The Joys of Winter Fishing
If you haven’t fished during the winter before we encourage you to get out and give it a try this year. Not only will you usually have the river to yourself, for the most part, winter nymphing can be very productive, and sometimes even better than it is during summer months.
If its your first time fishing during the colder part of the year you will have to change your tactics a bit from what you’re used to doing during the summer. The fish will not be holding in the fast water or shallow runs anymore, and they aren’t going to be eating any big dry flies. During the winter months as the water temperatures drop, fish will move into deeper and slower moving runs. The best way to target these fish is with a deep nymph rig and lots of weight. If you dislike using a lot of split shot, tungsten bead flies help a ton.
Another nice thing about winter fishing is that the fly selection can be minimal. The only hatch to worry about, are Midges. Sometimes on the warmer days in late Feb. to early March we start seeing some Baetis. On tailwaters like the Lower Madison, Missouri and Big Hole, crustacians such as Scuds and Sow Bugs become the dominant food source for a lot of fish. Most Spring Creeks share the same characteristics as tailwaters. On freestone rivers like the Yellowstone and Gallatin, Stonefly Nymphs seem to be the most important food. Try fishing a stonefly or worm on top followed by smaller midge or mayfly nymphs.
If you are fishing a spot and not having any luck, try adjusting the depth that you’re fishing by adding more split shot or raising your indicator. Often time the depth that your fishing is just as important if not more than what flies you are using. I always try to adjust depth before moving on to a new spot or trying different flies.
The other nice side to winter fishing is that you don’t have to get up early! The best times to fish are usually in the middle of the day. So sleep in and take your time getting to the river. The next time you find yourself itching to get out of the house, head to the river for a few hours, I think you’ll be surprised how fun and productive the fishing can be!