Post spawn fishing is in full swing. Water temps have dropped below 38 which has pushed many of the fish to winter holes, falling water levels are also encouraging the movement. Many of the fish in the creeks should be falling back into the main rivers as this happens. Look for the rest of the year to continue to be more of the same. This is the best streamer fishing of the year for big brown trout, from now until New Years. Not every day is great, as it is streamer fishing, but the potential is there.
If you are new to the winter streamer game there are a few things to keep in mind. Not many fish are active in the late winter. Usually fish under 15 inches are hard to come by and in the lower reaches of the rivers I like to fish you don’t see many under 19 inches. That being said, quality fish are out and about on most days this time of year. High sky days are always difficult but there are fewer of those each week. For your best chance, fish multiple days. Presentation slows down this time of year also. Fish will come fast and hard to streamers out of shear desperation at times but large fish tend to commit on slower presentations, deeper in the water column. As water temps drop, forage and predators stay closer to the bottom of the river and move much slower. The large fish we are targeting know this and will only eat presentations that mimic what is natural. Most anglers I fish with move the fly too fast. The key is to fish the fly deeper off each of the natural edges in the river. I typically start tight to the bank and strip to the first edge. At the first edge I incorporate a long pause which drops the line in the water column and allows you to fish the next edge closer to the bottom. Continue this process throughout the retrieve. Having a fly that swim’s good at low speeds and on the stall will help triggering more strikes as fish tend to look up and eat it on the stall or first movement away from the fish. Look for major windows from this point out to involve fronts and moon phases as water temperatures will continue to stay low. Mid day through late afternoon is the typical bite window as the temps creep up by a half of a degree or so.
This is big fly time of year so think 8 and 9 weight rods. I carry multiple sink tips to run different weighted flies. I typically run a weighted fly on a Rio 4D 8wt and a 300 or 350 grain on my 8wt or a 9wt. I prefer the 9wt and the 350 grain with large flies on windy days. On smaller water I would run a 6 or 7 weight set up in similar fashion. Speed of retrieve can be one of the key factors in triggering a bite. In shallow water I see weighted flies stripped fast to prevent snagging bottom, it’s too fast. The lighter tip will allow for proper presentation is those situations. When in deeper holes, the weight will take the line deep enough (in most situations) to have success.
I’m here in Traverse City through the end of the year and then head south to Arkansas. I’d love to get on the river more this winter as it’s an experience unlike no other and the fishing can be very rewarding. I’ve got a few dates available after the first week in March in Arkansas and an open schedule once I return in April.