Winter Nymph Tactics
One great thing about where I live is that we have a year-round fishing season. Though it sounds crazy to some, I actually really enjoy winter fly fishing, especially on some of the super productive tailwaters around the West. In terms of numbers, Winter fly fishing, especially with nymphs, is often better than it is in the warm months. Here are a few tactics to help you catch more fish when nymphing in the Winter.
1. Target tailwaters and spring creeks with scuds, sow bugs, and midges. Because ground water and dam outflows stay around 45 to 55 degrees, depending on the source, these streams stay warmer than other streams in the winter. These types of streams and rivers produce large numbers of scuds, sow bugs, and midges throughout the year. Fish in these waters target these high energy food sources. Fish close to the source of the spring or the dam for the most productive water.
2. Fish slow. There are a few reasons to fish more slowly and methodically in the Winter. Fish are not as likely to move very far in the colder water, so your drifting nymphs have to basically bump into fish sometimes to draw strikes. Trout also tend to pod up in the cold months, so when you find fish, it's good to stick with them fish slowly, and make sure you cover every inch of the run or pool.
3. Be ready for light strikes. As mentioned above, fish don't move as far to eat in the winter. This also means that the strikes are much lighter. Try fishing Czech style or with very small strike indicators to be able to sense the light takes.
4. Fish the warmest part of the day. Forget waking up early or staying past dark. In the Winter everything happens when it's the warmest. Bugs like sows bugs and scuds move around and feed more in the middle of the day and fish feed more as a result. Take your time getting to the river in the morning and go home in the late afternoon.
5. Fish small. Especially if your river has midges, concentrate on smaller nymphs this time of year. Midges in rivers rarely get bigger than size 18 and size 24-20 are more common. I really like Ghost Midges, Rubber Midges, and Zebra Midges in size 22 or 20 for catching Winter trout.
6. Fish light tippets. In the Winter months I always go down to 6X tippets and sometimes 7X, unless I'm Czech nymphing where a little heavier tippet is required. This gives you even more chance for your offering to be accepted by fish that aren't feeding as aggressively as they do in warmer months.
Hopefully your area has some waters that allow Winter fishing. If not, I'm sorry, Winter nymphing can be a blast.