Fly Fishing Techniques
Catching Cold Water Trout
Tips, Techniques and Strategies for catching trout in cold water
Copyright 2015 James Marsh
If that is true, and it probably is with a some exceptions, I would think anytime you fished through the ice, you would be
fishing very cold water. I would also think this should clear up any thoughts as to whether or not fish will eat (bite) in cold
water. They obviously do. By the way, from now on when I refer to a certain temperature, to keep from repeating it many
times, it will be in terms of Fahrenheit.
Angie and I have fished many spring creeks in the middle of the Winter during cold weather. In most of those cases, the
water is rarely very cold. It usually comes out of the ground around 50 to 52 degrees. We have also fished many bottom
discharged tailwaters where the water is rarely very cold. If the water in the bottom of the lake or reservoir feeding the
tailwater is very deep, it is rarely colder than 39 degrees. Of course, in a spring creek or tailwater, on very cold days, the
farther downstream you fish, the colder the water gets. In the many limestone spring creeks we have fished during the cold
winter months, we usually didn't fish in the warmest part of the area of the underground spring itself. We usually fished
water downstream of the springs that's normally in the forty degree range. The exact temperature of the water depends on
the size of the spring, how cold the air is, and if more springs exist along the way. Tailwaters are very similar to the spring
creeks with respect to the changing water temperatures downstream. The downstream temperatures depend on the extent
the water is being released (how much), the size of the stream, just how far downstream you fish, and just how cold the air
is. In other words, spring creeks and tailwaters can get quite cold a good ways downstream from the source of water.
The freestone streams have the coldest water during the winter months. It can be as cold as about 33 degrees and of
course, if it gets any lower, it will begin to freeze. Freestone streams are always the toughest types of streams to fish during
the winter months. The temperature of the freestones is in direct relationship to the air temperature. The changes in
water temperature take place much slower than the changes in the air temperature but the air temperature is what changes
the water temperature.
I'm not going into details about what we have caught in spring creeks, tailwaters or freestone streams when the water was
cold, but over the years, we have caught well into the thousands of trout from all three types of trout streams. Since we
have always captured all of our fishing on video, we have always logged it by time-code. Anytime we fished very warm or
cold water, we recorded the temperature of the water. That's one of the first things we do. Water temperature is the third
blank on the stream journal form we use which stays on file with the video logs. Anytime the water temperature is fairly high
or low, and anytime we are trying to determine the status of a hatch, we take the water temperature. By the way, you should
do the same thing. Recoding the temperature on video is easy. We just make a note of it by speaking into our remote mikes
and sometimes, recording a thermometer on-camera.
There were numerous times we have fished very cold water during our many trips to the western, mid-western and northern
sections of the country. I hope you don't take this as boasting, but we have fished 92 of the streams in the "Trout
Unlimited Top 100 Trout Streams" book. In addition, we have fished more than five-hundred other trout streams in the U.S.
During the fall and late spring trips to some of those areas, we ran into situations where the water temperature was in the
forties and sometimes the high thirties. We have been to Utah, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho in late Spring (one year in
late May and two other years in the very first part of June) when we encountered some very heavy snows, very cold
weather, and very cold water. We always caught plenty of trout in the cold water when that happened. The main reason for
the cold water in Colorado and other Rocky Mountain streams in April and May, and even June in some locations, is the fact
they get most of their water from melting snow. You can be fishing Rocky Mountain streams when the air temperature is in
the seventies, eighties and even the low nineties, when the water temperature is in the low forties due to melting snow.
The freestone stream's water temperatures vary greatly depending on the elevation. On one trip we ended up fishing in two
feet of snow during the second week of June. Even in Yellowstone National Park, it can snow a lot and get extremely cold as
late as the first part of June. Even during the first of July, the water is still in the high thirties and low forties in some streams
in the park. I'm not referring to the runoff period. Even during the first of July, the early morning air temperature in West
Yellowstone is usually only in the high thirties.
