Having been a guide in Montana, cranking out 100 days straight on the water was the norm, and I didn’t get too many personal days on the water. Every great once and a while I would have a day off in the summer, and of course I went fishing, but it was not enough to satisfy the itch. When October rolled around, I began to get excited, the guide days began to slow down, and the long cold months were just around the corner. Most folks are hanging it up for the winter and busting out their ski’s or snowboards. This, on the other hand, was my fly fishing season, the time of year to put on some warm clothes, grab the waders and rod, and head to the river. I don’t know what it is but there is something very magical about fishing in the winter. It seems quieter, more still, and everything moves slower. And most, if not all of the time, you have the entire river to yourself.
Fishing can be excellent in the winter, and with no one around, every hole is untouched water. Tiny midges are a trouts primary source of food in the winter, so fishing an indicator rig with a couple of midge variations underneath can be very effective. Maybe a red zebra midge with a black zebra below. Fish can be taken on Griffith’s Gnats right in the middle of winter if the conditions are right. Calmer, cloudy, warmish days are best for finding fish rising to midges. Egg patterns can be an effective pattern in the winter as well. Trout hold in the deeper slower water in the winter, and move slowly to retrieve their food. Big deep slow seams are a great place to run your bugs through. Streamers can also be effective but strip them very slowly and fish deep.
I prefer to head out when the temps are above 30 degrees, and the afternoon when it is the warmest, seem to be best. As long as it is not too windy and you are dressed correctly for the day you will stay plenty warm. Keeping your body moving around is key, don’t stand too long in one spot. Cover a bunch of water to keep moving and bring a friend along. Wind is your enemy in the winter, and I usually won’t go out if it is blowing more than 5-10mph.
I am excited to explore southeast Minnesota and its 35 streams this winter. They are open for trout fishing starting January 1st. It is a barbless catch and release season and is open through the end of March. I will be keeping a close eye on the weather forecast and if I see temps in the mid 30’s I am headed down to fish. I hope you can get out and explore a little bit this winter as well, it is an amazing time of year to fish. Just make sure not to fall in.