Fly fishing in the winter for me is a must. Its the harshest time of year to catch trout but also the most rewarding. The Deerfield River in western Massachusetts holds big brown trout that can be a handful in the winter. Its all or nothing when fishing for these brutes – Sometimes you catch one and sometimes you don’t catch a thing.
Here are some of my tips for catching fish in the winter:
Snow melt. Its easy to overlook this when you’re daydreaming of catching fish after fish on a warm winter day. It might be 45 degrees on a good day in March but the water temperature might be freezing from the thaw. Fish stop eating when there’s a lot of run off or melt that seeps into the river. They become lethargic and disinterested in just about anything you could offer.
Know where to fish. Do your homework before the snow sets in and know where the most fish hold up. Trout tend to stick together in these cold months and the same area can be fished over and over. Try not to disturb the water and continue to fish in the same location.
They’re deep. Use a weighted fly and fish slow. The best results are using a dead drift. This is critical because trout won’t chase a fly in really cold water. They are trying to conserve the most amount of energy possible.
Rises? Occasionally trout will rise during the winter, almost always to small midges or olive mayflies. A small midge emerger or a tiny olive mayfly emerger will be the only dries you’ll need to carry.
You caught one! Bring in the fish relatively quickly and get it into your net ASAP. There’s no time for “over-playing” the fish. Wow you landed a beautiful trout in the winter. Now get it back in the water as fast as possible. Its important to keep the fish as active as possible and sending it on its way with enough energy.
Fish Tailwaters! To avoid snowmelt, tailwaters provide some of the best winter fly fishing. The water temperature is fairly consistent and the fish tend to be more active.
There are windows in the winter months that offer some amazing fly fishing. Mostly when there is consistency in the weather and temperatures stay in the 30-38 degree range. Just because there is snow on the ground doesn’t mean you won’t have a productive day. Its all about consistency.
Pheasant Tail Nymph. Size 18 and 20 – It is a great fly that produces fish almost every time I go.
BH Hares Ear Flashback Nymph. size 14-16 – a killer fly 12 months out of the year.
San Juan Worm. size 12 – colorful, effective and goofy. Covers all the bases.
CH Marabou Muddler White. size 6 – This is my go to streamer for big browns who will go the extra mile. Hold on.
Before the influx of rain hit and melted almost all the snow – I had a solid day of catching some winter browns on the Deerfield. One reaching the 20” mark. I’m beginning to gaze forward into spring and started booking some guiding dates. Email me at email@example.com if you want a day with me on the Westfield or Deerfield River.