Winter Fly Fishing
Once upon a time I couldn’t wait for the summer and fall fishing to come to a close so I could begin winter fishing in the Middle and Lower Provo. After spending all summer on the water, somedays from sunup to sundown, I found that winter fishing brought new challenges and a way to decompress from a season of guiding and fishing.
Some people would consider that breaking ice from the guides, fishing tiny flies (size 18-26), and battling the elements of ice and cold to be crazy. However if you enjoy peace and quiet, technical fishing, and on somedays, fewer crowds than summer months, you should consider winter fishing. While winter fishing isn’t for everyone, if you are dressed properly and are prepared with the proper equipment and terminal tackle, this time of the year can be quite enjoyable.
Two of my favorite sayings that apply to winter fishing are, “There is no such thing as bad weather, just poor equipment,” and “It is better to have it and not need it then to need it and not have it.” Being unprepared on an outing is one of the best teachers on the river. Over the last ten years or so I have learned a great deal about what to bring and how to dress to ensure a good experience on the water. Here is a rough list of what I dress with and the supplies I utilize:
Lower Body/Legs & Feet
-Fishing socks (not hiking or ski socks)
-Long underwear (1-2 pair), fleece bibs, fleece or down pants (the key is 3-4 layers)
-Waders (fix the leaks; Bootfoots are a plus if you can afford them)
-Studded rubber sole boots
Upper Body/Head & Hands
-Thermal type top (1-2), vest, fleece coat/sweater, down coat, waterproof shell
-Baseball cap (for glare), stocking cap, and something for your neck
-Polarized glasses (lighter lens color preferred)
- Fingerless gloves (1-2 pairs; Mittens are nice to warm up with)
Rod/Reel & Terminal Supplies
-8-9ft of 4-5 weights with matching reel and line
-assortment of flies with a focus on midges, bwo’s, and sowbugs (ask a flyshop)
-Streamers (I prefer larger sculpin patterns)
-Long leaders (9-12ft), smaller tippets (especially 7x)
-Strike indicators and an assortment of smaller split shot
-Net (rubber basket)
-Nippers and forceps
Starting about the second week of January through the end April you can count on midges hatching. Although midges hatch year round, they are the predominant insect available to trout through the winter. Midges generally hatch during the warmer parts of the day. When I head out, my goal is to find fish targeting adult midges on the surface, or in other words fish that are “midging”. Because of the cold water temps, most fish wont move far for an adult midge on the surface or for a larva or pupa underneath the water. So before changing flies, work on perfecting your drift. When I can’t find fish, I target fish subsurface with an indicator, two flies, and some split shot. When all else fails put on a streamer of choice and go to work. When I fish in the winter, I will head out for a couple of hours during the peak of the hatch, which may sometimes correlate with the warmest part of the day.
Be patient and persistent and you too can gain a love and respect for winter fishing. For me winter fishing isn’t about numbers. It has become all about the experience. So when you head out, be prepared for tough conditions, technical fishing, and beautiful vistas. Don’t forget to bring something in a thermos.
About the author: Trevor Howard
Trevor began fly-fishing when he was knee high to a grasshopper. Trevor enjoys all aspects of fly-fishing including tying flies, knots, casting, the gear, being on the water and simply catching fish. He currently resides in Heber Utah and is a third generation fly fishing guide. He has a passion for fly-fishing, family and horses.