One cold water fishing trip that will always stand out in my memory took place on the Little Pigeon River a couple of miles
above the Sugarland area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We choose a lower elevation that day because it was
cold and we knew the higher up the river we went, the colder the water would be. Looking back at the video logs of that trip
shows the date was February 11th, 2006. The water temperature was 43 degrees. We started fishing about 11:30
according to the notes.
Angie took the first shot at fishing and according to the video log and journal, she used a hook size 18 Hares Ear Nymph.
That was before Perfect Fly. She caught twenty-seven (27) wild rainbows that day, all in that same section of the stream
and although we didn't note it on the journal, I still can remember that she caught as many as three or four out of the same
small pools in several different areas along the stream. She fished for about four hours. There was nothing hatching. I
didn't note as much as seeing any midges. I never fished that day. I just kelp running the video camera and letting her fish.
That section of that stream has a lot of short plunges and some small pools. I didn't note the method she used, or look up
the video to watch it, but she usually casts the fly in the head of the small pools and lets it drift all the way down the pool
until it starts to hang on the bottom. There are many, many other times both she and I have caught a lot of trout from cold
water, and water even colder than that. As mentioned above, we have made many trips to destinations at times when we
didn't have any choice. Most of our trips lasted from two weeks to about two month or longer, and if it was cold, we fished.
We were making videos on fly fishing and taking samples of the aquatic insects. In other words, we were working, not just
fishing for fun and we made the best of whatever conditions we faced. It didn't take long for us to learn how to catch trout in
cold water simply because we had to. As I will mention later, that is the problem most guys have. They don't catch trout in
cold water because they don't make enough effort to learn to do it. You won't catch any sitting on the couch in front of the
First, you need to understand, there is nothing constant about dropping water temperatures. There's a very steep curve
representing the decline in the way the fish react and feed from water that is 40 degrees down to 35 degrees. The changes
that occur as the water becomes colder and colder are exponential. At 35 degrees the fish may not even be able to survive
very long. I do know largemouth bass won't survive very long at that water temperature. I'm not sure about trout because
I've never been able to test that or find where anyone else has. The differences in the temperature range I just mentioned
are huge. It's probably ten times the difference in how the change affects trout in the 5 degree increment from 45 down to
40 degrees. I'm not referring to the amount of food the fish will eat. I'm referring to the behavior of the trout, how far they will
move to eat and other factors that affect catching them. The amount of food the trout eat in cold water versus warmer water
isn't really a direct factor in catching them. Fishing for fish you can't see that are holding in isolated areas in deeper water,
and often on the bottom in areas beneath fast water where the current is slow, slows the presentation process down and
reduces your ability to always get a fly in close to the trout like it must be presented to get them to eat it. They only need to
eat one fly for you to catch them and if presented right, they will do that in cold water.
I will also mention that some anglers will content that trout in different areas of the country will respond differently in cold
water. That's simply not true. There's no difference in the fish themselves. They all go though a slack feeding period when
the temperature changes drastically and that can make it seem that they react differently at times. The most noticeable
difference in how the trout react comes with varying amounts of food available for the trout to eat. To put it in simple terms,
when there's plenty of food readily available, the trout will eat even in water in the high thirties. They will respond to a Little
Black Caddis hatch, Blue winged Olive hatch or Western March Brown hatch in water in the mid forties just like they will
respond to a hatch that takes place in water that's in the low fifties.
As mentioned before, when nothing is hatching or readily available to the trout that's about to hatch, it is more difficult to
locate trout. They stay out of the current in isolated locations that not only are not easy to find, but are also not easy to fish.
By that I mean it's not usually easy to control the speed of the presentation. These areas are often beneath fast moving
water behind underwater obstructions that block the current. The upper current will pull the fly through the slower water
below it too fast. The fly (nymph or larva) needs to move at the same speed of the current. You also have to present the fly
close to the fish. They won't chase down a fly in very cold water. This makes it more difficult to find and catch trout, but by
the same token, when you do find them and establish a pattern as to how to catch them, you can sometimes catch more
than you can when the water temperature is optimum, smack in the middle of what's sometimes incorrectly called the trout's
comfort zone. The lack of success in catching trout in cold water is a result of the lack of knowledge and ability of angler,
not the water temperature.
