On the Fly column: January’s low, clear water makes fish ‘spooky’ | PostIndependent.com

On the Fly column: January’s low, clear water makes fish ‘spooky’

Scott Spooner
On the Fly

youngster Will Chapman with a Fryingpan River rainbow

January brings our lowest and clearest fishing water, and this can oftentimes cause trout to become more "spooky" than selective. Stealth and accuracy become quite important during low-flow months, as the fish can see and feel more than they will in the high water levels of summer. The insect menu in winter is dramatically downsized from the summer buffet of caddis, stoneflies, mayflies, hoppers, craneflies and so on. This doesn't mean the fish go on hunger strike, but feeding behaviors change, and sensitivity to predators takes center stage. There are a few tricks you can employ during these skinny water days to increase your success.

First off, lengthening your leader and tippet (especially on dry flies) will increase your chances on spooky fish. Most trout, regardless of time of year, don't tolerate fly lines slapping the water anywhere near them, so a longer leader will help out in these cases. A longer leader takes a while to unfurl in the current, so in turn you will get longer drifts with your fly. Downsizing your tippet and even the weight of your rod adds a bit of finesse also. A four weight rod will land flies on the water much more softly than your six weight.

Being on the right side of the river really pays off in winter. Keeping your shadow away from the water is a great way to sneak up on wary trout, and walking "Indian style" in the water is paramount when staying out of the water isn't an option. This means stepping quietly with your toes first, creating as little splash and wake as possible. False casting should be kept to a minimum in winter. Find your fish, see if it has a feeding rhythm, and present your fly once at the appropriate moment. Casting over and over tends to put winter fish off their tea. Cast rarely, and when you do, make it count. The fishing here in the valley is superb right now, especially if you get a little sneaky.

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or taylorcreek.com.