Winter fly fishing is not for the faint of heart, but if you choose to brave the elements, the trout will certainly reward you. During the winter trout are forced to adopt a feast-or-famine mentality. When feeding opportunities are there, the trout will eat with reckless abandon, taking advantage of the bounty flowing downstream towards their hungry jaws, especially the largest trout in the system. Big trout need lots of food to maintain their stature, and it’s for this reason that winter trout fishing is so highly regarded by those anglers hunting large trout. During this time of year covering water on the bow (or stern) of one of our guide’s drift boats or rafts is the best way to cash in on the action. Check out our advice to maximizing your winter float experience and the beautiful trout in your guide’s landing net!
Tip 1: Slow Your Roll
If you’re cold, you’ve got to imagine the trout are as well. Trout metabolisms slow as the mercury drops, meaning so will their movements. Trout will be less likely to move to feed, meaning takes will be more subtle, and more than likely deep in the water column. This is why you should always trust your guide when they say to set the hook, they’re all experts in reading water, trout, and indicators. Follow their advice to the word, and you’ll forget all about the cold as your reel heats up and so does your fishing!
Tip 2: Layers, Layers, and More Layers
As you all well know, winter weather can come and go at a moment’s notice, and having a warm layering system beneath your waders will make all the difference in the world. Your base layers should be lightweight and moisture-wicking, keeping your core warm and dry. Next up, you’re going to want a mid-layer. I personally prefer something along the lines of Patagonia’s R1 line, which couples breathability and warmth perfectly. Lastly, you’re going to want to focus on the hardest working layers, your primary insulation, and your wind-blocking layer. For your outermost warming layer, you can’t go wrong with down or the synthetic equivalent. After you’ve got those squared away the last piece of gear is a weatherproof shell to keep out the elements, and you’re ready to get out there!
Tip 3: Bring Lots of Snacks & Stay Hydrated
Quick snacks that are high in fat, calories, and protein will help keep your spirits and body temperature high. Your guide will have plenty on board along with waters, so keeping yourself fueled is simple, just remember to grab a quick snack and a few gulps of water between fighting fish to keep yourself warm and fishing your hardest all float. On all full day winter float fishing trips with Vail Valley Anglers lunch and water are provided.
Tip 4: Dry Hands Are Happy Hands
During this author’s first winter Colorado fly fishing adventure, a more seasoned, local angler told him that keeping a golf or hand towel tucked into his waders would save his winter fly fishing days, and, he was 100% correct. Moisture is the biggest heat thief on the water, and the more you can stave it off, the better, and warmer you will be.
Another tip I picked up about staying warm on the water was from VVA Guide, Justin Carr. As we switched from tossing deep midge rigs to busting out the 6-weights and streamers, he handed my fiance and me a pair of nitrile mechanics gloves. These proved to be a bigger gamechanger than anything coming off of Blane Chocklett’s vise (alt: than any warming tactic we’ve tried). The gloves don’t help much as far as insulation goes, but they do keep your hands bone dry until those quick moments while you’re handling the fish during the release and quick fish picture. To warm your hands back up after those, see the previous paragraph.
Tip 5: Don’t Give Up Until the Boat is on the Trailer
Sometimes all it takes is a single degree on the thermometer to turn the bite on, and when it does, it can be the best time of your day on the water. Just like you, during the winter, trout are most happy during the warmest parts of the day. You can never be sure when exactly the bite will turn on, but my best advice is to pay attention to what your guide is saying and to keep your line in the water as much as possible. Be ready for the fishing to heat up at any moment.
To book your winter float fishing trip with Vail Valley Anglers call the shop at 970.926.0900 or click the link here.
Article and photos from guest contributor Dan Zazworsky.