Winter Stillwater Trout Fishing - Advice and Techniques

Winter Stillwater Trout Fishing - Advice and Techniques

Winter Stillwater Trout Fishing - Advice and Techniques

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


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.

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? Jonny Muir is here to help you do just that.

While spending a day on the banks of a stillwater might be most pleasant on a warm summer’s day, trout dislike high water temperatures and winter can often bring with it the most frantic sport of the year. With a large number of fisheries staying open throughout the winter months, there’s no reason not to get out there and grab yourself a piece of the action!

So, what’s different about fishing at this time of year? It’s fair to expect fish activity to slow down in the very coldest parts of the winter, but with our variable climate there will be many times when fish can be found feeding throughout the water column. They may even take emerging insects, such as chironomids, which are active all year round and always feature on a stillwater trout’s menu so don’t think winter fishing is all about pulling lures. As with other seasons, a period of stable, settled weather will usually offer the best opportunity at a bumper day.

Winter Trout Fishing Techniques

The bulk of your summer trout tackle will work just fine in the winter, though it often pays to equip yourself with a range of sinking lines too. Having a selection of stillwater fly lines which includes a sink-tip, intermediate and faster sinking options will allow you to fully explore the deeper parts of your chosen fishery. This is particularly important 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 and shallows will chill more quickly, especially with a cold wind upon exposed parts of the water. This may cause fish to avoid the cooler upper layers and remain in milder areas.

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 back through the water and still remain in contact for good bite-detection. If you wish, this can also be a great time of year to fish static flies under an indicator. More conventionally, letting a small, dark fly such as a buzzer swing around on the wind can be a very effective winter technique on many stillwaters. On Haywards Farm Lake at the Sportfish Game Fishing Centre, we often advise beginners to use this technique as less casting is required and the fly remains in the water, fishing for a long period.


 

VIDEO: Join Sportfish team member, JT, on the bank at Haywards Farm Lake as he takes a look at three techniques to try on your local small stillwater this winter season: nymphs, dry fly and lures. The changing of the seasons can bring unsettled weather, varied temperatures and sometimes finnicky fish, but as our latest video shows, if you have confidence in your methods and stick at it - rewards will come your way! Watch our film now to pick up some handy hints and tips.


As the season progresses towards spring, aquatic insects gradually increase in size until they mature as adults, mate and lay eggs. When fishing during the winter, you must therefore bear in mind that insect nymphs and larvae can be quite small (especially for species which only spend one year maturing) making this an important consideration when delving into your fly boxes. Don’t be afraid to fish small! The sort of nymph 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, if trout are not responding to a subtle, imitative approach, the use of large lures should not be discounted and a Blob or Cat’s Whisker fished very slowly has been the downfall of many a winter trout. Slow is often the way to go, as during the winter the metabolism of trout slows down dramatically, sometimes resulting in gentle, finicky takes which are hard to detect. Keeping in contact with your flies, employing good straight line control and using fly lines with low-stretch cores can make all the difference in your catch return.

Recommended Clothing

If ever there’s a time when clothing choice is critical, then this is it! Modern fishing clothing is remarkably lightweight and it pays to take advantage of this by layering. You will fish far more comfortably in light materials which don’t restrict your movement. Similarly, a number of thin layers will help regulate your body temperature more easily than one or two thick layers. We carry a range of base layers, mid layers, insulating layers and weatherproof outerwear, all of which can be combined to form a comfortable and effective winter fishing outfit.

The winter months also go hand-in-hand with poor light conditions as the sun is low in the sky, daylight hours are few, and conditions are often dull and cloudy. The use of polarised fishing sunglasses with a yellow lens tint is a great option for this time of year and will help enhance the available light, enabling you to spot and intercept fish.

Five Tips To Help You Succeed

  1. Experiment with both small, dark imitative flies and large garish lures fished slow and deep.
  2. Wear glasses with yellow lenses to enhance the available light.
  3. Fish sub surface or employ sink tip lines to avoid creating a fish-scaring wake on quiet, glassy water.
  4. As with all times of the year, try to keep your silhouette below the sky line to avoid spooking passing fish.
  5. Use a layering strategy with your clothing to stay warm, dry and comfortable. Don’t forget to keep your extremities covered with a warm hat, gloves and neck gaiter.

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!

Tight Lines,

Jonny.

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

Winter Stillwater Trout Essentials

If you normally put your gear away in autumn and don’t dust it off again until spring then STOP! Sportfish team member JT thinks it‘s time that you reconsidered and enjoyed some of the superb cold weather sport on offer.

I love stillwater fishing through the colder winter months. The shorter days can lead to some superb sport throughout the day and the cold, clean and clear waters are ideal for a coldwater species like the trout to thrive. With our summers getting hotter and with higher water temperatures, small water anglers often find their local venues are taking a summer recess and closing their doors. However, as the water cools fish can again turn their attention to feeding hard and getting back into condition.

With this in mind, here are some of my 'must have' items and products for this coming winter.

Tight lines

JT

SIMMS MERINO THERMAL
OTC SOCKS

Keeping comfortable is one of my top priorities throughout the winter months and keeping my feet warm is right at the top of the list! Made from merino wool these over the calf length socks are just the job, super comfortable and soft but toasty to wear.

