As the snow starts to fly and the leaves drop to the ground, many people put away their fly rods for the season, not realizing that fishing continues to be good. In fact, the winter can produce fishing as productive as any other time of year with much less competition for the fish. A calm winter day with few anglers around can be a nice break from the crowds of summer and a good cure for cabin fever. With consistent flows, rivers do not freeze and fly-fishing is a possibility on most of our lower-elevation rivers throughout the entire year, including the coldest months.
The Provo River, both middle and lower sections, are great winter tail-water fisheries and access is easy year-round due to well maintained highways. Many tail-water fisheries are very productive in the winter because they have consistent water temperatures and flows. These conditions in turn favor large numbers of crustaceans (scuds and sow bugs) and midges, which are primary winter food sources for trout. The Provo is no exception, with excellent populations of both midges and sow bugs, and good numbers of scuds as well. Additionally, the brown trout in the river spawn in the fall and their eggs are available as a food source to the trout through the winter.
Typically in the winter fish will focus on subsurface food sources and as a result the most consistent method of catching them is strike indicator nymph fishing. Effective patterns imitate sow bugs, midge pupae, midge larva, scuds, mayfly nymphs and trout eggs. There are many commercial patterns available that effectively imitate these food sources. When conditions are right, midges can hatch in large numbers and fish may be found sipping them from the surface. Colder air temperatures mean that as insects hatch and hit cold air they are much slower to leave the water so fish can easily feed on them. When the fish are rising, a variety of common midge patterns will take fish.
A third option, throwing streamers, can be very effective at times, especially as the aggressive brown tout in the river finish their spawn. However, as the fish's metabolism slows down, so does streamer fishing.
When you fish in the winter there are a few things to consider that may not apply during the warmer months. First of all, you must keep yourself warm in order to enjoy your time on the water, which is not hard with the great fabrics and equipment available today. Layering is always the way to go so you can add or remove layers as temperatures rise or fall. Neoprene or breathable waders with enough layers underneath to insulate, fingerless gloves, and insulated hats are the norm.
Also different in the winter is the slower metabolism of the fish. Cold temperatures and fewer hours of daylight slows the fish down and as a result they may not move as far for food in the winter. Because of this, your fly must be right in front of the fish's mouth, and this can mean more casting than normal.
Finally, freezing air temperatures can form ice in your line guides and this can make casting difficult. Swishing your rod back and forth in the water or breaking the ice by hand will solve this problem.
Winter fishing on the Provo is a great option for many reasons. One of the most favorable things about fishing this time of year is that the crowds of summer are long gone. No more screaming rafters floating over you're hole or anglers crowding you to find a spot. You probably won't have the river to yourself, but pretty close. Another benefit to fishing this time of year is that the fishing can be just as good as any other time of year. Fish must feed year-round to survive and if you can figure out what they are feeding on, and get it in front of them, you can be successful.
Effective Winter Fly Patterns:
- Sowbugs in light and dark gray (#14s-#20s)
- Scuds in olive, gray, orange and pink (#12- #20)
- Midges (serendipity, midge biot, palomino midge etc. (#18-#24)
- San Juan worms (#10-#12)
- Glo Bugs (#14-#18)
- Griffith's Gnat (#16-#24)
- Midge Cluster (#16-#22)
- Fuzzball (#16-#22)
- Trailing Shuck Midge (#18-#24)
- Woolly buggers (olive, black, brown, white) (#2-#10)
- Zonkers (black, natural, olive, white) (#2-#8)
- Woolhead Sculpins (olive, black) (#2-#8)
- Clouser Minnow (brown/white, black, red/white) (#4-#6)
About the author: Kory Kapaloski manages guide service activities for Trout Bum 2, a fly shop located at 4343 N. Hwy 224, Suite 101, Park City. The shop is a convenient stopping place for tackle and always has the latest information on the Provo and other area waters. Call them toll free: 877-878-2862.