One very important thing to be aware of is how rapidly changing water temperatures affects fish. To make this simple,
there's a certain amount of time it takes for a fish to adjust to a sudden change in water temperature. I still wonder
exactly what it is that causes fish to slow down their consumption of food and in some cases, stop eating for a short period
of time following drastic changes in water temperature. I'm not sure why this occurs and I'm not certain anyone else does.
My guess is, that since fish are cold blooded and their body is going to eventually be about the same temperature as the
water surrounding them, the change in temperature probably takes some time for their bodies to adjust to the change. Us
humans (warm blooded animals) feel the change instantly because we feel "cold". We feel the difference in 98.6 degrees
and whatever the air temperature is. Fish don't feel a difference. They don't feel cold in the same manner us humans do.
When a cold front passes through an area that's strong enough to drastically and abruptly drop the water temperature
several degrees, it always causes a short pause in their intake of food. By the way, the same thing is true when the exact
opposite thing occurs and the water temperature increases. The time factors are different, however. The length of time this
"delay" takes place depends on just how much the temperature changes, the species of fish, and most importantly, the
beginning temperature from which the change occurs. It is usually only a few hours. For example, In the case of largemouth
bass, if the water the bass are surrounded with drops from 60 to 55 degrees within two or three hours, it seems to slow
down their intake of food for about an hour or two following the change. From 60 to 50 may slow things down for about
three hours. I'm not saying they won't eat anything because they will still obviously eat some, but there will be a noticeable
change. If the change takes place over a period of 4 hours and reduces the water temperature from 60 to 45, it will slow
things down for as much as 4 hours. After this slowdown transpires, the fish seem to resume their normal eating habits. I
mention this, because if you are fishing immediately after a sudden drop in the water temperature, you should be aware
that the fish will adjust and soon begin to feed on a normal basis. Although when they resume eating the total amount of
intake of food will be less due to their lower metabolism, they will still eat far, far more than it takes to catch them. How much
food they consume is completely irrelevant. The key to it is the fish won't expend much energy eating. They won't chase
down baitfish, for example. Remember too, that the drop in water temperature also affects their food. Minnow and baitfish
also become much less active. The food must be close by for them to eat it. This is necessary for their survival. They can't
expend more energy than they are able to replace.
Here is another misunderstood and very important point that relates to fish eating in cold water. As mentioned, if the food is
easy for them to acquire, they will still continue to eat it in the cold water. In fact, they will gain weight and continue to grow if
enough food is immediately available. If the food isn't available, they can survive a relatively long time without eating
because they don't need the food for energy. Trout that live in spring creeks that's 50 degrees year-round with a high pH
and lots of food can grown to huge sizes simply because they have plenty of food to eat?
I cannot possible pinpoint the location of trout holding in cold water (say below 45 degrees) using general terms or
descriptions of the stream. I cannot pinpoint their location by saying they are in the pools, or the bottom of the runs, or the
deep pockets, or any other type of description I use. I can't even pinpoint them by saying they will be holding in the heads
of the pools, the deeper water in the middle of the pools, the tail-end of the long runs, the pockets behind huge boulders, or
any other general description I can come up with. By carefully studying a stream (without allowing the trout to see you) and
using common sense, you can eliminate at least half of, and often as much as seventy-five percent of the area of the
stream. Trout will not be holding in fast current if the water is very cold. They won't even hold in what's usually described
as moderate current. If they did they would expend more energy than they could replenish with food. They will only hold (for
any substantial length of time) in water that's almost still or moving slowly. The trout will not be holding in shallow water, at
least they won't during the day when much light is available. Cold water is clearer than water at higher temperatures
because it holds less suspended particles. The trout seek depth for protection from overhead predators. They do not seek
the depth for purposes of being in warmer water. Unlike fish in deeper lakes,that stratify, excepting insignificant differences,
the water temperature is basically the same throughout the stream from its bottom to the surface.
