Winter Trout Fishing in the northern Rocky Mountains is not for everyone. Rarely does the airtemp reach above 30 degrees, layers of clothing are a must and fingerless or fingered polypropylene gloves can be your best friend. If there is any wind, the chill factor can be a bit irritating. On a warm winter day (meaning the sun is out) the weather can be tolerable if the angler is prepared. Winter fishing is for the dedicated angler who enjoys fishing and not necessarily catching, although the later is always our goal.
Generally, solitude, abundant wildlife, low and clear water is why the angler enjoys fishing in the “off season.” Within the past week, we have seen deer, coyotes, elk, eagles, hawks and even the paw prints of a rather large cat. Furthermore, a variety of waterfowl and other birds that choose to stick it out for the season seem to take interest in our somewhat crazed attempt to find a few trout.
Both air and water temperatures are a significant factor during the winter months. If the water temperature is below 34 degrees, you might as well hang up your rod, and return home to tie flies. Both the fish and the fisherman can end up so chilled that production slows to grinding halt. However, while angling on a tail-water (like the Bighorn) in the winter one can find water temperatures consistently in the low 50’s – warm for both the fisherman and his quarry. Trout will feed regularly and fight pretty hard in these conditions. Not to mention, there’s always the potential for a winter hatch.
If the air tempeture is hovering around freezing, the wind chill created from casting can freeze the line to your guides every few casts. Attempting to cast a fly line which has been essentially glued to your rod can be a frustrating struggle. The effort involved in clearing the ice from ones guides can also proove an arduous task – not to mention the dampening of already cold fingers. Then, to top it off, efforts to tie (or untie) knots becoms a lengthy, painstaking process. In this “bloggers” opinion, not worth it. However, if the air temp is above freezing and the winter sun is shining… cast away.