Colorful December brown by customer Damon Matus. Hope Santa was kind to y'all. I definitely ate & drank too much on Christmas, still in a food coma I think.
Looks like an Arctic Blast is moving in Wednesday and staying for a good week or so. We received about 4" of snow, making for a White Christmas. Most of you will probably forego fishing during this cold snap and either read about it, watch videos, or tie flies. All good options on very cold winter days. Or better yet, go shop at UpCountry Sportfishing :). But, a few of you will bundle up & head out to the river because you have to wet a line. So here are 12 tips for fishing when it's extra-cold outside:
1) Don't start early. Late morning through mid afternoon is not only the warmest (least cold? haha) part of the day, but probably also the best chance to catch some trout on a brutally cold day. Rising water temps increase both trout metabolism & insect activity.
2) Try to pick sunny days. Sunshine will raise water temps more than anything else, and that in turn get the trout & bugs more active. even on truly cold days. If it is sunny outside and there is morning slush, the sunshine will often melt it by the afternoon (but not always).
3)Try to fish a fixed length of line to minimize ice-up of your guides. Short-line nymphing & swinging streamers will both allow you to not have to constantly be retrieving line in & out of the guides. Give your streamers additional action when desired by jiggling/twitching your rod tip rather than stripping line. For nymphing, a 10-11' rod will greatly assist in managing your line. Loon Stanley's Ice Off Paste will also delay your guides icing up.
4) Make sure your wading shoes don't fit tightly. Many people size there boots for a perfect fit with thin socks during mild weather, and then when they put a nice thick, warm Merino wool sock on for the cold weather, they have to cram their foot in the boot. Now you cut your circulation off, and the result is ice cube feet. An oversize pair of boots for winter fishing is a great idea.
5) Wear a good pair of fingerless gloves. If your hands get really cold, that can pretty much be a day-ender, or at the very least make fishing an unpleasant experience. Half-finger gloves with exposed fingertips will give you dexterity, while still promoting blood flow to your fingers/hands.
6) Expect to fish subsurface. While I have seen trout rising well to Winter Caddis & Midges on some super-cold days, that is the exception during extra-cold snaps. It usually greatly slows down the bugs, making nymphs & streamers the way to go. But by all means, if you have risers, match the hatch.
7) Expect hits to be extra subtle. Cold water = slow trout metabolism. As such they don't need to eat much at all, and they won't move much to eat. Even when swinging streamers, you often feel nothing more than your fly stopping, you think you snagged up, but when you pull back there is something wiggling on your line. With nymphs you almost have to hit them on the nose, and those type of strikes can be very subtle and hard to detect. If you are using a strike indicator, it might only hesitate, slow, faintly twitch, or just rotate. Look for any slight change and set the hook. If you are tight-line nymphing, your drift might just slowly stop or even just slow down slightly- set the hook! Some hits are undetectable no matter what you do.
8) Be patient. I often have long periods of no action in the winter, and then all of a sudden I'll have an hour or two of good fishing. It's not 100% predictable when a "bite window" will happen, but even on really cold days there is often a period when trout put on the feedbag (typically in that late morning to mid afternoon window, but not always).
9) Locate the fish. Trout drop out of faster water when water temps are in the 30s, and they tend to pod up in softer water with some depth. Where you find one, there are often many more nearby.
10) Go smaller with your nymphs. Most of what trout actually feed on in the winter is small, so your nymph size should reflect that. Think #16-22 on average, with some exceptions (like #8-10 Stoneflies). Midges are a primary winter food source, and patterns imitating the in #18-24 are often the ticket. Play with colors, flash/no flash, hotspots, etc., until you figure out what triggers a response on any given day.
11) The warmest water on cold winter days is up in Riverton, in the 2 miles or so above the Still River and up to the dam itself. Truly cold weather can cause shelf ice & floating slush below the Still River, but if you go above that it NEVER freezes or slushes up. Water is densest at 39.2 degrees, to the water coming out of the dam runs slightly warmer on the coldest days. That does not necessarily mean the water coming out of the dam is 39 degrees, but it is always at least a few degrees above freezing. This can save your ass when you drive to the Church Pool, only to discover it is iced up bank-to-bank or has so much slush coming down that you cannot fish it.