The above statements, which can be lumped under two categories, depth and current speed, automatically eliminate most
of the water in a stream. The complication comes from the fact that slow moving water is often below fast moving water.
Because fast moving water that isn't flowing very smoothly conceals your view of what's below it, it's often difficult to visually
determine if the water near the bottom is moving fast or slow. Even if it happens to be moving very slowly and is the perfect
holding place for trout in cold water, presenting a fly to the trout slowly, below fast flowing water is difficult. Unfortunately,
this is often exactly where the trout are holding.
So far, I've just pointed out the complexities and the problems involved in catching trout from cold water. Now, I will get into
some of the methods and tactics of presenting flies in cold water. Almost everyone will tell you to fish the deepest water
available, but that isn't always the best thing to do. It depends on the stream. When the water is very cold, lets say less than
45 degrees, trout don't necessarily get in the deepest water that's available. That doesn't offer the fish any advantage. The
water temperature isn't any warmer at the bottom and they don't need the extra depth for protection from their predators.
I'm pointing this out to make sure you don't think I'm implying that trout will seek the deepest water in the stream. The depth
they choose is more a product of the amount of light penetration and speed of the current. The light conditions are
controlled by sky conditions, shade of trees, etc., and water clarity. If the water is very clear, still or moving slowly, and it's
up in the day and the skies are clear, the trout will tend to hold in deeper water. The only thing that will change this situation
is a concentration of food and again, that's the exception, not the rule. A developing hatch is the only thing that's going to
create a larger concentration of insects. When the water temperature is less than 45 degrees, there's very few insects that
hatch in freestone streams. A few stonefly species, some species of Blue-winged Olives and midges represent the majority.
As mentioned several times, the speed of the water is usually the controlling factor. Finding still or slow moving water in a
pocket-water stream isn't as easy as it appears to be. As already mentioned, that's because slow moving water can be
found beneath fast moving water on and near the surface. When the surface of the water is rough, meaning not smooth
and slick, your view of what's below the surface is distorted. The trout's view of what's above the water through their
relatively small window of vision is also distorted by the rippled surface. That helps to keep them hidden from predators and
it helps you get closer to them. Trout will hold below fast water with a rough or rippled surface. They will also hold under
plunges with lots of bubbles on the surface. Just because the surface of the water is rough and moving fast, doesn't mean
that all the water below the surface is moving fast. There can be very slow moving water below fast surface water. It can
even be moving in the opposite direction of the surface water - an underwater eddy. It's even possible that there's slow
moving water two or three feet below a plunge at the head of a pool.
If the surface of the water isn't broken, meaning it's flowing slow and smoothly, using polarized glasses you can see the
bottom of deep water on a clear day, provided the water is clear. If you carefully examine the water from a low vantage point
below the trout's line of vision, you can see trout that may be holding in the deeper water. They are not easy to see, but
once you get use to what to look for, you can spot them if they are there. It's areas of water that's below the fast water with
a broken or rippled surface that's hidden from your view.
If the bottom of a stream is relatively flat, the speed of the water on the bottom is usually close, but a little slower due to
friction, to the speed of the water near the surface. If you fished the deep water on the bottom of such an area that's
relatively flat when the water is very cold, you would be fishing an area that probably wasn't holding any trout. It depends on
the stream's bottom configuration, but you may well have to fish a long time before you get lucky enough to be presenting
your fly in an area of water that's moving slow enough to hold cold water trout. To offer someone such advise as to "get
your fly on the bottom of the stream" is really worth very little. It doesn't eliminate much water.
Any upstream obstruction on the bottom of any particular area of a stream causes a change in the speed of the water on or
near the bottom. For example, the water down in smaller size holes in the bottom surrounded by water that's shallower than
the hole is usually still or moving slowly. More often, slow water on the bottom of a stream is caused by the same thing that
causes it to move slowly on the surface of a stream - upstream obstructions. Picture a typical large boulder that protrudes
above the surface of a fast water stream. The water has to flow around it, usually around both side of it. The water behind it
ranges from almost still to moving slowly, and sometimes, even in the opposite direction. In other words, it is obvious there's
a small "pool" behind every large boulder in the stream that protrudes out of the water. What isn't so obvious is the fact
there's also a slower moving area of water downstream of every large boulder that's below the surface of the water.
