“In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”
– Albert Camus
Find that invincible summer within by going fly fishing during the depths of winter. Here are some tips for winter fishing success:
- The key to comfort on the river is dressing in layers. Under your waders, using two or even three layers to protect your legs from the cold water is wise. The same applies to top layers; this way you can remove or add as internal and external temperatures change.
- Your extremities are the first to get cold. For your feet, oversize your wading boots by a size to allow wiggle room for your toes with an extra sock for insulation. And carry pocket warmers for your hands as gloves can become cumbersome while handling a fly line or tying knots.
- For flies, keep it simple; a trout’s winter diet is whittled down to just a few types of bugs.
Look for winter fish to be concentrated in slow, deep water conserving energy, and if you find one, there are bound to be more.
- To keep ice from forming on your guides, fish a set length of line and limit stripping your wet line in and out.
- And finally, if you want to maximize your time on the water, hire a guide.
The Nature Conservancy portion of Silver Creek is closed for the season. However, from Kilpatrick Bridge down through Point of Rocks, the Creek remains open. The water is very cold this time of year, but with some scouting you are bound to find some fish feeding on a smattering of midge during the most pleasant time of day. If there is no surface activity, slow swinging leeches or dead drifting nymphs can also take fish.
The Wood is gorgeous right now thanks to all the fresh snow; however, access can be tricky. Many of the typical parking areas are inaccessible so you may need to be creative to get into your favorite stretches of the river. And if you are the first one in you will need to wade through deep snow to get to the water. This is a good problem to have! Once in the water, you will find it is mostly a nymphing game as we are about a month away from consistent winter midge activity. The nice thing about winter angling is you can really simplify your fly selection and just carry a few midge imitations along with a few anchor flies. Dry dropper rigs or double nymphs with an indicator will let you cover all depths of water. Remember, winter trout don’t hold in fast water, so concentrate on the deep buckets or the slow seams. Please keep in mind, winter trout need to be played and released as quickly as possible.
The Big Lost
It is just shy of two hours to make the trip through Craters of the Moon to Arco and up to Mackay; worth the trip if you plan on making a full day of fishing. The flows are low and the fish will be concentrated in the prime lies. Fish it much the same way you would approach the Wood.
South Fork of the Boise
Like the Big Lost, this is another great winter fishery for anglers willing to travel a bit. Be sure to have the appropriate vehicle to make it down and back out of the canyon as the road can be slicker than an ice rink. This river is going to fish well with small midge imitations or large ugly bugs. You may even find trout feeding on the surface during the prime time in the afternoons. There are plenty of white fish to keep your rod bent.
Big Wood: Midge | Perdigons | Bishop’s Dynamite | Zebra Midge in black, red, or olive
Silver Creek: Midge | Bullet French Nymph | DB Zebra Midge in black, red, or olive | Pine Squirrel Leech
Big Lost Flies: Midge | Perdigons | Bishop’s Dynamite | Zebra Midge in black, red, or olive
South Fork of the Boise: Midge | Perdigons | Pat’s Rubber Legs
|Silver Creek||185 cfs|
|Big Wood||138 cfs|
|The Lost Below Mackay||97 cfs|
|South Fork of the Boise||291 cfs|