Winter transitions…….   Leave a comment

Baby it’s cold outside.  So cold that the Blue Wings are bygone, the PMD’s stopped popping, the Stone flies are stoned, and the Tricos are trippin’.  What to do?  Well, now’s the time of year to hone your skills on your favorite tailwater.  Winter affords you the opportunity to work on skills that you’ve been meaning to get to.  I enjoy fly fishing through the winter, here are a few reasons why.

  • Less crowds.
  • Gin clear, skinny, challenging water.
  • Research and Development.
  • Simply beautiful.

Although the calendar doesn’t agree, it’s winter for trout and the insects that feed them.  Water is cold and the bugs are less prolific, except for one little tiny giant of a bug, the midge.  Tiny in stature but a giant in sheer numbers, midges feed trout year round, but are mostly the only game in town during winter months.  Trout depend on them as a food source.

Let’s talk water characteristics before we go too deeply into midges.  Where I guide, the air temperatures don’t mean much at all compared to water temperatures.  When the water hits about 39 degrees, the trout start to feed in my favorite tailwater, the South Platte.  Not a bad idea to carry a thermometer, hit water that has sun exposure first, and get used to layering up to stay warm.

Obviously, the river is going to be a lot less crowded.  This is important for several reasons, but two come to mind directly.  One, it’s a great experience to slow down your fly fishing because you don’t have to bust tail getting from one spot to the next, and you can slow your cadence to match the river, because you’re not constantly looking over your shoulder.  Two, there’s a lot less pressure on the fish as well.  They will settle into winter holds, and when conditions are ripe, they eat readily.  You have a chance to hook a fish of a lifetime.

Winter holds are just that. Places where fish have to migrate to in each section and run to get a crack at the best food, oxygen and shelter.  They ALL migrate there.  Big, medium, small will inhabit the same winter hold.  Look for areas that contain the big three needs, and confirm that by locating fish.  I always tell folks to fish 4 seasons, especially on the same river.  You will see characteristics that don’t present during the other seasons.  You’ll notice new scoured out areas that consistent low flows create, obstructions that aren’t always visible, and you’ll locate prime lies because of gin clear water.

With these river conditions come new challenges in presenting bugs.  You may have to drop in tippet size (6X), decrease indicator size or go with yarn, and you get to hone skills throwing small dry flies, or ripping big streamers after bigger fish.  Gin clear water helps you locate fish, but presenting without spooking is easier said than done.  I always set a winter fly fishing goal I want to work on.  Last year was nymphing without an indicator.  This winter I’m not sure, but I’m leaning toward working on photography skills. It’s a great challenge.

Back to the tiny giant.  The midge, or chironomid, is nothing more than a non-biting mosquito.  Where legal, I’ll nymph a 3 bug rig under an indicator.  This rig consists of an attractor nymph like a scud, egg pattern, or San Juan worm, followed by a midge larva, then a midge pupa pattern spaced as shown in my crude little drawing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Speaking of crude little drawings, I’ve added a couple of my favorite midge patterns and the recipes to tie them.  Remember, the pupa is your last fly in the rig because it is generally highest in the column.

mambasketch

bbsketch

It’s my favorite time of the year to fly fish.  Fly fishing in a mild snow fall is an unbelievable experience.  Barometric pressures seem to play a bigger role in effecting winter time fishing than other times of the year.  I try to fish as a low pressure system approaches, or pressures have been stable for a couple days.  You can catch fish any time, but my notes reinforce my approach to fishing and barometric pressures.

Well folks, Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Winter time fly fishing, and don’t forget to pick up a copy of  The Fly Fishers Playbook for your favorite angler for Christmas!

ffplybookcoverscan

Fear No Water,

Duane

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: