right now, but in one of the books I've read about Trout fishing the author really pushed the idea that leeches are always high on the menu for big Trout. In particular, in the early part of they year when they're shaking off winter inactivity and are highly interested in big meals.

That PM spinner looks a lot like a black Woolly Bugger to me - which looks just like a leech in the water.


-Bill
“You'll never look back on your life and wish you had spent more time in the office." -- Brian Trautman, Captain SV Delos
Gurth  
#10 Posted : Tuesday, January 8, 2019 2:21:47 PM(UTC)
Gurth
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UserPostedImage


I made these a couple years ago and have tried them a few times but never gotten a strike and quickly abandoned them each time. If I don't have confidence in a lure, I often abandon it pretty quickly.

That's a big part of the reason I've caught almost nothing in my life on Raps and other crank baits despite having probably 30 in my tackle box of all sorts of variety.

Anyway… will give these a much better chance at some point this winter and spring on bigger waters when the fish only want that black spinner.

Want to replace the spinner portion with all black though.

Like these…


UserPostedImage



It's BIG trout season or at least heading towards it and I'm pretty excited for that!
Private correspondence at: jkschind "at" tds.net
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