PATAGONIA RECYCLED WOOL
EAR FLAP CAP

One thing I always missed when wearing a woollen hat in the winter was a peak, with this offering from Patagonia all of my boxes are now ticked. It is warm, has a peak and with the addition of ear flaps that fold down it keeps your head warm in the coldest of conditions.

SIMMS MERINO THERMAL
OTC SOCKS

Keeping comfortable is one of my top priorities throughout the winter months and keeping my feet warm is right at the top of the list! Made from Merino wool, these over-the-calf length socks are just the job, super comfortable and soft but toasty to wear.

PATAGONIA RECYCLED WOOL
EAR FLAP CAP

One thing I always missed when wearing a woollen hat in the winter was a peak, with this offering from Patagonia all of my boxes are now ticked. It is warm, has a peak and with the addition of ear flaps that fold down it keeps your head warm in the coldest of conditions.

PATAGONIA NANO
PUFF JACKET

Staying with the theme of keeping warm I wouldn’t be without my Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket. Superlight in weight it packs away to almost nothing while being incredibly warm and comfortable to wear. On top of all that it is also windproof and water resistant so it always gets packed before a trip.

SMITH OPTICS CASTAWAY
POLARISED SUNGLASSES

The cardinal sin I see far too often on the banks of fisheries is anglers fishing without glasses or eye protection. Smith Optics have wowed us since their arrival at Sportfish and the Castaway frames, with Techlite glass low light ignitor lenses, are ideal to brighten up even the darkest of days, while also giving you complete protection from any wayward casts.

VISION KOSKI ZIP
STOCKINGFOOT WADERS

Whenever I go fishing, regardless of whether or not I intend to wade, I inevitably find myself reaching for my waders. They give me the complete package of keeping me warm, dry and clean and even the little tasks like kneeling down to release a fish don’t result in filthy, damp trousers. This zip version of the Koski from Vision is just the ticket and the addition of the zip makes getting in and out of them so much easier.

GUIDELINE ELEVATION
SINGLE HANDED FLY ROD

One of the latest offerings from Guideline is the Elevation range of rods, a lovely user-friendly action that is capable of throwing everything from floaters to fast sinkers. They come in a variety of weights and lengths but one of my favourites in the range is the rather unusual 9’ 9’’  6. A great length and weight of line for the stillwater angler and very popular with customers offering exceptional value for money.

HARDY ULTRADISC
CASSETTE FLY REEL

Yet another incarnation of a fully machined, large arbour cassette reel from Hardy, these reels are ideal for the stillwater angler that wants to carry lots of lines. Hard wearing and great value, the cassette spools are cheap to buy and easy to store. The reel comes with an extra two spare spools in the box and all additional spools are just £19.99.

RIO ELITE SINGLE HAND
SPEY FLOATING FLY LINE

Ever since it first came out, RIO‘s Single Hand Spey Line has been a customer and staff favourite, but don’t be put off by its name. This line is just as much at home being cast overhead as it is being Spey or roll cast. A 2-tone line that allows for easy identification of the head of the line makes it super easy to cast with and achieve great distances.

RIO FATHOM
SINKING FLY LINE

At times through the winter it's necessary to get down and dirty and reach the deepest parts of a fishery and this line is just the ticket. Ranging from a sink rate of 3” per second all the way to 7” per second there will undoubtably be a line to suit your needs within the range. One of the few sinking line ranges that are 2–tone in colour, each sink rate has a different colour of running line to make it easy to identify and all are easy to cast.

SEAGUAR GRAND MAX
FLUOROCARBON TIPPET

With the vast majority of winter fishing being subsurface, my go-to leader material is Seaguar’s Grand Max fluorocarbon tippet. Super thin for its breaking strain, I rarely have to fish with less than 9.5lb, which is especially good when fishing catch and release, allowing fish to be played hard and fast.

YETI RAMBLER
INSULATED TUMBLER

Nothing beats a hot drink on a cold day and the YETI Rambler Tumbler is perfect for taking a hot drink to the lakeside. I treated myself to one a couple of years ago and haven’t regretted it one bit. It probably gets more use than anything else I have purchased – both for fishing and at work.

FULLING MILL MUST
HAVE BLOBS FLY SET

Fulling Mill's selection packs make choosing the right pattern so easy. This selection is great for when fish are feeding deep in the water, as it gives you a selection with buoyant booby eyes and FAB-style versions, as well as unweighted neutral density patterns. Experiment with the buoyant blobs on different sinking lines for great movement that trout find hard to resist.

28 days ago
Did you like this post?
0
0
Comments
hefty trout
8 years ago at 01:40
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.
Reply
G Banks
8 years ago at 13:03
anywhere in Devon/Somerset or Dorset you can recommend for a bit of winter fly fishing?
Reply
Andrew Stayne
4 years ago at 05:38
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.
Reply
George Graham
3 years ago at 12:01
Tavistock fishery near Plymouth is a good venue. 5 small lakes to fish with various depths. see their web-site.
Reply
Peter T
1 month ago at 20:22
Sparse tied fly such as a small northern spider team using the line to create drift / swing on a windy day is a good option or fished under a floating terrestrial such as a dry hopper or daddy ( better then a bung as they catch more fish)
Reply
Leave your comment