Changing Winter Conditions

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IMG_4712Two days after our snowstorm, I took the opportunity to go fishing with my brother-in-law.  To our dismay, smaller creeks were iced over.  My first two creek options presented a solid layer of ice and no visible running water.  It’s surprising what a week plus of cold weather can do to smaller creeks.

Plan C was to drive to a larger tributary to find open water.  Once there, we were able to stake a claim at a popular pool and set up.  Center pinners were on one side drifting long nightcrawlers, wax worms, egg sacks, live minnows and the odd jig.  We opted to fish the opposite bank.  With a cold wind and slightly numb hands, it took some time to gear up (olive brahma wooly bugger on 4 lb fluoro tippet).  The water was low, clear and cold.  Over the course of several hours, we experienced 4 or 5 strikes and managed to land two (1 brown and 1 steelhead).  Despite numerous fly changes (egg patterns, realistic nymphs, stoneflies, san juan worms, white soft hackle streamers and a prince nymph) the olive bugger was our best producer.  Overall, it was a chilly day and we worked for our limited strikes.  Of small comfort, was that the center pinners opposite us never landed a fish.  They experienced a hot bite for one hour early in the morning, but struck out in the afternoon.  When tributary fish ignore that array of bait and their long drifts, you know that it’s tough fishing.

IMG_4717My favorite time to fish on a Winter Day is mid to late afternoon.  That’s when the air temperature is warmest.  It’s also possible to experience an uptick in action.  While it didn’t occur this trip, it’s fairly common on most tributaries in the Winter.  In addition, it’s the most pleasant time to fish.  Since our trip, things have warmed up considerably and we’ve experienced a minor snow melt.  Yesterday, I was biking along the neighborhood with my sons in late February!  A fifteen or twenty degree swing in temperature can change conditions.  On the water, some of the icy patches cleared up enough to allow limited angling later this weekend.  As we enter late February, be prepared for changing conditions.  Our ten day forecast has daily temps between the twenties to upper forties.  Fresh steel should be moving in daily.  We could be weeks/days away from the first spawning steelhead.  In addition, holdover browns should be lean and eager to engulf a properly presented egg, or baitfish pattern.  Watch that forecast and enjoy what’s left of our Winter conditions.  If you don’t like the conditions, you shouldn’t have to wait too long.   March is just around the corner!

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Craig Dennison

This is Craig and I host Fly Fisher's Workshop. My fly fishing experiences include plenty of travel (Montana/Florida/North Carolina/Maine) and a few years part time guiding for trout. While I primarily target trout and steelhead, I still manage to chase warm water species and enjoy chasing stripers and bluefish. I'm a 3rd generation fly fisher trying to share the passion with my two sons!

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