There is a wonderful feeling of adventure
accompanying winter fly-fishing for trout and steelhead in central New
York. Snow swirling in the
air covering the trees and the ground along with cold brisk winds, creates
a peaceful and quiet atmosphere unlike any other time of year. Dressing in layers and carrying
all the appropriate gear and snacks coupled with a hike in to the river
adds to the expedition like feel.
Solitude on some of the best stretches of water is found much
easier than during the fair weather season, which further adds to the
tranquility of the trip. One of the most enjoyable aspects of fly-fishing
is how the sport takes you away and clears your mind. A winter fly-fishing trip can
create peace of mind unmatched by any other time of year.
Starting at the feet and working up: Korkers or some other type of ice/slippery rock griping footwear is essential. The grip they provide on slippery rocks and ice is a must in the winter. They provide excellent gripping power when crossing a swift river and prevent slips and falls along the banks and on ice as well.
accumulation along the edge of a river is called shelf ice. Be careful
when walking on shelf ice. Be
sure you know the area very well and you are sure of the depth under the
ice before stepping through shelf ice.
Although I prefer wading shoes for long hikes, they provide nice ankle support; a pair of bootfoot neoprene waders is excellent to keep your feet warm. A wading belt will aid in a snug fit and will keep water out of those waders if a spill does occur a wading staff can help stabilize you when crossing some heavy currents. Layers of non-cotton (fleece is nice) clothing, socks and a warm hat are also essential. Abandon any cotton undergarments for winter fishing, they will wick the moisture and make you colder. Good blood circulation through your feet will help prevent cold feet, which means wearing too many socks could cause your feet to become cold. A backpack is also a good idea for carrying extra clothing layers. Fingerless heavy fleece gloves provide excellent warmth even when wet and without the fingers knots can still be tied. The last layer on the upper body should be a nice, preferably breathable, coat.
sunglasses help see into the water to identify changes in depth and
subsurface obstacles that could potentially cause a fall.
At last but not least, a good meal before you head out and carrying food and drink with you will provide energy and enhance your bodyís ability to maintain its temperature. Also try to keep moving, wading in one spot all day, unless you are having a particularly productive day in that spot, will slow your blood circulation and you will become colder more easily.
Where and How to fish
I like to use a 9-10 foot 6-7 weight rod for both my winter steelhead and trout fly-fishing. The length is needed to control drifts when nymph fishing. Concentrate on the slower water along eddies and through the deep sections of pools. Fish move to slower water where they will expend less energy in the winter months when their metabolism slows down. Fish nymphs deep and try to slow them way down. Air temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit will ice guides, which can be annoying, but part of fishing is patience. I have heard of some anglers using Pam, Petroleum Jelly or other products to prevent guide icing, but you can also just take the time to remove the ice when needed. I am reluctant to put anything on my line and rods with fear I might damage the line or rod. The colder the air the faster the build up.
Here are a few examples of flies I have had success
with in the winter!
Places to fish
There are a number of trout waters and tributaries open through the winter. Check the New York State Fishing Regulations guide for opportunities. Two of the best and most diverse are the Salmon River and The West Canada Creek, but there are others.