Winter trout fishing: 3 tips for cold weather success

Winter’s not just for tying at the vise (although you should be getting your spring patterns together) or hunting for elusive winter steelhead, it’s prime time to hit the water without a lot of competition and explore your favorite watershed from a new angle. Here are three ideas for making the most of the chilly months.

winter isn’t all about one of these…

Think lazy fish – what were you doing during snowpocalypse?

Cold-blooded fish have to take extra care to conserve energy in chilly water. Whereas you’d focus on fast riffles and drop-offs in the summer, look for pools and runs three to eight feet deep with flows moving at a walking pace to find fish hunkered down.

Sink some eggs – a big baked potato and giant bowl of chile are where my thoughts are when its cold.

I know what you’re thinking, but egg patterns can be very successful in the winter months. Whitefish spawn in winter and trout key in on their eggs for an easy shot of protein. Use a small weighted pattern to get down where the fish are.

Offer a meal – make it worth their time.

It seems counter-intuitive to throw big flies to cold fish, but streamers present trout with the opportunity to eat a big meal. And, for big fish, the deal is too good to pass up. Tie streamers on a long leader and keep them moving. Here are some great patterns to try:

  • Sculpzillas
  • Doli Lama
  • Bunny Leeches
  • Muddlers
  • Zoo Cougar

Winter Skwala skating success


Late winter brings out Skwala stones that present some of the earliest season dry fly fishing. When Skwala flies skate, they get crushed.


Work your way downstream, drifting the dry fly as normal. At the end of the drift, let the line come tight and let the fly skate across. When your fly is directly downstream, you’re not done yet. Strip the fly back, letting it wake as it goes. We get some big hits on these flies from hungry trout on the retrieve.