Saturday, January 12, 2013

Forget what you’ve been told about winter trout fishing; fish a streamer

Put away your 6x tippet, #20 thread midges, micro-indicators and tiny split shot. Walk past that slow glide and toe-up at the start of a long riffle. Tie on a Dirty Mop and swing it through. Swing it slow, twitch it, jig it, let it sit there for a while.

This chunky Bow took a Dirty Mop like it had no choice. 
To be fair, this attitude may simply reflect the warmer winters we’ve had over the past couple of years. Last year was remarkably warm and fish were commonly moving long distances to chase down streamers in January, February and March. While this year has been substantially colder than last year, we haven’t experienced many nights of sub-zero temperatures and most days have reached the upper 20’s (at least). Yesterday, Dan H. and I were finding fish (both browns and rainbows) in the riffles and getting them to follow streamers into the shallows.

Dan and I have spent a lot of time fishing the winter season in Minnesota. Back in the day we fished in some very cold conditions (highs in the upper 20’s) during cold winter seasons (these were typically the warmest days of the winter). It seemed like all of the fish were hanging out together in large groups in the slow glides and deeper pools. It was pretty easy to see them and take them on a midge fished deep. In the last couple of years I just have not seen fish hanging out in these large clusters. Has anyone else experienced such a shift in fish behavior and distribution during the winter? Have you modified your tactics? Is this one silver lining of climate change?

Dan working a run with Charlie
 Or, will fish take streamers day in and day out regardless of temperature? A fish should not have to move long distances to eat a slowly swung streamer, so this is possible. The problem here is that neither Dan nor I have any interest in fishing when the daily high is below freezing (to old for this), so we probably won’t be testing this hypothesis any time soon. Is there anyone out there willing to fish streamers in very cold temperatures and during cold winter seasons and report back (Justin)?

Much credit for this change in my thinking and approach to winter fishing should go to Tim Pearson and his dedication to all things streamer as well as John’s obsession with targeting large trout, developing the Dirty Mop and giving me some for Christmas.


  1. Nate
    I have got to get into streamer fishing, but not in the dead of the winter---tooo cold. Great Post!!

  2. Personally , I enjoy fishing streamers for trout all year long. I'm a little farther South than you so the difference in water temps may be a contributing factor , but I've found that browns especially will eat a big streamer any time they get an opportunity. For me the next couple months are the time to hit the big rivers and throw big flies (hopefully resulting in some big fish!).

  3. Nate, great post and thanks for sharing. I'm a streamer-diehard. I prefer the method and presentation, at anytime of the year. However, I've done very little Winter trout fishing and never employed streamers. This post is definitely motivating me to get out yet this season. Wish I could have been there! -Jake

  4. the absolute most viscous strikes anywhere