I recently went on a fishing outing with my brother and my dad. We spent a couple hours fishing up Big Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake City, UT. Winter is starting to set in here, and there were patches of snow and ice on the river. It was not too cold outside, but it was definitely a different experience. In years past, I have generally been a fair-weather fisherman, so I was never confronted with the snow. Weather is quite a gamechanger when it comes to fly fishing. Here are some of the things I learned about fly-fishing in the wintertime.
Dress warm. It is always a good idea to keep an extra layer handy. It may feel warm outside, but once you’re in the water, the game completely changes. Wind will sweep over the top of the water and your fishing day can go bad very quickly if you are not dressed appropriately. I would recommend wearing some sweats or long johns under your waders and use a pair of thick socks. Wear layers of clothing that you can take on and off to adjust your body temperature. Keep a pair of gloves handy and a beanie as well. I keep a face shield in my vest to put up around my face if it gets too cold or if I run into a lot of bugs. SA Fishing Co. is a great place to get good quality, affordable face shields. You can browse faces shields here.
You will have to adjust the way you fish. The fish diet changes with the different seasons. As the weather gets colder, insect hatches are not as bountiful and surface flies are harder to come by. I tried fishing with many different patterns, but I only had a few strikes on my line. I think I should have used smaller flies in the same pattern or switch to using a nymph. In wintertime, fish tend to hunt for most of their food underwater. Nymphs and emergers are a lot more effective during the cold months. Always keep a good assortment of nymphs handy in your fly box.
Pay attention to the water. Water levels go down quite a bit during the wintertime. Lakes and rivers are shallower and spots where you could find fish are now too shallow or completely dry ground. Having a smaller area to fish in has its pros and cons. A lower water level means there is more fish in a smaller area. That should increase your chances, right? Shallower water also means there are fewer spots to find a fish.
Winter fishing can be an awesome and memorable experience. You don’t need to be a fair-weather fisherman. It may take a little bit of extra preparation but fishing in the winter is a great opportunity. Many anglers shy away from fishing in the winter so the water will not be as crowded with other fishermen. The fish are just waiting to be caught. While you may have a bad luck day of fishing like I did, the best fishermen go for the experience and serenity of the world around them.