Is Winter Fly Fishing Possible?

Winter fishing in general is typified by cold water, fish that are usually not aggressive (even lethargic), and with a few exceptions, deep and slow angling efforts. With that being said, can you have success fly fishing in the winter?

Yes, you can certainly pursue winter fly fishing - for freshwater and saltwater species - if you live in, or are visiting, our most southerly states. If your vision of winter fly fishing is casting large surface-floating flies on a shallow northern creek or river, well, not so much. Clearly the answer is, it depends on several factors. Saltwater or freshwater? North, south, or in-between?

If you decide you want to give winter fly fishing a try, here are some basic tips to consider:

Fish with a companion for the sake of safety

  • Don’t fish when the temperature is below 32 degrees
  • If wading, wear neoprene waders for warmth and use a wading staff
  • Be mindful of the possibility of hypothermia if you get wet, or frostbite on fingers and toes
  • Fish slowly, making slow retrieves of streamer flies in still water
  • For trout, use mostly nymphs and midges, and a light tippet
  • Trout seldom chase a fly in cold water, so fish slow and deep in streams and keep your fly line off the water
  • For steelhead you must swing a fly in current, so mend your line at the beginning of the drift to get the weighted fly deep and drifting at the right speed
  • You don’t usually need to get an early start in winter, as mid-day and afternoon fishing works fine

All of us at FishVault are constantly looking for a reason to get out on the water. Fly fishing in the winter may not be a possibility where you live, but if it is, we encourage you to get out and give it a try!