All the leaves have fallen and the landscape is grey with sprinkles of evergreens and rhododendron. We just hear a faint wind and the sound of the river. This setting is one of my personal favorites for fly fishing in our mountains. What seems devoid of life around us, couldn’t be more different under the water.
Winter is a time of year that has been looked at by anglers as a time to prepare for spring, but that is only the case for places where snow and ice blankets the once productive fall fishing spots. Here in Southern Appalachia, we are blessed with an incredible fishing season in the winter. Our weather is mild compared to montana, Wyoming or Colorado. These are places that are famously thought of when we think of fly fishing for trout, but we can not use these places to judge our own winter fishing. Trout are cold water fish that live in frigid places come winter time. Our winter water temperatures however, is welcomed by trout with open mouths and the urge to keep feeding.
Let’s talk about our comfort first. On average our winter air is about 45-32F on average and when the sun is out, you can expect it to feel even warmer. Temperatures in western famed areas can be in the negatives. In our local fishery, there is nothing a good pair of fleece pants and some layers cant do, and once you get hit with some sun shine, forget about it, it might as well be spring to you. Do not let the colder weather scare you from getting out on the water here. Enjoy the silence and crisp air, it is truly a wonderful way to fish, and it feels amazing to take a nice hot shower when you get home.
Next let’s talk about the fish. One of my favorite examples to use is the biggest rainbow trout in the world, the ones from Alaska. If you head to the Kenai Peninsula in June you will find the productive rivers there carry massive trout that are active and ready to eat. That water ranges from 42-34F because it is fed by snow melt. Here in our smaller mountains in the south, our winter water tempertures are usually in the mid 40’s. This is just swell for rainbow trout as well as the browns and brooks. As a matter of fact, the biggest rainbows we catch throughout the year are normally during the winter months. Rainbow trout tend to get crazy for eggs by my observation. This is a natural reaction to the water temperatures that they become active with in their native habitat of the pacific north west. Winter rainbows here fight hard and become more silver like there ancient northern ancestors. It's truly wonderful, it is like fishing for smaller Alaskan rainbows right here in the Carolinas, and you can fish for them in similar ways. Egg patterns, Large black nymph patterns and a big indicator will make you feel like you are going for steel head! And as many anglers know, fish will always be feeding on midges. Go big or go small, I believe either way you will have a blast.
Do not hesitate to bust out the dry flies too. Our rich forests and mild weather allows midges and even late BWO’s to hatch all winter long. In the winter you will find trout in a slow run sipping what seems to be something microscopic. At this point many anglers wont bother trying to match something so miniscule, but a well placed size 24 para midge or Griffith gnat can do wonders in the winter.
Get out this winter and come into Hendersonville outfitters for more advice, fly selection, or a beverage after your day catching big rainbows. I can not tell you the amount of people who ask, “so your season is coming to an end huh? Should I wait until spring?” I reply “no” we are just getting started!!