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Avoiding the winter slump

Avoiding the winter slump

Postby jd_smith » Fri Nov 22, 2013 10:09 am

Winter fishing is generally less than consistent for me, no 50 fish days in the winter months. The fish here out west can be pretty finicky during this time of year. Here's a few techniques that have worked for me during the winter months, and have helped keep the smell of skunk out of my truck for the ride home.

My techniques are more along the line of trial and error. First I have to find where the fish are holding, as they tend to bunch up only in specific spots on the rivers, rather than being spread out. Once I find them I usually have to make some adjustments to find the way I can get to them and then make them bite. This usually means switching flies or sizes of your one fly until they seem interested and sometimes switching leader length as well.

Dead drifts and fine tippets seem to be the best approach and with only a few twitches, very few. More likely than not the fish will be holding in the deeper and slower water, in the pools and under or behind the structures, i.e. rocks, logs, jams, under cut banks, bridge pilings and so on.

The fishes metabolism slows way down in the cold winter months and as a result they tend to not move around much. They're eating less food and expending less energy, so I will often have to pass a fly right in front of a fish's nose to get much action. This means sinking the fly and using extended drifts, and then pausing the fly in suspecting areas as well. Pause the fly, give one or two twitch and then let it drift.

The fish also tend to delicately take the fly rather than hammer it like they do in the late spring and early fall, so watching the line and the water like a hawk looking for any indication that a fish has moved on the fly is good practice.

Remember, hook sets are free. Good luck.


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Re: Avoiding the winter slump

Postby adventureR » Fri Nov 22, 2013 6:04 pm

Nice post JD, good info!
Here in Tennessee near home the shallow creeks with moving water are empty of food and fish and are very cold where they connect to larger rivers and lakes. The leaves have pretty much all come down and sank staining the water. The fish have gone deep and are much slower moving.

Fish deep fish slow and know the fish digestion matches the water temp to a certain degree. I have heard from several Tenkara fishers something I enjoy doing especially in winter, observing the fish. It fits nicely due to the lack of activity on, around and in the water keeping the water clear and unstressed.
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Re: Avoiding the winter slump

Postby johnlaudenslager » Fri Nov 29, 2013 5:37 pm

jd_, I certainly find what you and others say, that when the water temperature stays below about 40F/5C, the fish are no longer many or any in the riffles. I find that finding them becomes really hard.

Prospecting slow, clear, deep water for fish that are lethargic is doubly difficult when wind puts a bow in your line, because the fly is being drug and can't dead drift in immitation of the few insects that are about. And my area is often that windy.

How important is it to dead drift in 30 degree water? Are small, dull flies best then? Is this when you 30 degree water trout catchers break out the titanium line? Or ...

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Re: Avoiding the winter slump

Postby John @ Tenkara USA » Sat Nov 30, 2013 9:37 am

Great post, JD. I do much the same when I winter fish here in MT. I would add that the best time of day changes a lot for me. One of my favorite things about winter fishing is that there is no need to get up early, (unless you have a long drive to the water). I do most of my fishing during the warmest part of the afternoon dead drifting flies as deep as I can get them. I do resort to added weight to the fly or line at times during the winter. Drab flies work well for me, but the old disco midge used to be one of my favorite winter flies. I may tie some small "disco" sakasa flies for this winer.
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Re: Avoiding the winter slump

Postby breininger8663 » Wed Dec 04, 2013 9:10 pm

This will be my first winter fishing a tenkara rod. So far this fall I have been fishing about 8 times with my 12' Iwana and Amago. Fishing in my home waters of Oregon I have ALWAYS caught fish, either rainbow or mountain whitefish (with the exception of 1 bull trout). My "go to" rig is a level line 12 to 14 feet long (depending on which rod I use) and a 4 foot piece of 5x leader to which I attach a size 12 or 14 beaded hare's ear nymph (tied on a jig style hook). I am so confident in this rig that I just expect to catch fish. In winter when the whitefish bunch up in the deeper runs and pools it is almost impossible to NOT catch fish using a tenkara rod and a small bottom hugging nymph. I am looking forward to a long productive winter!
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