Top Tips for Getting the Most from Winter Stillwater Trout

Top Tips for Getting the Most from Winter Stillwater Trout

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Winter Trout Fishing Guide

There’s a chill in the air and the leaves are falling, what better time to get out of the house and catch some fighting fit stillwater trout? Whilst fishing stillwater is is arguably most pleasant on a summer’s day, trout dislike high water temperatures resulting in the fishing dropping off through warmer months. With a large number of fisheries staying open through the winter months there is certainly good sport available!

Some of my most memorable stillwater trout experiences have been in sub zero conditions when the fly line is freezing in the rod rings! In fact, these were the conditions when I caught my largest stillwater trout, a fighting fit rainbow of 15lb which took me well into the backing as it tanked off down the lake. The thermometer on my car read a frosty -10 degrees C!

So, what’s different about fishing at this time of year? It’s fair to expect fish activity to decrease in the very coldest weather but with our variable climate there will often be periods when fish can be found right through the water column and may even take emerging insects, such as chrinominids, which are active all year round. Consequently, you should certainly pay close attention to the weather conditions and stable or improving weather should be taken full advantage of.

Winter Trout Tactics

The bulk of your summer tackle will work just fine in the winter though I would suggest this is the time to dust off your intermediate and sinking fly lines and start exploring the deeper parts of your chosen fishery. This particularly applies if there is a drop in temperature. In this scenario, the deeper parts of a stillwater remain the most temperature stable, whilst the surface layer will chill quickly, especially with a cold wind upon exposed parts of the water. This may cause fish to avoid the cooler upper layer.

The use of a slow retrieve is likely to increase your chances of success and this is a good time to apply the figure-of-eight method. This technique enables you to inch the fly gradually through the water and still remain in contact aiding bite detection. Whilst on the subject of bite detection, the use of an indicator positioned between the fly and the fly line will greatly increase detection. Letting a small dark fly such as a buzzer swing around on the wind is a very effective technique on many stillwaters. At Sportfish we often use this technique to help beginners to catch their first fish as less casting is required.

Trout Boat Fishing
A boat may help you access trout in deeper water!

As the season progresses from spring to summer, aquatic insects gradually increase in size until they mature as adults, mate and lay eggs. This results in winter fly life often being physically quite small (especially for species which only spend one year maturing) making this an important consideration when delving into our fly boxes. The sort of large garish patterns a spring or summer trout would have chased down in an instant often do not work so effectively in the colder months. Having said that, the use of large flies should not be discounted and a blob or cat’s whisker fished very slowly has been the down-fall of many a trout.

During the winter the metabolism of trout can slow down dramatically, this can result in gentle finicky takes which are hard to detect. The angler will need to be sensitive to any slight pluck or resistance and I’m sure fish inhale and reject flies more times than angler realise!

Recommended Clothing

If ever there was a time when clothing choice is critical, then this is it! Modern fishing clothing is remarkably light and it pays to take advantage of this, you will fish far more comfortably in light materials which don’t restrict your movement. Similarly a number of thin layers will help you to regulate your body temperature more easily than one or two thick layers.

The key areas of heat loss will be your head and your hands so investing in a warm hat and gloves can make a huge difference to your enjoyment and how long you actually spend fishing – you’ve got to be in it to win it!

The winter months go hand in hand with poor light conditions, so the use of yellow lens sunglasses will help enhance the light and enable you to spot and intercept fish. Regardless of the time of year or the light conditions glasses in some form or another must always be worn to avoid a fly in the eye – a life changing event best avoided.

Five Tips To Help You Succeed

  1. Experiment with small dark flies or large garish ones fished slow and deep down
  2. Wear glasses with yellow lenses to enhance the available light
  3. Fish subsurface or sink tip lines to avoid creating a fish scaring wake on glassy water
  4. As with all times of the year keep off the sky line to avoid spooking passing fish
  5. Wear a layered clothing system to trap more warmth

Shop Winter Trout Tackle

If you’ve any top tips for winter trout fishing of your own, or wish to ask a question, please leave your comments below – it’s great to share & chat! You can also share with all your friends via our social sharing buttons below.



  1. Winter is indeed a great time to catch trout. Most of my biggest fish come in the heart of the winter. Slow stripping streamers in the snow makes my heart thump a bit.

  2. I’m just a beginner and I want to know what you mean by keep of the skyline and how do you know of you are or not? Thank you.

  3. Tavistock fishery near Plymouth is a good venue. 5 small lakes to fish with various depths. see their web-site.

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