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6 Simple Winter Nymphing Tips

Kelby Braun - 12/05/16

Fly Fishing Reel covered in Ice.

Bobber Down!

For most anglers winter means putting the fly rods away and waiting until the next spring, or when summer comes. Others tie flies, drink beer, and talk about how the fishing used to be. But for a few of the hard core year round anglers the late fall and winter fishing can be some of the best fishing all season. To most of us nymphing is a last resort tactic when we go out, but if you fish in the late fall or winter it may be the only way to find active feeding fish. Lets go over 6 key steps I take while nymphing in the winter to ensure I have a successful outing.

  1. Weight and Depth
    In my opinion this is the most important of all my points. Adjust the bobber (aka indicator) according to the depth of water you are fishing. Trout are lethargic in the winter and will not move much to eat. Having enough leader between your flies and bobber to allow the fly to sink is important. If my flies bump the bottom once in awhile that's a good thing. The weight is important because we don’t want the current to toss your flies around, and so you can keep a consistent depth.
  2. Mending
    If you have ever been on a guided trip you have probably had the guide tell you to mend on every cast. Mending is very important, but if not done properly it wont be of any use. Dead drift is critical in the winter because trout wont chase a fly like they would in warmer water. Remember, small "S" curves in your line between the rod tip and the bobber usually means you have the right amount of slack.
  3. What water should I fish?
    Fish tend to "pod up" in the winter in deeper, slower water. Once you catch one try not to disturb the water and continue to fish in the same place. Fish the slow water thoroughly, but move often if you aren’t connecting. I find a majority of my fish in the tail-outs. Don’t waste your time in the summer time fast water!
  4. Fly Line
    The right fly line will greatly help ones ability to cast those long heavy nymph rigs, I didn’t take this into consideration until spending the money for a nymph line and I soon found the casting to be much more enjoyable and easy.
  5. Fly Rod Length
    If you’re a year round fly fishing addict like the rest of us at the fly shop you owe it to your arm and yourself to invest in a nymph rod. I never had the opportunity to cast a nymph rod until I started working at Silver Bow because I always told myself my 9ft 5wt will do. After casting a 9.5 ft and 10 ft 5 & 6 weights, I was ready to save my 9 ft 5wt for summer. Longer rods give you the ability to pick up line, cast and mend with the utmost of efficiency. In addition the longer rods can turn over the heavier fly / split shot combos with ease.
  6. Not a numbers game
    Wintertime fly fishing is about enjoying the river, catching a couple fish and possibly learning something new. It is not summer time expectations, if you go out and catch or hook 4-7 fish your doing something right and should be proud. Winter fishing is hard but will make you a better angler.

Follow these 6 simple tips and your wintertime nymphing will that much more enjoyable. All-in-all, don’t put your fly rod away quite yet; take advantage of having the river to yourself, the solitude will do wonders for your winter time blues.

- Kelby Braun


  • Kelby Braun - Fly Fishing Guide. Kelby Braun



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