In the above scenario, I used a large boulder to help illustrate a place that the speed of the water changes; however, it
doesn't take a large boulder to do that. Every rock that protrudes above the bottom of a stream creates the same situation.
It doesn't take a very large rock to create a "volume" of slow moving water that's large enough for a trout to hold in when the
water is very cold. Again, if there's enough light and the water is clear, you can spot these underwater obstructions but only
if they are under water that's relatively smooth. You can't see these types of obstructions under fast water with a broken
In some cases, large boulders that protrude out of water create a deep enough pocket of slow moving water to hold trout in
cold water. Holes behind large boulders are worth fishing if they are deep enough to give the trout protection from
So far, everything I have written disregards the different species of trout. The areas of water that rainbow trout will hold in
are different from the areas of water larger brown trout will hold in. The smaller browns don't vary greatly from the rainbows,
but once they reach about a foot long, they change their eating habits. You will also find that brook and cutthroat trout will
hold in different areas of a stream than either of the other two species. Generally, the larger brown trout will get up under
obstructions to not only get out of the current, but also to hide and seek their prey. Rainbows and small brown trout aren't
prone to "hide" in the same manner as the larger brown trout.
Presenting a fly in deeper water in precise areas of a stream takes time. It isn't as fast of a process as presenting a dry fly
where you automatically eliminate one dimension or depth. Much of the water is eliminated by simply fishing the runs and
riffles. Those areas of a stream are very obvious. The areas you need to cover on the bottom of the stream with your fly
cannot be covered nearly as fast and may or may not be visible. Yet another simple reason for this is the fly should move at
the same speed of the water on the bottom and in the case of fishing cold water, it should be moving slow or you will
otherwise, be waisting your time.
Fishing a run or riffle with a dry fly on the surface, or using a nymph is a much faster process. I'm pointing this out for one
reason. In order for you to be able to catch a decent number of trout from cold water, you have fish exactly where the trout
are holding. You can't catch many trout waisting a lot of time fishing a slow moving fly in water that isn't holding any fish.
Knowing exactly where the trout are holding is the key to it.
Finding the trout is like the "which comes first, the chicken or the egg" deal. In most cases, you have to first catch one to
find them. Although it's certainly possible to target fish you can visually spot holding in deeper water, unless you are
purposefully using that strategy, you are otherwise fishing for trout you can't see. Once you find the trout, catching them
can be relatively fast. It's very possible to catch just as many or more trout from cold water as it is from water that's in the
so-called ideal temperature range. The problem isn't near as much getting the trout to eat your fly as it is putting your fly in
the immediate vicinity of trout. If you spend more time looking for the right areas of the stream to fish and less time casting,
you will usually be far better off. It isn't the number of cast you make that will determine your success. It's exactly where and
how they are made.
In many sections of a stream where you can stay hidden from a higher vantage point, you can eliminate as much as
ninety-five percent of the water within your sight. There may well be only one place in a thirty or forty yard long section of
stream that would hold trout if the water is cold. There's usually more than one and sometimes several, but the point is you
need to carefully select the areas where you spend your time fishing. If you can visually locate areas of water that are likely
areas the trout are holding, you will be much better off fishing them than those areas of slower moving water that may be
hidden beneath fast water.
Fishing areas of slow moving water beneath fast water is a trial and error process. I'm not saying you shouldn't fish them.
I'm just pointing out that when you do, you will probably be spending some time searching for the right water. You will have
to fish some areas that doesn't have slow water beneath the fast water to find those that do. Furthermore, the techniques
and methods you have to use to present your fly at a slow speed under fast water requires far more skill than fishing areas
of water moving slow on the surface as well as the bottom. Now that I have written that about fishing slow water beneath fast
water, let me also point out that the more you go through the trial and error process of fishing below fast water, the more
you will begin to be able to recognize the areas that have slow water beneath the fast water.
