Winter is upon us with a vengeance and we look forward (?) to some very cold days on the banks of our trout waters over the next few months.
How do we maximise our chances of hooking up an, often grown on, hard fighting winter trout ? Here's a few tips we've put together to help you.
Match The Hatch
Although less prolific than in the Spring and Summer, there are still buzzer hatches in Winter and these should not be ignored when it comes to winter trout fishing. This is especially true when there is a warmer day following a prolonged cold spell, which can trigger a hatch.
Try starting with a floating line with at least a 12ft leader and size 10 Red Buzzer/Bloodworm on the point with a size 12 Black Buzzer on a dropper at 4ft.
The bloodworms will be hatching from the mud, so it's important to get these flies nearest the bottom, as this is where the trout will be expecting to find them. The black buzzers obviously emulate any number of insect species in their emerger phase.
If you don't get any success on this, after varying retrieve and depth, try dropping down the hook size. Winter trout are lethargic due to the cold water temperatures, which lowers their metabolism and a smaller fly might be just what they're looking for.
Ensure that the heavier fly is on the point as this is the one you want to sink quickly. The lighter dropper can then drift down slowly at it's own pace.
The simple red buzzer - Ideal as a Winter Point Fly
Luring Them In
Almost inevitably, winter fishing means using lures at some point.
Tradition would dictate that black and green should be the colours employed, often fished deep down in the warmer water. However, more brightly coloured lures should not be discounted. There may not be a natural prey sporting a pink, yellow and purple coat, but that doesn't mean the trout won't see it as prey. The most garish of lures, such as the Orange Zuddler (pictured below) can be a huge trigger for a passing trout.
Of course, lures have dual purpose, in that a bright, colourful point fly might not be taken, but it will be seen as an interesting thing to follow by a trout. Therefore, pairing a lure on the point with a buzzer or nymph on a dropper will often be the fly taken as it is the natural food the trout is expecting and it may not have seen it if it wasn't for the attraction of the lure. In these scenarios, it is best to use a slow retrieve, as a stripping a nymph or buzzer would be seen as unnatural movement and the trout will avoid it.
The Orange Zuddler - A bright attractant point fly
Bung 'Em Up
Although the purists wouldn't agree, one of the best ways to catch a winter trout is the use of the indicator or bung.
Whether using a specific indicator designed for the job or simply using a booby or something similar sitting on the surface, this is a great way to find the fish.
Fishing a bung is effectively float fishing for trout. The bung sits on the surface with 2 or more flies hanging below it.
As with the buzzer fishing above, use a heavier fly on the point, perhaps an apps bloodworm or beaded diawl bach and add droppers of buzzers and nymphs or a squirmy wormy.
The movement of the bung on the water's surface will cause the flies below it to move naturally and attract the trout. This is especially true of the apps bloodworms as the movement of the water can cause the flailing legs of the fly to move in a very enticing manner. This is why apps bloodworms are such a good winter fly.
Apps Bloodworm - Deadly under a bung
Trout like cold weather, so in the winter, they could literally be feeding anywhere in the water column, from near the bottom to right at the surface. Sometimes, even off the top.
On small stillwaters a floating line could be perfect all day, but it pays to take two rods one with a floating line and one with an intermediate or even a sinking line. Not only will it save you re-rigging the rod with a different line, but you'll also be able to cover more depths and use a greater variety of retrieve speeds.
Set Up Two Rods - Allowing you to cover more depths
Wrap Up Warm
This might seem like an odd tip to give on a fly fishing blog, but it is often said that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. A comparatively warm winter's day can turn in to a very cold winter's afternoon/evening very quickly.
I'm reminded of a recent trip to Draycote Water where I decided I didn't need my waterproof trousers for the boat as I was wearing my thermals under my jeans and it wasn't forecast to rain.
It didn't rain, but the wind really got up and this caused a lot of water to splash in to the boat, soaking my jeans and thermals through to the skin. The resulting cold from the howling wind on my wet clothes mean a very early return to the car and a lot of lost fishing hours. The simple addition of waterproof overtrousers would have enabled me to stay out all day.
It is critical to dress for the weather, whilst still allowing for mobility. There's no point being warm if you can't physically cast or get yourself out of trouble should the need arise.
Besides waterproof outer garments, layering up with thin layers will help trap warm air and enable your body to regulate it's temperature more easily.
The key areas of heat loss will be your head and your hands so investing in a warm hat and gloves can make a huge difference to your enjoyment and how long you actually get to spend fishing.
As at all times when fly fishing, a good pair of polarised sun glasses is a must. Not just to enable you to see the fish more easily, but to protect your eyes from wayward flies caused by a wind gust ruining your cast.
Wear a warm woolly hat - Maybe not this one though :)
Acknowledgment : Many thanks to @jmurrey for the image used as a cover photo for this entry.