Winter Angling-Flies and Tactics

Fishing small nymphs for winter trout in Montana

As I mentioned in my last post, there are a number of great places near Bozeman to try your luck at some winter angling.  Here are a few tips and ideas for fishing our local rivers this time of year.

The colder conditions that winter brings means little or no snow melt.  Because of this, rivers tend to be low and clear during these months.  Combine that with the fact that some of your best winter action takes place on the warmer, sunny days. All of this means don't hesitate to get stealthy.  Carry a spool of 5x and 6x tippet.  This can be the extra advantage needed to find success amidst these "spooky" conditions.

Another tip would be regarding where you choose to cast your line.  During the winter months, as water cools and days get shorter, trout's metabolism slows.  Trout still need to eat, and will exert some energy to take advantage of an opportunity for a big meal.  However, most of their time is spent lingering in the slower, deeper pools and tailouts of the runs.  Don't hesitate to spend ample time fishing water that is moving much slower than the water you would fish during the summer months.  Long, steady drifts in these spots can pay off!

Choosing the right fly can always be challenging.  Add the difficulty of tying on flies with hands that just want to be inside gloves or mittens, and you can see how proper fly selection is critical.  This time of year, think small.  Every fishery has it's own nuances when it comes to fly selection. Generally, winter angling means using smaller flies. Especially on the rivers I mentioned in my last post as, "winter standouts" (The Ruby River, Missouri River, and Bighorn River).  One of the main sources of food for trout in the winter months is the Midge.  These flies generally range from size #18-#22.  Some of my favorite Nymph patterns are: Zebra Midge (red or black), Rootbeer Midge, Tungteaser, Dave's Emerger (red or copper).  When conditions are just right, these bugs can come off in huge numbers forming rafts or "clusters" of Midges.  When this occurs dry fly fishing can present excellent opportunity as well.  For these situations, my first choices are: the Midge Cluster and Parachute Adams.  Try fishing either of these patterns with a high visibility post to help you spot your fly on the water.