Winter Is For Giants.
If Fly Fishing is all about the experience. Winter Fly Fishing is all about enduring parts of the experience and enhancing others. Sea Run Cutthroat move around this time of year, making part of that experience all about the hunt. We have been on the water most of the winter and let me tell you, the hunt has been rewarded!
This time of year makes the summer look easy. It almost makes me feel guilty for how much fun we had this summer. We can always find a few fish to harass, don’t get me wrong. But if you are going to be on the water, when the high for the day is in the low 40’s, you should hunt for the giants. The winter is for giants, and the giants will humble you.
There are a few things you need to know before heading out the door. If you are cold on your walk to the truck, the boat ride… Don’t schedule a trip in January and not dress for the occasion. Furthermore, If you plan on catching giants, don’t look in the school yard. We can catch lots of fish throughout the day, putting in the work for the big ones will have lots of fish. But they might not come on the first cast… The first hour… The first stop even. But once the fly lands in the kitchen, and the oven turns on. We are going too cook up a beast.
The hunt is what this is all about, we are starting in the normal spots we would in the fall, then start searching. Tides are seasonally at their highs, there is more water than in the summer to move to… and its cold. The powerful winter tides are rushing in and out to change the landscape. The big fish no longer need to be down deep, or off the tidal zone to find the cold clear water. They are moved onto the skinnier water chowing down to get fat and healthy. The fish may have even moved closer to their spawning creeks and off the old reliable summer structure.
The hunt makes everything more fun. Working together with our clients this time of year is a ton of fun, and having the amazing success has been even better. I don’t think I have ever had this much fun in the winter. We have stalked trout all over Hood Canal in the past few weeks and truthfully in places I have not fished much. We have started on a shoreline we have fished 100 times and ended up catching fish for miles in a different direction that we started. Keep an open mind in the winter, and be prepared to learn some new tricks of the craft.
So, here are a few tips to get your big fish of the winter!
- Search for deep pockets on shallow flats. We have found fish schooled up on the deep pockets of a flat on outgoing tide.
- Try big flies on the deeper shorelines. We have had multiple smaller cutthroat stollen by larger cutthroat in the last few weeks. I promise, a 4-5″ baitfish is not to big to be gobbled down by a 18-24″ cutthroat.
- Your normal beach is dead? It’s time to look on a map and fish your way toward the closest likely spawning creek. It’s that time of year where the fish are getting ready to head to the bedroom. They are eating any bait they find on the way there. I know, romantic how they go to dinner before they… you know.
- Dress for success! Do not underdress to get out fishing. It’s simple really, you are not going to fish intelligently if the entire time you are worried about how cold you are. We carry a goodwill store of fleece just to make sure people are warm and comfortable on the water.
- Let the fish tell you they are there. We are not catching one fish this time of year. If you find a single fish, there is going to be a dozen more where it came from. Winter fish stick together! If you make a handful of cast and don’t find anything, keep moving until you find them. Then once you found fish, methodically pick through the piece of water to find the rest.