Ahh! Fly Fishing during the winter months in WNC!
Some people might think it’s too cold for fly fishing this time of year so you have a very good chance of finding solitude on even the most popular rivers in the area.
The truth is that fishing can be very good during the winter months because the bugs still hatch and the fish still eat!
This is probably one of the few places in the country that can claim dry fly hatches throughout December, January and February along with excellent subsurface action as well.
The Little Black Stonefly, Sedge Caddis, Blue Winged Olives and various Midges are all active from mid-December on and add to that the Blue Quill and Quill Gordon Mayfly hatches in early February and you have quite a show!
Techniques for dry fly fishing include twitching the fly on occasion to help get the fish to “look up” and sub-surface techniques include rigging extra weight and fluorocarbon tippet to get down and fool the fish in the extremely clear water.
Currently water temps are in the low 30’s so consider wearing two pair of WOOL SOCKS (no cotton), some synthetic wicking long underwear and maybe some fleece pants and you will stay warm and comfortable throughout the day.
If you like stick on some of the Toe Warmer packets on the toe areas of your socks before putting your waders on and they will keep your feet nice and toasty!
Back to the fishing. At the beginning of the day try a dropper system consisting of a nymph followed by a very small midge. When the water is as clear as it is they may take the larger nymph but if not most likely will eat the midge with a good drift.
Try fishing dry flies between 11am and 4pm and concentrate on sections of the river that are being hit by direct sunlight as it perks up the bug hatches and the fishing activity that follows.
Most rivers stay open (do not freeze over) throughout the winter but do develop ice sheets on the edges of the flows. These areas make for excellent cover over feeding lanes for fish but be careful walking on the rocks near them as they may be iced up as well. An effective technique along the ice sheets is to cast your flies to land on the very edge of the sheets and then carefully pull them off onto the moving water.
Nothing like seeing a fish look up to a new offering and quickly take it in! Just be careful not to let it sit on the ice too long as it will freeze in place and stay there!
If you have tied a good number of flies at home this winter you are probably getting the itch to fish. Go ahead and try out some of those new patterns or pick up a few suggested flies from our shop guides and get out on the river. The fish are waiting for you!! ~ Richard Witt