The Winter Skinny on WNC Trout Fishing
Over the past month we have received loads of calls asking how the fishing has been in our area/region. This also is a question we receive throughout the year from novice to experienced anglers. I usually answer with a brief summary that we are very blessed to have year around trout fishing and give a few places that fish well December – February, but I want to take the time to give several reasons why I personally think that wintertime Western NC trout fishing is just as good if not better than any other time of the year.
Lets go ahead and get the negative out of the way. I know everyone is thinking it. IT’S COOOLLLD!!!! You are typically standing outside in probably 35-50 degree water with an air temperature of 0-60 degrees, but if you outfit yourself with some of the great winter apparel that is on the market today, and layer it correctly, you might be extremely surprised how comfortable you can be on a cold day. About the only other thing that I truly think could be considered a negative is that the days are shorter so there is less fishing daylight. Other than these couple small details winter fishing is really solid.
I truly love the colder weather. Some of my best days have come during the winter months fishing a variety of WNC streams. Spring, summer, and fall usually offer fair and comfortable temps, beautiful scenery (not that mountains streams have bad scenery any time of the year), good water temps, and stocking if the NC Wildlife Hatchery and Delayed Harvest Programs are what you are looking for. Winter often times has something to offer that the other 3 seasons sometimes lack, or maybe never have at all. We all as anglers look for this just about every time we wet a line. Solitude. Solitude is so easy to find during the frosty months. You see less anglers, hikers, bikers, cyclist, photographers, campers, and tubers than any other time of year. Not that I have any problem with sharing the outdoors, but there is no better feeling than having a trail and stream all to yourself.
With the joy of solitude, comes another positive of the wintertime game. The fish are less pressured, which means you have a good chance of having a little more activity than you have seen in the other seasons. Also with less pressure and other activities on hold for the winter, water clarity is probably at its peak. This is great for locating fish, and maybe even taking in some of their habits that go unnoticed during the peak outdoor months.
Old Man Winter does offer up a good mixture of fishing. You will find a hatch every now and then throughout the course of winter. Nymphs, midges, streamers are probably going to be the go to patterns you will look to first. I am a big fan of streamer fishing. Streamers offer up a little more active way of fishing, and on a day where it is on, it produces multiple follows, close calls, and hook ups that sometimes produce epic fish and maybe even more epic stories. Streamer fishing is a great way to locate fish in a hole or stream, as they may not eat the streamer, but you can usually see a follow or flash. Sometimes the follow brings on the rush of adrenaline that rivals a solid hook set and fight.
Nymphing on the other hand is probably going to be the most productive for numbers to the net. Whether you tight line (euro style), or use an indicator you will work the waters very similar as you would through the other seasons.
If you decide to take in what winter angling has to offer, here are few things to remember for your trip or outing.
Always, always have an extra pair of clothes in your car or backpack. Just in case you take that wrong step and end up swimming.
Hand Warmers are pretty much a must if you are going to be out there long, and want to have a chance at tying your knots.
When dressing for the day have more layers on than you may need. You can always take off that extra shirt or pullover.
Always have a rain jacket. You are in the mountains. Weather changes constantly. DO NOT TRUST THE FORCAST!!!
A good winter hat is a must. (Simms Wind Stopper are really great)
Socks. Do not get cheap when it comes to socks. You are standing in cold water in the middle of winter. Good quality socks are worth their weight in gold. (Simms Wading Sock, or Smart Wool Socks are my favorite)
Take a thermos. Coffee, hot chocolate, or maybe even some soup makes the chill of winter a little more bearable and maybe even a little fun.
Hopefully this brings a better light on winter fishing. It can be tough at times, but I think that’s why it may be the most rewarding season in the end.
As I mentioned earlier, some of my best days have been during the cold months, and I don’t just mean by fish count alone. Although the most fish I have ever caught in one day came in January. What I mean by best days, is the total experience of fly fishing. I suggest you give it a try, and if you have tried in the past, go again. The smell of winter is so fresh, so take in the brisk air, enjoy the sound of the water, the quietness of the outdoors, and enjoy fishing for what it is truly for…. The experience that creates a lasting memory, fish or no fish.
Tuckaseegee Fly Shop