Winter Trout Fishing

Winter Trout Fishing by Harry Murray

Winter Trout Fishing 

 The snow was falling lightly the day I walked from my fly shop in Edinburg over to look off the bridge at Big Stoney Creek.  The weather had been very cold for several weeks and Big Stoney Creek had about ten feet of ice extending out from each bank. There was a 20 foot wide strip of open water flowing down the middle of the stream where there were a number of rainbows feeding on the surface on a hatch of blue wing olive mayflies.

   This was perfect weather for the olives so later that day I drove upstream about five miles to take advantage of this action. I caught some nice rainbows on a Mr. Rapidan Parachute Dry size 18 which is a great match for the olive mayflies.  Several trout were swirling to take the olive emergers just below the surface so I put a Mr. Rapidan Soft Hackle Olive size 16 on a 2 foot 6X dropper below the dry. This worked and about half of the trout I caught took the dry and half took the soft hackle.

   During the winter, especially in the large streams, one can often catch many trout in the deep pools on the Murray's Pearl Marauder size 10 and Murray's Black Marauder size 10. Cast these across stream and after they sink deeply swim them slowly across the stream bottom by stripping them six inches every ten seconds. These two streamers match several of the main minnows the trout feed upon during the winter so fish each pool thoroughly, being careful to work each undercut bank thoroughly.

   Frequently on warm sunny afternoons you can spot several trout feeding on aquatic midges in the slow sections of the pools. Taper down to a 6X tippet and put on a Mr. Rapidan Dry Midge size 20 and fish one on one to each rising trout using a slack line cast such as a puddle cast. Don't be fooled into assuming that a delicate dimple riseform indicates a little trout. I have seen 20 inch trout create such a small riseform that it is difficult to spot. A splashy riseform is your cue to switch to an underwater fly such as a Zebra Nymph size 18 because these trout are feeding on the emerging midge as he swims up through the current to reach the surface. The trout are racing to capture the emerger and the inertia of their bodies create the disturbance we see on the surface. Often there will be some trout feeding on the dry midges in the same pod as those feeding on emergers. I use a two fly rig in this situation. I attach a Mr. Rapidan Midge Dry size 20 to my 9ft 6X Classic Leader and a Zebra Nymph size 18 to a 24 inch 6X dropper coming off the dry hook with an improved clinch knot. Fish this two fly rig the same way you would if you were fishing just the dry. However, be gentle on your strike so you do't break the trout off.

Winter Trout Fishing with a Blue Wing Olive 

 The rich springs flowing into the sides of the streams during the winter are easy to locate by the bright green weed growth both on the bank and in the stream. Large populations of cress bugs and shrimp in and below these springs are a very important food source for trout during the winter. Fishing a Shenk's Cress Bug size 14 or a Murray's Shrimp size 14 from these springs on downstream a hundred feet below them can be very effective. If the stream is 3 to 5 feet deep downstream of these springs a good tactic is to fish across stream. If, however, the water is less than 3 feet deep an upstream dead drift tactic is best because it helps prevent scaring the trout.

   In many cases as I've stood beside my car rigging my tackle in the winter to start the day, I've seen adult little black stoneflies resting on the snow. By studying the stream carefully I can usually see several trout rising to take adults. Fishing a Murray's Dry Little Dark Stonefly to these rising trout usually takes them.  However, for just covering the water when there are not many rising trout I catch more trout by fishing my Murray's Dark Stonefly Nymph size 14 on my Murray's Trout Nymph 5X Leader. The built in indicator on this leader is a great help in detecting the trouts' strikes. For streams over 40 feet wide with water over 4 feet deep an across stream presentation with a gentle nymph twisting action is very effective. For smaller and shallower streams I catch more large trout by fishing the dark stonefly nymph size 14 upstream dead drift.

   Trout fishing during the winter can be some of the most exciting fishing of the year and you usually have the streams all to yourself.

Winter Trout Fishing