12) Read the water carefully, pick what you think is the highest percentage water, and fish it thorougly.
Much of the water is vacant of trout in the water, and they will pod up
in the better spots, but they won't move much at all to eat your fly. As such,
fishing only the best water and fishing it methodically with multiple
drifts covering every inch will put the odds in your favor. Fish the pools, deeper/softer runs, and gentle riffles that have some depth. Skip the fast water & pocket water. In the
winter, I'll often re-fish the best spots several times using different
flies and/or different tactics. It'a a totally different ballgame than
in the spring through fall when the trout are spread out all over the
river, their metabolism is in high hear, and lots of bugs are hatching.
Unless you have risers to Winter Caddis (AM), Blue Wing Olives/BWOs (afternoons), or Midges (afternoons), slow & deep with nymphs or streamers is the order of the day.
I'd expect the bigger fish to get fooled more often by subsurface tactics. A dead-drifted nymph fished near the river bottom is
easy pickings, and a slowly & deeply fished streamer represents a
lot of calories to a trout.
At 9am the MDC cut the dam release by 28cfs, bringing the total flow down to about 193cfs, a medium-low level.
flow at 8am this morning was medium-low at 221cfs in
the permanent Catch & Release (C&R)/TMA (120cfs in Riverton, plus 101cfs from the Still River). Depending upon the day, time of day, and distance from dam, water temps have ranged from low 30s to upper 30s/low 40s.
warmest water will be coming out of the dam in Riverton, and
mornings will see the lowest water temps. Sunny days will see the
biggest water temp spikes, with highest temps occuring in mid/late
afternoon. Most days this time of year
the better fishing is late
morning until dusk (higher water temps). The majority of the water is
coming out of the dam now, which helps to moderate the water temps and
keep them a little warmer and more trout-friendly than on other streams.
Don Butler's 2nd Beginner 2-Day Fly Tying course on January 6th & 13th, 2018 is almost full. Click on "Classes, News
& Reviews" in top website toolbar to see detailed info on it. Call
store at 860-379-1952 to sign up, space is limited and it's filling up. Fly tying is a fantastic winter activity.
Blue Winged Olive (BWOs/Olives) are still popping some days, with trout
eating them on
the surface in the 1-4pm time slot. Some have been as big as #20, but
expect to match them with patterns ranging from #20-28, with #24-26
being more typical. FYI fishing subsurface with BWO nymphs in #18-22 just
before & during the hatch will typically net you bigger fish
than the dries will (big trout would rather suck in the small nymphs
drifting at eye level than swim to the surface for a tiny snack). The
morning Winter Caddis hatch continues to be good most days- it is typically an
early to mid morning deal with #18-24 flies- make sure to have both the
pupa and the winged adult. Sometimes they start later and hatch into the afternoons too.
The "perfect storm" for this hatch is a cold night followed by a sunny day without too much wind. If you venture out in the AM and don't find risers, be prepared to go
subsurface with streamers & nymphs. The December post-spawn brown trout streamer bite remains good, just make sure to fish them deep and slow down your presentation (olive has been a hot streamer color). Nymphs should be dead-drifted near the stream bottom, and expect strikes to be subtle so pay close attention. Using the smallest indicator you can get away with will help you detect light bites, and if you are tight-line nymphing pay close attention to your sighter and do a small hook-set on any light tap or line hesitation/stoppage.
December is typically a good post-spawn streamer bite. and we continue to get good streamer reports. Water temps are mostly in the 30s now, so make sure to slow down your streamer presentations and use some form of weighted flies/split-shot/sink-tips/sinking leader/sinking lines to get your streamers down deep.
Water temps in permanent Catch & Release (C&R)/TMA &
upriver have averaged mid 30s the past couple of days, with slightly
higher water temps in Riverton (from the dam to just above the Still
River). Swinging & slow stripping are typically the way to go with streamers in cold water,
but make sure to try a faster strip too, as sometimes even in the
winter they will respond better to that some days (but day in, day out,
slower is normally better when it's cold). Also, play around with colors, it can make a big difference. Olive has been good, but also try black, brown, white, yellow and combinations thereof. Many good fishing reports from the nymphers
too, just make sure you have enough weight (either in your flies,
split-shot, or both) to get down in the slower water near the stream
bottom. Seeing some good dry fly fishing the past few weeks too.
