Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Tip of the Week--Slow It Down

Guides love chucking and ducking streamers. We usually don't catch as many fish but the ones we do...oh, boy. The thing is that at this time of year trout don't like to chase because like I've said in previous tips, they don't like to work any harder than they have to for a meal. That doesn't mean they don't like an easy T-bone from time to time though, so if you can get it in front of them, they will eat the big stuff. This pig was caught a few years ago in February.

When I first started fishing the Mo, all we did was throw streamers and buggers. The idea was to get it up as close to the bank as possible and rip it back fast and hard and then get it right back in there so you can cover as much water as possible. When water temps are in the forties and fifties, that works well and you'll get them to come flying out of their pockets at a hundred miles an hour to try to kill whatever invaded their domain but when the water temps are still in the low to mid 30's, you really have to change up your approach.

We've already established that fish don't like the fast water in the winter so typically no matter how you're fishing it, whether that's nymphing or streamers, you're going to find more fish in the slower, deeper pools. Fish will probably be hanging a little deeper because the water at the bottom of the pools is a little warmer and doesn't fluctuate as much. If you are fishing these deeper runs, the faster you strip a streamer the less depth you'll get and fish aren't going to make the effort to come up for it. You could conceivably use heavier sink tips and weighted flies but the reality is, you still won't get down to them unless you let it sink.

They other thing is as that as the fly is swimming past them, they have to know it's going to be an easy meal. It's not a lot different than fishing for walleyes in cold weather. You want that bait to hang right in front of their nose so that they eventually decide that; yep, I'm going to eat that fricken thing. In fact, the presentation using streamers this time of year isn't that much different than jigging for walleyes when they are a bit lethargic. I like to let the streamer sink until I feel like it's right on the bottom and then just tick it back using no more than 6" strips--short little bursts, about 3 or 4 at a time and then let it sit for a couple seconds before for another 3 or 4 strips. Often times, that first strip after letting it hang for a second is when you feel them.

As for nymphing, the same principle applies. Too often I watch people drifting down stream chasing bobbers and the guy rowing is letting the boat drift so fast that the guys fishing have to be continually casting in order to stay out in front of the boat. What happens, is by the time their flies get down to where the fish are, they're already picking up to cast again and the trout never gets a chance to eat it. When you're fishing in the winter months, you want that fly to hang right in front of their noses as long as possible so they can decide to eat it.

The trick is having a fairly tight line underneath so that you're seeing the indicator move the very second the trout eats. You have to play around a little bit with depth and weight to achieve this but essentially you want enough weight to drop your leader directly under the indicator and just enough depth to run right along the bottom. If you're hitting bottom too often you'll need to shorten it up a bit but you should touch bottom every once in a while so if you're not, and your not getting fish, than go deeper. Just remember, fish aren't going to grab your fly and run with it and they're not going to move a lot to eat it so you have to be right on it when the indicator moves. You won't get a second chance in these kinds of conditions either.

Winter fishing can produce just as many fish as spring and summer. You're approach has to be a little different but when you get it all dialed in, you probably won't notice the cold if you're constantly fighting these wild Missouri River trout.

Keep 'em where they live...

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