Written by Sarah Spalla
When the mountains are white, and the temperatures are hovering around freezing most people would be curled up with a good book or hitting the slopes. Wintertime offers a quiet respite from the busy ski season and is a great time to enjoy local rivers with a little more solitude than the summer months. Yes, cold weather can slow down fish activity however that elusive lunker can be waiting for a winter snack! While heading out to drop a line in colder temps certainly isn’t for everyone, with some planning (and a big thermos of coffee) the reward can be well worth it for the hardy angler.
1. Proper planning begins with good gear.
Enjoying the quiet that winter angling offers is great…until your teeth are chattering. Remember the little things like a hat, snacks, extra socks and most importantly gloves. I find one of my most useful items is a small towel to keep your hands dry and a chemical heat pack in your vest pocket to warm fingers.
2. Set up your rigs at home if possible.
If you’re lucky enough to have a quiver of rods have multiple set ups so you can limit the amount of time your hands are exposed. Tying a hopper dropper rig in freezing temps will be challenging so having a few setups prepared will make things easier. I usually have at least a nymph and streamer set up on separate rods.
3. Choose your location wisely
Often tailwaters are a solid bet since the water will be warmer exiting a reservoir. Some great choices in Colorado would be the Lower Blue below Dillon Reservoir, the Yampa river below Stagecoach reservoir, the South Platte corridor in Denver, or the Frying Pan by Basalt, CO
4. Sleep in
While most anglers consider hitting the river after the sun comes up, with a late start, you’re chances of success will increase with a temperature rise. Mid – morning through noon will give the best results…remember to be flexible since temps in the mountains can vary quickly.
5. Fish Deep
Concentrating on the deeper, warmer pools will put you on fish faster, consider where the warmest water will be. Big fish can and will go for small flys…consider a nymph fished with a dead drift. Since fish metabolism slows down in cooler temps usually smaller flies drifted slowly are more tempting.
6. Watch for hatches
While it may seem unlikely during colder months, hatches can still happen during the winter. One of the staples of a trout’s winter diet is midges but keep your eyes out for stonefly or mayflies which are possible with warming afternoon temps. Nothing beat hitting a winter stonefly hatch, its magic.