Trout may not hibernate like bears, but it sure can seem that way if you have ever gone fishing in cold waters. Trout are cold blooded and slow down everything that they do in the winter months. They will once again become a lot more active as the water begins to warm in the spring, as do the insects that they regularly eat. While spring, summer and fall are quite different in their own right, each season has insects and fish that are active and making things happen.
Winter is entirely different.
There is very little insect activity near or around the water, and trout are simply not as hungry as they were in months past. So what is the good news when it comes to cold water fishing for trout?
Well there may not be much activity on the surface, but there are larvae forms of insects that will remain active all throughout the winter months. If you can learn to imitate those creatures, even when snow surrounds you and the water is near freezing, you can still catch trout.
Basic nymph patterns can work in winter, just as they did in spring, but you need to adopt a whole new strategy and present them to the trout in a different way. Essentially, winter is time to slow everything down to a crawl.
Trout are going to respond and react much slower in the winter and they are not even going to go looking for food. This means you have to calmly survey the water, methodically cover the area, and put the fly right in front of their nose. You may find that a trout will hit your fly on the first cast, but there will be others where it will take more than 6 or 7 casts to get any reaction. Tease the fish repeatedly and they might snap back out of annoyance over time.
Aside from slowing things down, you will also want to consider changing the size of the flies that you are using. There is far less insect activity to mimic, so you are best off using small midges in dark colors and nymphs. Fish these slowly over the bottom of a lake and as long as you are patient you should have success over time.
Another rig, or strategy, that is showing explosive success in cold waters is a three-fly rig. While it is nothing new in the world of trout fishing, these weird looking set ups can be killer when used in the right conditions. The best part about them is they allow you to essentially fish three different depths at the same time. It also gives the trout a few different colors to think about when they need something tempting. It isn’t necessarily the construction of this rig that works wonders, but rather the way it is presented that can make an impact in cold water.
When you cast this rig it is important to use only just over a yard of fly line past the rod tip. You cast it right upstream and bring it back just a little bit faster than the normal movement of the current. A drag free drift is something you do not want to use with this type of presentation. Fishing it this way can provoke a strike from trout and also keep the rig off of the bottom so that you avoid any hang ups.
Keep these tips in mind and consider using the three-fly rig and you will be surprised at how much success you can have in cold water. It may go against a lot of things you are told before, but many of those rules go out the window when fishing for trout in the winter.