Presenting a drag-free but stealthy drift is essential to winter fly-fishing. Typically, winter trout fishing is the most technical that you will experience all year around. Staying aware of changing conditions is really a key to unlocking winter fishing secrets. Awareness of the insects around you, flows, and changing weather conditions can all be factors that directly correlate to your success or failure on any given day. Overturning a rock to find out what insects are hiding or using a mini-seine to inspect what bugs are hatching on a given day are a few simple things that can help you become a confident fly fisher. As you develop a relationship with any river you become a better angler. Learning new things and applying them in new ways is another key to unlocking the mystery of fly fishing. As you make those mental notes when you notice a certain intricacy of any river try to catalog it, so you can apply it in new ways to another river. In this way the river has the ability to speak to you in profound ways. When you hook-up with a trout simply because you were aware of your surroundings, it very much feels like breaking the code to some elaborate lock that enables you to have a higher understanding of things. This may be what keeps anglers coming back to this sport again and again, and trout is just one species!! Trout fishing can be applied to saltwater flats fishing for example. The sky really is the limit with this sport and that is what makes it so exciting!
A drag-free drift is essential to winter fly fishing. A long cast is not needed for short-line high-sticking. It is called short-line for just that, it is intended to be used with a short cast. The less fly line on the water, the better. When nymphing, the longer the cast only means that you are less likely to effectively drift with a drag-free presentation. A drag-free presentation is simply a drift that allows the flies to drift naturally without resistance. Long casts usually require you to cast over multiple speeds of river current, which means that the different speeds of current will drag your rig and actually spook fish rather than catch fish.
First, you want to observe the water before you ever start fishing. Notice your surroundings. What type of water are you observing and how is that going to affect the way you rig up and position yourself on the water? It is a good idea to first fish the water next to the bank before you ever step foot in the river. This can be very important. Often, anglers will spook fish while trying to get to the hole they are eye-balling. It is good to get an idea where you want to fish but don’t get ahead of yourself and take your time. It is usually a good idea to walk upstream when technical nymphing. Observe your shadow and where it is in accordance to the water you are fishing. Especially when fishing holes near the bank, your shadow can and will spook fish. Once again, awareness is a magical key to fly fishing. Observing shady and oxygenated areas of the river on bluebird days can really pay off when the fishing gets technical. The more you observe the environment around you, the better fisherman you will become and the more confidence you will gain. Reading the river and its surroundings and directly correlating that to your individual success is one of the most important keys to being the best fly fisher you possibly can.
By Josh Patterson