Winter Fly Fishing Tips: Chapter 2

Over the next couple of months we will be publishing a series of quick helpful tips to help you get the most out of your winter fly fishing experience. Please feel free to reply to any of these posts with your own advice and best practices. Stay warm and tight lines!

Mike Sherer, of The Flyfisher Guide Service, don’t let no stinking snow to get in between him and his trout!

Trout do not feed as much in the cold winter months as they do in the dead of summer, and when they do feed, their takes can be extremely subtle. Trout’s metabolisms slow down which allows them to selectively feed on a passing meal rather than opportunistically munching down on everything flowing down river. In other words, trout do not feed as aggressively during the cold winter months as they will during the other seasons. Even to the most seasoned angler, a consequence of subtle feeding can end with a foul hook-up, otherwise known as accidentally snagging a trout. The subtler the feeding is the more difficult it is to read the take on the strike indicator.

Nobody wants a foul hook-up. Not only does it add extra stress to the fish, which is our primary concern, but it also gives you that wah-wah-wah feeling when you thought you hooked a 22 incher only to find out it’s a fouled 11 incher!

From time to time every one of us will foul hook a trout, but here are a couple of recommendations to cut down on the foul hook-ups.

  1. Sight fishing is an art all onto its own. This includes getting the right polarized shades, getting on the correct side of the river so the glare is at your back, and understanding fish habitat so you know where to look before you even wet your line. Once you have spotted your trout, you are looking for a white open mouth or a gradual side-to-side movement as your patterns go by. Either the open mouth or side-to-side movements are the trout feeding and that is when you set the hook. As you become more proficient in your sight fishing game you’ll realize how many fish you never detected from a strike indicator alone!
  2. Whether the water is too dirty or you’re on a freestone river that offers little visibility, sight fishing is not always an option. In this case, we suggest that you move your strike indicator closer to your patterns. The farther away your strike indicator is away from your flies the less sensitive it is. So, by lowering your indicator to 24-36 inches above your lead fly this will help you detect the ultra-sensitive takes which will in turn cut down on the foul hookups.
  3. Another great method for reading the subtlest of takes is to place a bright colored egg pattern (traditional yarn and trout beads both work) or brightly colored red worm pattern as your lead fly on your nymph rig. Both eggs and worm patterns work fantastic on any river in Colorado but it’s real intended use is that of an underwater strike indicator. We like to use an 8 mm chartreuse trout bead as our lead fly trailed by about 20 inches of tippet and then your two smaller, more natural patterns. The key is to focus on and track the egg pattern as it drifts down the river. As soon as the egg, or worm for that matter, pauses or twitches or does anything other than drift down stream we set the hook. So, in essence, it is treated exactly like a normal strike indicator. You will notice that that this method is exceptionally effective but it will also greatly reduce your foul hookups.

2 thoughts on “Winter Fly Fishing Tips: Chapter 2”

  1. Thank you for all the fishing tips. My husband has really been interested in fishing and wants to go on a charter sometime. I liked your tip about looking or an open mouth or side-to-side movements. We will have to keep our eye out when we go.

    1. Hey Deb! I’m glad to hear that you are finding these helpful. These tips work for anglers of all levels of experience; whether you’re new to the sport or a seasoned veteran. If you are interested in a guided fly fishing trip please email me at:

      Have a good day!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.