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Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you need to pack your gear away until spring! Many anglers use the time during the winter months to tie flies in anticipation for the spring season, but if you can stand the cold, it’s a great time to be on the water.
Here are a few tips that may help you as you venture out in search of wintertime trout:
As we all know, layering is key to staying warm in cold weather, both for your upper and lower body. Avoid cotton, and stick with an inner moisture wicking material as your first layer. I like using fleece as a second layer for insulation and then topping it off with a third layer shell. A shell with Gore-Tex or Windstopper material is best. Remember that most heat is lost from the top of your head so be sure to take a hat that will cover your ears. A fleece neck warmer works great when the wind is blowing and can be pulled up to cover your mouth and nose. Gloves, of course, are key to keeping warm. I like fingerless gloves with a mitten attachment. This allows me to remove the top mitten only instead of removing the gloves when changing flies or tying knots. On really cold days, I will slip disposable hand warmer packs into my gloves and into the toes of my waders. This has extended my stay on the water many times. It’s a good idea to plan for the worst and pack a spare change of clothes that you can keep in the trunk of the car in case you take a spill. It’s happened to me more than once, so this suggestion is from direct experience.
Prepare Ahead of Time
The cold can make tying knots difficult. Fingers don’t seem to move as quickly when they are cold, and working with very small flies can be difficult when your hands are shaking. One way to give yourself an advantage is to tie up several batches of your favorite flies to a 12″ section of tippet material. This way, when changing flies, you can tie the leader to the tippet using a single blood knot or surgeon’s knot. You may want to consider using a blood knot tool, since this makes tying the knot much easier to tie when your fingers aren’t as nimble. The pre-assembled fly and tippet can be wrapped around a piece of foam and stored in a small Ziploc bag.
Favorite Winter Flies
I spend most of my time during this season either nymphing or throwing a streamer, since hatches are limited during the winter months. My three main go-to fly patterns in the winter are various colors of zebra midges, woolly buggers and bead head pheasant tails. During the cold weather, the trout’s metabolism slows down as the temperature drops. This means they aren’t as active and will chase down their food at a much slower pace. Consider this when fishing the woolly bugger and slow down the retrieval. Also, look for deep, slow moving water. The fish will be feeding in areas where they don’t have to expend much energy.
So brave the cold put on a few layers and head to the water. The prime fishing areas won’t be as crowded and even if the Caney Fork River is blown out by high water, there are more trout fishing waters to choose from with TWRAs winter stocking program. Each year, the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, release trout during the winter months, giving anglers many more opportunities to fish year-round. TWRA releases approximately 90,000 trout into Tennessee waters from December through March with average sizes of 10″. To find the winter stocking schedule check TWRA’s website at the following link. https://www.tn.gov/assets/entities/twra/fish/attachments/wintertrout.pdf
Hope to see you on the river!