5 Tips for Successful Winter Fly Fishing

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Winter Fly Fishing Utah

Wintertime in Utah usually signals the start of ice fishing season. Saved for the handful of dedicated anglers, fly fishing in the icy months of the year is often overlooked. Which is interesting, since winter fly fishing can offer some of the best success for Utah anglers.

Fly fishing during the winter months is a bit more challenging, and not just due to the cold. These five tips will help you have a great day out on the water the next time you feel the need to bust out the fly rod.

Slow Down

During winter, trout become more lethargic. When water temperatures drop below 45 degrees, a trout’s metabolism slows down, which in turn slows down the eating habits of the fish. That means as anglers, we have to slow down to match the fish. Of course, fishing on tailwaters during winter months helps alleviate this problem a bit; tailwaters, or the water flowing from under a dam, usually stay between 45-55 degrees year round. But the lower air temps affect the insect hatches, which in turn affects the feeding habits of trout.

Focus on Midges

Midges are an incredibly abundant part of a trout’s diet. According to an article in Field and Stream, “At any time of the year, midges comprise more than 50 percent of a trout’s diet.”

During winter, the mayfly and terrestrial bugs that are common in the other seasons are basically non-existent, which makes midges even more important to fish with.

Don’t be aggressive with streamers

Fishing streamer patterns in the winter is a great way to find fish. The bigger fish that may not be in the mood to eat can be persuaded to bite a streamer out of aggression. Keep in mind, though, that trout aren’t as aggressive in the wintertime. This means your streamer presentation needs to be slower; strip the streamer in on shorter, more deliberate pulls rather than the fast, jerky motions used during the warmer months of the year.

Go Light

Winter Fly Fishing Utah

During winter, it seems as if trout are incredibly leader shy. Using anything thicker than 5x tippet as a leader material probably won’t work well. I recommend using 6x fluorocarbon tippet, such as RIO Powerflex.

You also want to remember that during winter, flows are lower, which means clearer water. Big bright strike indicators are great for anglers, but they’ll spook wary trout during these cold months. Use smaller, duller colors and you’ll see more success.

Be extraordinarily patient

Winter fly fishing can be some of the best fishing of the year, but a lot of the time, it’s slower than other months of the year. Be patient while working runs in the rivers you’re fishing; don’t move on after a few minutes of inactivity. Change the depth the nymphs are floating at, change your nymphs, and the angle of presentation.

I was on the Provo river last week, fishing a run I’d had success at a few days before. About a half hour passed without a bite, then suddenly I had a large whitefish on the end of my line.

The fish rolled off my line before I could get it in for a picture, but that illustrates my point - be patient and you’ll be rewarded.

These tips should help you have a successful time fly fishing during the winter months.

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