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The Cold Winter Fly Fishing (3/3) Strategies

Photo: Niklaus Bauer

This is the final part of a miniseries on my blog, it’s about how to fly fish during the cold months. During January, three Sundays in a row you have been able to read about my tips and tricks on how to be efficient and catch fish during winter. This is the final chapter which is going to be about strategies and what expectations you can have when you go out in wintertime. This series is especially thought to help you get better results when fishing on the coast and in this chapter it is all going to be about that and nothing else.

Earlier we have been covering things like what clothes to wear part one small tricks and we have also talked about what happens with the body when exposed to the cold air and water part two I’m happy the response has been so good to the earlier articles in the series. No matter where you live, if you can fly fish during winter that is a privilege and fore sure a reason why I live on Gotland. Temperature is key this time of the year. In January and February, the water is the coldest. When the water starts to heat up in early spring my strategies are changing hand in hand with the different behavior of the trout. So, for those of you who are out there in the cold and putting in the effort during winter in hope of a big silver fish here follows some tips on how to get in contact with them.

This is a tough time for the sea tout, not only for those who recently spawned. They fish don’t grow much now and the small amount of food doesn’t make it easier. They are also having the same body temperature as the surrounding water so for them to find warmer water that also mean a faster metabolism. So, you can imagine they can get quite desperate in finding warm water.

Here on Gotland the most important factor on when and where to find fish is the wind and the water temperature. It is no easy one and it would probably take a whole book to explain the physics of how the sea works, where the warm water goes with the wind and I’m not going to go in on that nerdy path.

Instead a simple and good technique is to check for differences in temperatures in different areas, that is the key for success. Warm winds pushing in can make a huge difference in how good the fishing is going to be on the spot.

In the areas I find trout during winter there general idea is to search them more over seaweed- fields then other times of the year. The seaweed is a great hideout for smaller fish and all sorts of crustacean’s. So it is full of food al year for the seatrout but not really worth the hassle when there is food to eat in open water. That’s why you don’t find seatrout over seaweed bottom in the same way during other times of the year but in winter this is the best way for them to fill their belly’s because this is now one of their best places, with enough concentration of food for them.

Another factor that can draw the attention of a trout is a freshwater outlet. Trout have no problem dealing with salt water and no problem dealing with cold but the combination is tough on them. In more salty waters then the Baltic Sea finding fresh water is key but even here you often find the seatrout near the freshwater outlets.

There is always the possibility to book me as a guide, even in winter. Until March 14th 2017 you will receive a -20% discount on guided fishing on Gotland with FishYourDream.

The setup

During winter I only fish floating lines. I prefer fishing a floating line during many situations regardless of season but during winter is can absolutely be a difference between failure and success. I have two kinds of retrieves that work well in wintertime. It is taking in the fly steady but incredibly slow or it is the normal retrieving pulls but with very long stops in between. To avoid getting stuck in the bottom to much when fishing so slow, use a nylon leader which sinks less than a fluorocarbon leader. Two flies almost double the chances of catching fish, tie the dropper fly a further up on the leader if you have problems with getting tangles. Fishing with two flies opens the opportunity to fish with one small and one a bit larger fly at the same time which is often a question what’s right and what’s wrong for the day. I like tying my flies slightly weighted at the front of the hook, making it sink slightly with the front first. Make sure not to use too much weight or a heavy hook when tying the winter flies like this because they will sink too fast!

Weather conditions and expectations

You can almost fish any day during the winter, the perfect conditions are when there is like we had here on Gotland yesterday for example. A south-west breeze, several plus degrees Celsius in the air and a high-water level in the sea also helps in a way. A high-water level makes the seatrout go more shallow and easier to reach with fly.

It is obvious that conditions with several minus degrees Celsius and at the same time strong winds isn’t going to be a good day fishing, then it’s better to skip fishing. The picture above is taken the first day it was possible to fish after a storm in early January this year. During the storm it was -7 C and more than 20 m/s wind. In my experience dropping water level or dropping temperature is negative for the winter fishing. Instead steady conditions during a long time or improving conditions use to be good.

The fishing is not always best in the brightest hours of the day, fishing morning and dawn can give good results too so make sure to use the early hours and fish until dark. The fish often prefer a smaller fly in the cold morning hours and a larger, darker fly towards the evening. Sometimes retrieving with a little bit of speed can be effective during mid-day if it is a warm day.

The take use to be cautious, when the fish takes it can be difficult to separate from when snagging seaweed but because they use to go so shallow you can sometimes be able to see if there was a fish taking. Remember to look for the fly in the water when it comes close, see if there’s any fish behind it and take it all the way in. I often get in contact with the largest silver fish on fly during winter-time. The reason why I wrote these three articles is because I think the winter is a very underestimated time, very few are doing it and just waiting for the spring when you can have a great experience much earlier and perhaps catch a giant sea trout on flyrod.

I would be glad if you shared this with your friends, please leave a comment and let me know about your experience with winter fishing and subscribe for more.

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