1. A few years ago someone wrote a blog piece on winter fishing. I expected a piece on flies, lines and technique. What we got was a winter clothing shopping list right down to the PFD (personal flotation device). I don't believe the author even mentioned fishing!! I know that buying things is a big part of this sport for some people but I refuse to insult the rest. You already know how to dress - light and layered. You don't need me regurgitating any manufacturers Kool-Aide over the merits of one pair of fingerless gloves over another. You know what to do.
2. Stick to Tailwaters if you can. Tail waters are actually as important in the winter as in the summer. Their water temperature will be 5 to 10 degrees warmer than your average freestone which are down to the 32 degree range by now. Freestone fish are stressed fish and many will succumb if we have a bad winter. I leave them alone until the ice is off the rivers.
3. When to fish - I used to hit the river at sun up to be greeted with single digit temperatures, iced guides and lethargic trout. Yesterday I was in the water at NOON. The air temperature rose from around 12 degrees at 8am to the mid 20's by early afternoon. It was actually pleasant as I walked to my spot.
4. Where is the best water to fish? - The best water is the warmest (relatively speaking) water. Remember, in the summer the "top" of the river is the coolest and it will begin to warm up as one goes downstream. In the winter the opposite happens. That will give you a hint about where I was on the Swift yesterday!!
5. What technique to use? - Fish low, fish slow and fish small. You have to bounce small flies right off their snouts to get any action. I imagine a grid over the river surface and my goal is to fish that entire grid before moving on. No rocket science here, just keep your line short and cover the water. I find that bouncing your offering on the bottom is more effective than suspending it in the water column at this time of year. And don't go light with the tippets either. You don't want to play these fish to exhaustion. 5X is fine right down to size 24. I know some fish hawks who use it right down to size 30!!!!!
6. How did I do? - 4 bows and two brookies in about an hour. I had dinner plans latter that evening and I really wanted to be home by 3pm but I also wanted to go fly fishing so.....