As the cold winter months approach us our
style of fishing changes. The fish's normal
feeding habits change, as does the abundance
of food. Winter brings colder water and smaller
insect activity. The fly fisher must adapt to
these changes to remain successful. This is
the time or year we begin micro-fly fishing,
using flies size 22-32.
However, excellent fishing is still there to
Trout feeding on smaller flies act differently
then trout feeding on large flies. A trout in
order to survive must take in more calories
then it expels. Simply put, a trout will not
chase a small fly very far, the fly must come
to him. If a trout wastes more energy (calories)
chasing a small fly then he can get by eating
the fly, he will not survive. We can use this
knowledge to improve our chances of catching
fish under these cold winter conditions. As
the water temperatures drop look for trout to
hold out of the main currents. Slow moving
sunlit pools will offer the trout water that
is slightly warmer and are also easier for a
trout to hold with out expelling the extra
energy necessary by not having to fight the
During these cold winter times I like to use
a 9' rod of 3 or 4 wt., with a reel that has
a very delicate drag. I have some fishing
friends that have even had the drag on their
reels modified so they were even more delicate
to protect light tippets. I find using a long
rod gives me more control for the specialty
casts and hook setting techniques I use while
micro fishing. Using a light rod gives me a
greater chance of protecting the delicate
tippets used to properly present the fly
without drag, or in this case without micro
Micro drag is drag caused from the water
pushing on the tippet. Trout are very selective
in winter and when fishing the calmer slower
running pools drag is easily detected by the
Always approach a fish from the lower section
of the pool working your way upstream slowly.
Take your time, in these pools trout can
detect water movement and will spook easily.
I like to set myself up almost directly across
or slightly below the fish. This allows me to
present the fly to the fish in the middle of
my drift where I have the most control and
best view of the take. Many fishermen are
timid when it comes to fishing micro patterns,
most reply by saying they can't see their fly.
That's OK neither can I. But I know exactly
where my fly is and can also watch my tippet
too. Occasionally I will mistake a take for
that of my fly when in fact the take was only
near to my fly.
There are two techniques I use to drift my
micro-fly. First, I start with a puddle cast,
putting the fly at least five feet above where
I see the trout working. A puddle cast will
give me the maximum amount of drag free drift.
Second, I stack mend at least once if not
twice just above the fly immediately after
the line hits the water. By doing this the
fly will always be the first thing the fish
will see and it will act as a buffer to the
tippet dragging, any mistakes in the stack
mending will be off set by the extra tippet
coils left by the puddle cast.
Fishing flies in sizes 26-32 also requires a
very light tippet, I prefer to use at least
4 feet of 8X to 10X tippet. With 10X only
having a breaking strength of 1.2 lbs certain
precautions must be made. Most, if not all,
fish lost by breaking tippet happens at one
of two times, during the take and at landing.
When fishing 10X tippet you do not "set the hook,"
the fish does.
Remember you are not setting the hook into bone,
micro flies only grab a small piece of skin and
most of my hook-ups are in the tongue. There is
a good reason for this; the trout will often take
more then one small fly at a time, keeping it in
his mouth longer. These needle sharp hooks will
often catch a piece of skin in the mouth even if
the trout is trying to expel it. I have seen many
fish missed by pulling the hook out of the fish's
mouth before he gets a chance to close it. I like
to use an upstream mend at the take, the friction
of the line on the water is all that is necessary
for the hook to find a piece of skin in the fish's
mouth and the time it takes the line to straighten
out the trout has time to close his mouth on the fly.
Once hooked, get the fish on the reel as fast as
possible, the light drag will protect the tippet
more then a soft rod tip will. Let the fish
control you. If he wants to run, let him run,
you cannot force a fish to do much more then
change directions with the light tippet.
Fortunately the trout does not have the current
to use, the soft running pool gives you an
advantage, and you will also find a winter
trout will tire faster.
Landing a fish is the other time when one can
break a tippet, I always use a mesh catch and
release landing net in winter, and this also
reduces the time I have to put my hands into
the near-freezing water. I often net my fish
and remove the fly with forceps, I can then
release him with even having to touch him or
get my hands wet.
I also like to switch rods every hour or so. I
keep a second rod in the car. This 5 or 10-minute
break gets me out of the water and helps prevent
iced-up guides, it also is a good time for a warm
drink from the thermos.
I have had many excellent winter fishing trips,
with many multiple fish days. The river usually
has few if anyone else around and makes for a
peaceful couple of hours.
Tight lines. ~ Ray Du Bois (Chatroom Host Ray)