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Fly fishing In the Winter

Now that winter has arrived and the cold temperatures and inclement weather conditions with it, angling activity tends to teeter off.  Winter is commonly a sign for anglers to take up other activities such as reading, relaxing or mastering the craft of fly tying. Many places in Canada have a short fishing season, and some of the popular fishing streams won’t re-open until mid-June. However, many areas in Canada allow year-round angling to the delight of eager fishermen and fisherwomen. Whether you’re an amateur or professional angler, there are opportunities for fly fishing in the winter, and you must go out and find them! Here is some important information on winter fly fishing. 

Why Fishing Remains Popular in Cold Climates

When you picture a family fishing trip, there’s a pretty good chance that you envision a warm, sunny, summer day down on the docks. However, Canada is filled with natural wonders like the Crowsnest River, which is popular for subterranean springs that surround it. These springs release warmer water into the river preventing it from freezing over, which makes for the ideal fly-fishing situation!

When the weather drops below 0° Celsius, water will begin to freeze over, making it nearly impossible to reach living fish. Underneath the water, fish will drop to a lower altitude to ensure they are swimming in a warmer portion of the river or lake. Certain rivers such as the Oldman River below the Dam in Alberta aren’t affected by the below-freezing temperatures. They possess warmer water during the winter months, which allow for trout to thrive and prosper.

To plan a successful angling trip in December, January, February or even March, you need to know what you’re looking for. It’s not as easy as driving down to the river, trying to find active fish- you need to understand necessary fish behaviour. Trout can be challenging to find as the weather grows colder, many migrate into areas of water known as “wintering holes,” which are spots in a river or lake that provide an abundance of food and oxygen. These wintering holes are often jam-packed with living trout. The trout in these sections of a river or lake will often remain stagnant and motionless, which means they will not be pursuing flies. For an angler to successfully catch a lazy trout, they must be able to get their nymph far down into the water so the trout will not have to move much. Nymphs that work extremely well in grabbing the attention of lazy trout include the Hare’s Ear and the Pheasant’s Tail. However, you should always be prepared that trout will rise to the surface, and if they do, you’ll want to have a midge pattern fly on-hand, such as a Griffin Gnat, to catch their attention.

Choosing the Right Equipment

The equipment that you’ll need for winter fly fishing won’t differ exponentially from the equipment you’d use in the summer; however, a few additional purchases will make life easier if you do decide to angle. Many fly lines, particularly the ones made for long-distance casting, are typically manufactured with a solid finish, which can make casting difficult in frigid weather. We recommend general-purpose lines when fly fishing in the cold. The guides on your fly rod can also make or break your fly-fishing experience in the winter - cold weather can freeze your guides, making it nearly impossible to cast a decent line. One trick to thaw frozen guides is to dip them underwater. Additionally, if you choose to keep your fly line shorter and don’t strip your line into the water as much, less water will creep up into your guides, reducing frost buildup. 

As always, your health and safety are paramount to a successful fishing trip. Especially in the winter, you need to be conscientious of what you’re wearing and how protected you are from the temperature and weather conditions. We recommend that all anglers planning on fly fishing this winter invest in a second pair of wading boots. Consider purchasing a pair that are slightly larger than your foot size to allow room for layered socks. If your socks become wet inside of your wading boots, it can be incredibly uncomfortable, and it can lead to frostbite on your extremities. When visiting your local fishing tackle shop , be sure to investigate waders with breathable qualities. Always layer up, wear multiple layers of shirts as well as long underwear to retain your body heat. Ensure your gloves are waterproof as you will likely be touching wet fish and rods. As with all fishing excursions, a PFD (personal floatation device) should always be a part of your gear. It is especially important in frigid temperatures where unexpected immersion can cause cold-water shock.

Be Sure to Take Advantage

Everyone enjoys angling in the summertime and for a good reason. The warm weather and long nights make for some of the finest angling experiences. However, the more beautiful the weather is, the more people are fishing, and that greatly reduces your chances of catching fish. You should most definitely take advantage of the low population of anglers in the winter, especially if you didn’t yield a large sum of catches in the summer. Angling in the winter can be a great confidence booster and prepare you for angling in the warmer weather. Fishing in the winter also allows an angler to hone their skills and try new things with an increased chance of reeling in a fish.

To conclude, we firmly believe there is no time of year where fly fishing isn’t appropriate, and we aim to assist all anglers in pursuing such a rewarding experience. Before you head out with your fly rod and fly box, it’s important to prepare yourself appropriately by purchasing thermal fishing gear. We highly recommend that all individuals that decide to fish near icy rivers and lakes bring a partner to accompany them in the case of an emergency. For more information on fly fishing in the winter, contact The Fishin’ Hole today!

2 years ago
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