One good thing about fishing cold water is the fact that you usually don't have to worry about other anglers. There's usually
very few anglers fishing. In many cases, you will probably be the only one fishing. You may be able to just look for and fish
areas that are obvious and not under fast water.
Experience is a big advantage in fishing cold water, not so much in the sense you may be thinking, but in knowing exactly
where to fish. Once you have located and caught trout holding in cold water, you will be able to return to the same spots
later and catch trout. You will even be able to catch trout from the exact same spots you caught them in previous years. If
the stream conditions are near the same, you can count on the trout being in the same locations.
So far, I have only written about the fact that slow moving water that's underneath fast moving water is difficult to fish. The
subject of water hydraulics isn't easy to describe with words alone, but you can surely visualize that only the configuration of
the bottom of the stream affects the difference in the speed of the current near the top of the water versus the speed of the
current on the bottom. I mentioned that if the stream's bottom is relatively flat, meaning it is without holes in the bottom
and/or rocks and boulders that protrude up off the bottom, the water on the bottom of the stream will be flowing almost the
same speed as the water on the surface. Friction slows it down a little, but usually not enough to hold cold water trout. I'm
mentioning it again to illustrate the point that only holes, drop offs, and obstructions in the water (rocks,boulders) change
the speed of the current substantially.
When your fishing a nymph or larvae in a run near or on the bottom, you will frequently be confronted with different current
speeds at different depths of the water. The water doesn't have to be cold for this to be of concern. Being able to present a
fly at the same speed of slower currents underneath faster surface currents will improve your fishing anytime your fishing
deeper runs. If your fly passes a trout holding on or near the bottom in slow moving water at a much faster speed than the
current the trout is in holding in, the fly will probably tend to spook the fish. Nymphs and larvae don't travel downstream
faster than the current. They don't swim. They crawl on the bottom or if they are up in the water column off the bottom a few
inches, they drift at the same speed of the current, not faster than the current. Wild trout spend their entire life observing
the nymphs and larvae on the streambed. Your not going to fool very many trout into taking your fly for the real things if it
isn't acting like the real things. Again, I remind you to keep in mind that in cold water, the fly needs to be presented very
close to the trout. Trout are not going to chase down their food in water that's very cold. They need little food to survive and
they will only eat what's easy for them to acquire.
Now that I've roughly summarized the reasons you need to learn to fish slow water beneath fast water, the question some
of you probably have is "how do you go about accomplishing that"? The solution is to keep the fly line, leader and tippet
upstream of the fly that's on or near the bottom. That's all you need to do; however, that's like saying all you need to
do to win a race is go faster than everyone else.
The best method to use to accomplish this is called "high sticking". The problem is "high sticking" only works in certain types
of water and only under circumstances where you can stay hidden from the trout that are fairly close to you. There's many
situations where this method of fishing won't work. It won't work in deep water or water too deep to wade. It won't work in
very strong currents where wading is difficult. It won't work in situations where you cannot stay hidden from the trout. In
these situations, there are other methods of fishing that will work.
First of all, don't be shy about adding weight to the tippet. Crimp on enough split-shot weight to get the fly down on the
bottom quickly. I place it about six or eight inches above the fly. I also tend to use multiple lead split-shots instead of one
large one simply because you can adjust the weight by adding more smaller size split-shot. With large ones, if you put too
much one, you will damage the tippet removing it and have to start all over. Also, be sure you don't crimp the split-shot on
too tightly. You will tend to flatten out the tippet and weaken it. The size of the tippet should be based on the size of the
fly your fishing, but always as light as you can get by with.
When your "high sticking", the fly line shouldn't ever be lying on the water. The purpose of the method is to keep the fly line
off the water. Neither should the leader be lying across the water. Ideally, the short amount of fly line that's out of your
guides, the entire leader and the tippet should all be in a straight line from the tip of the rod to the fly. The presentation is
made up and across the current. Notice I didn't use the word vertical, I used the word straight.
