Saturday, November 25, 2006

Winter Fly Fishing Tips

Throughout the summer months it can sometimes appear as if everyone has taken up the sport of fly fishing. Sleeping in on weekends is longer an option the thousands of fly anglers on the Front Range. Some leave the driveway before the paperboy gets going to make the hour or two drive and beat the river rush hour. In the minds of some seasoned anglers, images of the DMV's numbered ticket machine and standing in line waiting for the chime can be frustrating.

We are now entering the time of year when all that can seem like a bad dream. Anyone spotted on the river after Halloween can be deemed as 'serious about fly fishing' or just plain 'nuts'. During the next few months the lack of crowds at many of the most popular rivers may serve as a joyful reminder of years past.

For anglers that decide to brave the chill temperatures here are a few winter fly fishing tips/reminders:


1). Switch out your newer flyline with an older or cheaper one. The PVC coating is very susceptible to cracking in the colder temperatures. Winter fly fishing rarely involves beautiful long loops with delicate presentations and more likely produces a sizeable wake from the string of weights plopping in front of you.

2) Keep your reel as dry as possible. Tailwaters, small flies, and big fish are the name of the game during the winter months. Having a frozen reel is no way to enter the ring.

3) Always have a spare rod. Freezing temperatures and ice build up can be brutal to the delicate tips of fly rods. (more on ice build up later)


1) Find the fish. Most of the fish tend to congregate in the deeper holes and runs with a medium current speed. Until you find these likely areas don't waste your time unless you are just 'shadow casting'.

2) Position yourself for long drifts. Find the best location to make the longest and best drift to these likely holding areas. An up-and-across cast with the water loading your rod at the end of your drift is ideal in freezing temperatures. Shorter line retrievals will reduce ice build up.

3) Hold rod tip high. Having the tip of your rod high will help reduce excess water on the flyline and rod guides. A light line shake will also increase effectiveness.

4) Use a stripping basket. Keeping all the excess flyline off the water will reduce ice build up.

5) Swirl rod tip underwater. Carefully swirling the rod tip will melt the ice much like your favorite cocktail. Also helps keep the reel out of the water by not having to set it down.

6) Pinch down barbs. Barbless hooks are always a good idea, and especially in frigid temps where a sticky barb can numb the hands quickly. Sometimes the SDR (Short-Distance-Release) is a blessing.

7) Use a net. Again, always a good idea, but several reasons make it imperative in the winter. Many times the air temperature is much lower than the water and can shock or freeze the gills of trout. Netting the fish allows you to keep it in the water while you situate your gear, take off gloves, etc. as you prepare for the release or a quick photo.

8) Observe feeders. Crystal clear water allows you to see into the deepest holes. By watching feeding behaviors and reactions to your presentation you will dramatically improve your chances. Switch patterns and don't waste time with ignored presentations at the proper depth.

This is just a short list of things that may help encourage some of you to go 'nuts' and venture out to a nearby tailwater. As you may have heard, winter can provide some of the best fly fishing of the year. So as you put on that extra layer from the holiday dinners consider putting it to use while the 'Now Serving' signs are turned off.


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