Why fish in the winter? Well, because we can.
The author took advantage of a winter thaw to chase brook trout in January 2022. 
Photo by Patrick L. Sullivan

Why fish in the winter? Well, because we can.

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean fishing is over.

Winter fishing has a lot going for it, including: snow, ice, frigid winds, general misery, and the very real chance of serious injury from taking a header on the ice.

There is also an excellent chance of developing hypothermia after taking an unscheduled bath.

And of course you could be eaten by wolves.

Hahaha. Just kidding. The wolves aren’t idiots and they sure as heck aren’t tramping around the frozen wastes trying to catch trout that aren’t hungry.

However, fly-fishing is not a sport. It is a mental condition, and argument is futile.

Step One: Dress warmly. I’m not going to go further except to state the obvious: It’s easier to shed layers if you’re too warm than add layers when you’re turning blue.

Step Two: Find some open-ish water. Around here this generally means the Farmington, as the dam releases are warmer than the rest of the river. (In summer the opposite is true.)

Step Three: There is no reason to get up early. The kind of day you want is in the upper 30s, maybe cracking 40, with some sunlight. If the trout wake up at all, it’s going to be after the sun has raised the water temperature a bit, what bugs are around start to move, and the fish take notice.

Step Four: I typically start with big stuff. Wooly Buggers, mop flies, egg patterns, squirmy worms and so on. This is not subtle stuff. I use a short, stout leader and target slow to medium currents with some depth and, for choice, a nice boulder or submerged tree to provide hidey holes.

Step Five: If Step Four is a washout, or you see little speckly things coming off the surface, then re-rig with a longer, finer leader and tie on some microscopic blue wing olive or similar. This exercise is made even more excruciating by the fact you have no feeling in your fingers.

Step Six: Know when to quit. This may well be 15 minutes into it.

One year on the Farmington I trudged for what seemed like hours but was probably 15 minutes or so through snow and bramble, only to find the deep run I was assured would be ice-free to be a skating rink.

That would be a time to call it a day.

On the other frozen hand, I once laid a cast across the ice to an open stretch on the Housatonic, just to see what would happen.

A fat brown immediately gulped my size 6 Stimulator and disappeared under the ice, swimming toward me.

This completely untenable situation did not last long, but it didn’t have to.

I had accomplished the goal, so I packed it in. (After getting the line back, a process that will merit an entire chapter in my memoirs.)

Note that I am not discussing ice fishing here.

Ice fishing, in which the afflicted person voluntarily spends hours at a time standing on a frozen lake or pond staring at a hole in the ice, is just too much.

Depending on the weather, your nearest small stream or creek may be fishable at various times during the winter months.

And with year-round fishing now in in Connecticut and New York, there is no need to remember complex regulations. You do need to renew your licenses though.

The main reason to fish in the winter, frankly, is because it is possible to do so.

Not pleasant, not productive, and probably not all that much fun. But possible.

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