If the current on the surface is moving very fast, the very first thing you want to do after the fly hits the water is move the tip
of the fly rod upstream of the fly as far as you can reach your extended arm. You adjust the extent you reach upstream
depending on the depth and speed of the water and the speed at which the fly sinks. Get it on the bottom fast as you can
without using a cannon ball for a weight.
With your polarized glasses, you should be able to clearly see the angle at which the leader is headed into the water as
opposed to the section of the leader that's out of the water. You want to keep the part of the leader that's above the water
upstream of the fly Remember, even if the leader is perfectly straight, there will always appear to be a bend in the leader
due to the refraction of light. If you don't understand what I mean by that, just stick the tip of your fly rod down in the water
about two or three feet and you will see this bending I'm referring to. The bending appearance is due to the difference in
the speed of light through water versus air. Don't let this optical illusion affect how the leader is headed into the water.
If the part of the leader in the water appears to be bend upstream of the section of the leader above the water, the fly is
obviously upstream of the point the leader enters the water. That isn't good. You want just the opposite of that. You want
the fly downstream of the point the leader enters the water. You can control this with the tip of the fly rod. You want the rod
tip to follow the fly as it drifts downstream, but you should always keep the rod tip well upstream of the fly. If you don't
control the speed of the drift with the rod tip, the fast current in the upper water column will pull the leader, tippet and fly
downstream faster than the current on the bottom is moving. Swing the rod tip downstream slowly, much slower than the
current on the surface is flowing.
You can determine the speed of the current on the bottom by the angle of the leader in the water versus the angle of the
leader above the water. If the water on the bottom is moving at the same speed as the water on the surface, you will see a
big bend in the leader at the point it enters the water. If the water on the bottom is moving much slower than the surface
water (which is the ideal condition you are looking for when you fishing cold water) the obvious "bend" or angle of the
leader at the point it enters the water will be much less.
With a little practice and experience at doing this, you can easily determine the difference in the speed of the water on the
bottom versus the surface. You can control the speed the fly is drifting downstream irrespective of the uppermost current.
This enables you to present the fly to trout holding in the slow water on the bottom at the same speed of the water on the
bottom. Even if the current on the bottom is moving fast, keep the speed of the drifting fly slow. At any point during the drift,
the fly may drop down into a hole where trout are holding, or it may go around a large rock on the bottom that has slow
moving water behind it where trout may be holding out of the current.
There is another problem for many when they are fishing cold water. It is a physiological factor. You can't catch trout from
cold water if you are cold. Being cold hinders your ability not only from a physical standpoint, but also from a mental
standpoint. You need to make certain you dress adequately to stay warm and comfortable. The problem with this is that if
anglers becomes "cold" and uncomfortable when they are fishing during cold weather, in spite of how unrealistic it is, they
have a strong tendency to think the fish are similarly affected by the cold and won't eat. Although it shouldn't, it's just a fact
it tends to affect their confidence. When you start losing confidence, you begin to lose your ability to concentrate. When
you lose your ability to concentrate, it greatly lessens your ability to catch trout. Losing confidence greatly affects your
ability to perform well at anything. Self confidence is a huge key to success regardless of what it is your trying to do.
Another huge factor is that when you are presenting flies to trout in cold water, you will be doing so in slow moving or still
water, or you won't be catching any. Under those conditions, the trout will be able to get a very good look at your fly. The
more the fly resembles the nymphs and larvae they are accustom to seeing and eating, the higher your odds of success.
One reason for our success in fishing cold water is our Perfect Flies. They are not only far superior to the generic trout flies
in matching the naturals from an appearance standpoint, they are far more imitative of the behavior of the naturals. Anglers
that fish clear, slow moving spring creeks are discovering this faster than other types of anglers, but anglers from coast to
coast are rapidly discovering the flies offer a distinct advantage in any type of water.
January, 2015 Issue
should probably start by defining exactly what I mean by cold water. I guess you could say ice is cold water, but you
can't fish in ice, of course, and if you could, you would be fishing for dead fish. You can fish in water through ice.
Interestingly, I read that the warmest water gets in a lake or reservoir underneath ice is 39 degrees Fahrenheit.