Written by Travis Gillespie
Fly Fishing in the Winter can be some of the best fly fishing you experience all year. It is quickly becoming a favorite time for fly fishers who don’t mind some cold toes and fingers. The real pay off is the quite solitude you will experience with the snow blanketed back drop. Plus the dry fly fishing can be so epic that you’ll forget your fingers are numb. Here is a quick guide to help you get started.
When to go? Any time is better than no time on the water, so get out there when you can, but if I was to choose the day and time in the winter. I would watch the local weather forecast and plan a day where the temp is just over 32* (so your rod guides don’t freeze up) with overcast and snowy conditions. But the rule of thumb in the winter is that you want to be fishing during the most comfortable part of the day. (unless you are throwing streamers, then pick the worst) So in the winter that is usually from 10-3pm. The reason behind this is because it is nice for you to be out, but mostly because it is usually when the best midge hatch occurs and the fish are most active.
Where to go? There are lots of rivers in Utah to fish during the winter, the best way to see if they are good fishing is to get out and explore them. But if your short on time, here are a few popular spots that fish great in the winter. Note: Tailwaters (below dams) fish great in the winter cause the water temp is warmer.
- Green River- If you haven’t seen a pod of 100 rising fishing, you should take a trip to the Green River. It has some of the best midge hatches in the state and with over 15,000 fish per mile it can be a magical experience. Streamers are also very popular during the winter on the stormy overcast days.
- Middle Provo River- Epic Midge hatches in the mid mornings and afternoons. Fish slow rifles, drop offs, foam lines, eddies and you will find rising fish.
- Lower Provo River- Great Midge hatches in the afternoons. Find slower back eddies and you will find the sippers.
- Weber River- Home to some big brown trout the Weber is a great place to try Streamers in the winter. If that isn’t working, White Fish are very aggressive during the winter months and can be caught on small nymphs like Hares Ear or Caddis Pupa.
- Lee’s Ferry- I know it’s not Utah, but its real close and it is one of the best places to get out of the freezing temps and enjoy 50-60 degree days in the middle of winter. Plus the fishing is almost as breathtaking as the 1000 ft red canyon walls that will surround you. Great midge hatches in the afternoon and nymphing glow bugs, scuds, and sj worms to Wild Rainbow Trout.
Whats Hatching? Midges are the name of the game in the winter. Normally the hatch will start at noon and last until 3pm. But it really depends on the day. So I like to get there at 10am so I am rigged up and ready for the action to begin. Note of consideration – Don’t over look the Egg Hatch, Brown Trout and some fall run Rainbows just came off their spawn and all the fish in the river have trout caviar on their minds.
What Flies? There are thousands of flies to try at any given time of the year, but for Winter its a little simplier cause Midges are really the only bug that hatch. I like to limit it down to three styles of fishing. Dry Flies, Nymphing and Streamers.
Must Have Dry FliesGriffith Gnat* top producer Asher Astro Midge Brooks Sprout WD-40 Emerger
*Size and color while fishing midges is critical. I like to have these flies in black and grey and sizes 18, 20, 22, 24, 26.
Must Have NymphsTung Zebra Midge-sizes 18-22. Black, Red, Wine, Lime Green WD-40s- sizes 18-22. Black, Olive, Red Black Beauty 20-24 Rainbow Warrior-sizes 18-22 Higa’s SOS- sizes 18-20 Glow Bugs-orange, peach, yellow San Juan Worms
StreamersGinger Wolly Buggers JJ Special Sex Dungeon-Black, Olive Barley Legal-for bright days Provo River Hooker – Utah’s very own Collin Carlson fly – find them at finpusher.com Platte River Spider
What fishing gear is needed? Just your basic fly gear is all you need. I like to bring a backup rod incase I break one. I seem to do that a lot when my guides get icy.
Winter Gear List
- 4 and 5 wt Rods
- Reel-Floating and Sinking Lines
- Vest-Flies, Floatant, Weights, Forecepts, 4x, 5x, 6x Tippets, and all the other little gadgets you have in your vest
- Polarized Glasses
- Current Fishing License
- Vest Extras – Camera, Snacks, Drink, Sun Screen, Hand Warmers
What to wear? Dress WARM! It’s better too hot than cold. I like to dress in layers, so if it does get a little warmer. I can just take a layer off instead of having just a single coat I have to wear all day. Also stay away from anything cotton, it draws warmth out of the body instead of keeping it in and you warm.
This is what I wear starting from the feet to the head:
- Socks-Wool socks are a must. Make sure you don’t tie your boots to tight, you want good circulation to help keep your feet warm.
- Pants- Fleece pants under the waders is all I wear.
- Base Layer- A good breathable moisture absorbing base layer is good to keep you dry and warm.
- Second Layer- I like fleece or down jacket
- Third Layer- Fleece lined softshell jacket – To keep out the wind and light rain or snow.
- Fourth Layer- Waterproof Jacket- only used in the worst conditions.
- Gloves- I hate gloves, but sometimes you just have to put them on. I use the fleece fingerless kind that can convert to mittens. Wool works good as well.
- Hat- I have lots, but my favorite(because it is the warmest) is a wool beanie that is fleece lined on the inside. I like the beanies that have hat brims as well to help with the sun and glare
Few More Tips- Size Down if the fish are rejecting your flies constantly / Fish Tailwaters / foam= fish / Long leaders (9-15ft) and light tippet (6x-7x) will product more fish / To break the ice out of your guides stick your rod tip in the water / Have Fun!
Get out there and try it out or join other UFFC members on the Middle Provo River Dec 31st 2011 for the Annual New Years Outing.