Fishing Streamers in Winter

A man holding a fish caught with march brown on streamer

Throughout winter we get a lot of people asking if Streamers will work? Or that they tried a Streamer without any luck. While a large Trout is more likely to want to consume a meal that contains more calories than what a few Midges would provide, there is some things to understand about a Trout’s winter feeding habits and how to feed them a Streamer so that they are more likely to eat it.

Cold Water Means Lethargic Fish– Fist thing to understand is that a Trout’s metabolism is directly related to water temperature. If the water is too warm they are not as active. The same holds true when the water is cold. That being said, a Streamer moving through the water at a full retrieve will often not elicit a strike.

Dead Drift your Streamers- We have always been taught to strip your streamers with a long strip to a long pause. But in warm or cold water conditions a Trout isn’t going to move very far or at all for your rig. So now it’s time to fish them as you would a nymph rig. That’s right we’re talking about the dreaded indicator. Rigging a weighted Streamer below an indicator with a smaller streamer trailing is going to put the flies in front of the Trout’s face or at least it will be only moving as fast as the current. The lack of lateral movement will give a Trout more opportunity to make a decision as to whether or not to eat your fly. Remember a Trout should be holding in slower deeper water so your flies will be moving slower as well.

Swing your Flies- Anyone who fishes Steelhead or Salmon knows that a downstream presentation where the flies swing across the current knows how effective this can be. The same can hold true for winter Trout. Using a sinking tip or full sinking line and a Streamer rig you can achieve great results. One of the best ways to fish the down and across presentations in a colder water scenario is to slightly lift and drop the rod tip or feed out some line as the flies move across the current, this will slow the speed of the swing a bit.

Leeches and Sculpins- Choosing the right flies is a big part of a successful winter streamer day. I keep saying Streamers, but what we are really talking about are the bottom feeders of the river. Leeches and Sculpin are the small forage fish that live among the rocks on the river bottom. The use of jig hooks has really made fishing these patterns on a dead drift much less of a hassle for getting stuck on the bottom.

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