Simms new 2018 version of the G3 wader is here now- 190% more breatheable (!), 30%
more puncture resistant, fleece-lined handwarmer pockets with side
zips, a velcro docking station for a fly patch, and a G4-style
reinforced seat/butt area. And the best part: NO price increase! They are now better than the G4 Pro Wader, but at a much lower price than. We also have their new redesigned versions of their Freestone, Guide & G3 vests. And last but not least, their new super-warm heavyweight Guide Thermal OTC Sock. FYI the old style Simms vests in stock are on sale at 40% off.
In addition to trout tying materials, we have a very good selection of materials geared toward Steelhead. We have 12 colors of the deadly & popular Eggstasy Egg Yarn
on the wall now (it works great on trout too). Just tie it in and take
2-3 wraps and then tie it off, easy peasy. Put a tungsten bead on it too if you are a Euro Nympher. Plenty of good strong hooks for from Tiemco, Mustad, Gamakatsu & Daiichi. We now carry Adams Built landing nets, including a collapsible handle model sized well for Steelhead.
We have the new Hardy Zephrus Ultralite 9' 9" series
of rods, from a #2 up to #5. Think of them as a Crossover
tight-line/Euro nymph rod that will also do a very nice job with
flies, killing two birds with one stone (rod). Antoine Bissieux ("The
French Flyfisher") loves the 9' 9" #2 version of that for light tippet
French style nymphing.
5x flurocarbon tippet should be about right, depending upon fly size, with 6x for the smallest nymphs.
If you haven't yet tried it, the Cortland Ultra Premium Fluorocarbon
tippet is amazing, by far the strongest out there with the most
resistance, stretch, flexibility & clarity. Total game-changer, and
an extra-good choice if you like to nymph with lighter tippets. Use
patterns like BWO Nymphs #16-22, Midges/Zebra Midges #16-24, Egg Flies
(yellow/pink/orange), Squirmy/San Juan Worms (pink, red, worm tan), Caddis Larva #14-16 (olive to green), Cased Caddis #8-16, Mop Flies
#8-12 (various colors, especially cream/tan), big Stoneflies #6-12
/Pat's Rubber Legs #6-10, Antoine's Perdigons #16 (various colors),
#14-20 (Pineapple Express, Frenchies, Triple Threat, Egan's Red
Dart, Rainbow Warrior, etc.), Quasimodo Pheasant Tails
#16-22, and Fox
Squirrel Nymphs #12-14.
Cold Weather Strategies:
A big key to fishing this time of year is dressing properly so that you are warm.
Synthetic thermals for a next-to-skin base layer, layered with heavy
fleece and a shell to break the wind are all key. Complete this with
fingerless gloves, a warm hat, and a pair of heavy Merino wool socks.
Make sure your wading boots don't fit tightly- if you sized them to fit
perfectly in the summertime with thin socks, make sure to get a winter
pair that are a size bigger. Tight boots = cold feet.
The colder late fall/early winter air & water temps are here now, so an adjustment in tactics is required. The warmest water by far will be coming out of the dam,
and it will get colder as you move downriver during colder weather. The
Still River will be coming in significantly colder than the dam water.
As such, if you start early after a cold night, begin in Riverton to hit
the best water
temps (unless you are looking for the morning Winter Caddis hatch, in
which case I'd recommend the high percentage dry fly pools in the
permanent C&R such as Church Pool & Greenwoods), and wait until
late morning/early afternoon for the water temps to rise before
heading downriver. In general during cold weather, the strategy is to focus on late morning until dusk when air & water temps are highest- it's the most comfortable, and the trout & bugs are most active. The one exception to this is the Winter Caddis hatch. When they
are hatching, you need to be on the water in
early/mid morning to catch it. Other
than that, no need to start early. Subsurface with nymphs has been some of the more consistent fishing lately, and we are getting some good streamer reports, and there have
been windows of good dry fly fishing too.