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Icy water and eagle eyed trout

Baron Zahuranec
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

The snow has been falling for the past couple of days. All the streamside rocks and fallen trees are covered, making the scene quiet and still.

It wouldn’t be so still if I could latch into a trout. Water would be spraying this way and that, and I’d be hootin’ and hollerin’.

Drift after drift, my flies go down through the dark-green slot. My indicator never hesitates and never jolts under the surface. The trout are there, somewhere.



Fly fishing for trout in sub-freezing temperatures isn’t the easiest or most sought after of fishing outings. It’s hard enough to convince myself to go out even though I am a self-professed addict.

If my apartment had a fireplace, there would probably be just a single day each month where I’d go out and fish. The cold can really make a man question why he’s standing thigh-deep in ice cold water for three hours attempting to catch something.



At this point a snag would be a welcome sign. For a split second it would look like a trout had actually taken my offerings.

I think I want to take back that last statement about the fireplace and only getting out once a month. That would never happen. I really don’t care how cold it is. As long as the river isn’t completely iced over, I can fish there.

Last winter was spent in Saratoga, Wyo., complete with fly fishing forays on the North Platte River in 40 and 50 mile per hour winds. If only I had an 11-weight striper rod to punch my flies into the wind.

If the water’s open, I don’t have much to worry about. At least I’ll be able to get my flies into the drink. The next thing I have to worry about is frozen guides on my rod. That’s solved easily enough with some lip balm dabbed on the guides. Give it a try, you’ll be surprised at how well it works.

Trout fishing in the winter is a completely different game than, say, in June or October. The trout’s metabolism isn’t slowed to a crawl when the water has some warmth. So, the fisherman has to place his offering right in front of the trout’s snout, or more than likely, the trout won’t take.

To compound the problem of not wanting to move, the trout become super selective. Since they don’t want to use precious energy finning in the current, they’ll head to areas where the water is calm and barely flowing. With the slow flow, the trout have all the time in the world to inspect your fly.

Larger flies, I’ve found, rarely work in the winter. If this isn’t the case for you, please let me know. I will pay you some sum of money for your wisdom on larger flies. I’ll be using midges and micro nymphs on picky trout.

I think one of the biggest challenges in all of fishing is to convince a hog of a trout from below Ruedi Reservoir to take a size 22 midge. Those fish have seen almost every fly invented by man, so they know what they’re looking at.

Maybe even more amazing is when I’m able to hook up with a bigger trout on a size 26 or 28. I’ve never landed one on a hook that small, but what gets me is how the trout can even pick out a fly that small.

There are hundreds upon thousands of little particles of decaying leaves and twigs and gunk constantly floating past the fish. How can they even know what they want to eat, when they’re looking at something that’s barely thirty-seconds of an inch long?

I won’t question their vision. I know they can see it, so I’ll still keep my 12-foot leaders and three feet of 7x fluorocarbon tippet. I can’t see where the flies end up, but once that leader starts to straighten out, I know there could be something worth fighting on the other end.

That’s the next problem with winter fishing ” frozen hands. If I’m lucky enough to catch a trout, I have to get my hands wet to release him. But, I guess I shouldn’t be complaining, at least at that point I’d have caught something.


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