|Worth waiting out the cold and a pair of leaky waders.|
As I sit here in troutville and hear the wind try to blow down our chimney I think a return of the semi-regular (ok, very random) technique tuesday post about winter nymphing is due. Sure, there are going to be a lot of days between now and April that in this part of the world it's better to stay inside wrapping bugs than freezing your satchel off for a couple trout. When those days do warm up a few degrees, and the fish start to get happy here are a few tips I've picked up over the years that make a difference.
Fish slower water than you think
This is number one for a reason. As I'm sure you already know, slower water = warmer water, which is a good thing in the winter. When trout don't have to worry as much about o2 levels in the water, they don't have to live in a riffle. I am always amazed at how slow of water trout will live in when water temps get low. If you can find an eddy with a slow seam that is my fave, but even when you're on insides start SLOW. When I am guiding out of my boat in cold weather and rowing laps on a big run I always start way further in than I think I should. I routinely see my guys question the first lap I make though the run, but it pays off enough times that I have to do it. The same goes for wading, start shallow and slow, work out. Keep your eyes peeled in the foam too.
Crank the bobber-daze to 11
When a trouts metabolism drops with cold water, their aggression and desire to attack things goes down dramatically. When you combine that with living in slower water in the winter, the takes can be very subtle. I still remember fishing a pod of midge eaters with Jack Mitchel on the Yakima many winters ago. We were taking turns catching fish, using a zebra midge and a palsa pinch on indicator. It was my turn, and all of a sudden Jack goes "hit it, hit it". Knowing better than to question my then boss I pulled the trip with a fish on the end, and turned and looked at him, asking "how the hell did you see that, I saw nothing!" He just laughed and said, "I saw your indicator roll over on the surface." Ever since that day I watch my bobber like crazy and set the hook if it looks at me wrong in the winter.
Tie loop knots to all of your flies
This is actually a tip that I use all year long, but it makes a bigger difference when you're fishing lower water. My friend Greg turned me on to this trick for nymphing in higher pressured rivers, but it transfers over to winter time as well. The biggest advantage that you get from tying a loop to a fly is movement. Even with something like a #18 brassie your bug moves more, so much so that I think you can run one size heavier tippet. So if you should be fishing with 5x, you can get away with 4 and a loop (all fluoro, mind you). Oh, and of course you use the best loop knot ever, by the man, Lefty.