Productive Fishing In the Midst of Winter
Article and Photos By: Owen Rossi (@nativerelease)
An Early Start
The day began with the unbearable sound of my alarm going off. However, instead of hitting snooze as I normally do, I shot right out of bed. It was time to go fishing. I grabbed a quick breakfast, packed up my gear, and headed out to a spring creek which I heard had some productive fishing this time of year. I was meeting up with some buddies of mine from Instagram who were far more experienced on this water than I was, so I was excited to see what advice they had in store for me.
After an hour of anxious driving, I arrived, rigged up, and headed for the stream. The first section we hit was fairly calm compared to the rest of the stream. My friends recommended throwing streamers here so I did just that. Howie, one of the friends I had met up with, suggested a retrieve with two quick strips followed by one long, slower strip. He said the quick strips imitate a fleeing bait fish, while the slower and longer strip imitates a baitfish that is “in the clear.” Despite seeing lots of fish, there was no success on the streamers. So, we switched tactics and headed up stream in hopes of finding hungry fish eager to take our flies.
Nymphing: A Confidence Game
After our failed attempts with the streamers, we turned to what many fisherman consider to be the most effective winter fishing tactic - Nymphing. Howie and Shane ran a euro nymph rig while I ran a standard double nymph rig under an indicator. Euro nymphing uses a longer rod, heavier flies, and a sighter line, which serves as an indicator. It was only about 15 minutes after we switched tactics that Howie’s sighter darted upstream. Fish on! We nervously watched as Howie fought the fish around all of the protruding debris in the run. Finally he played the fish to the net. It was a beautiful, wild brown trout. As the trout twitched in the net, we were all thinking the same thing, “Let’s get another!”
About thirty minutes after Howie's fish, I approached a slow pool that looked like it should be holding some hungry trout. I sent a cast into the the pool. My rig drifted for about 5 seconds before my indicator plunged beneath the surface. “Fish on!”, I yelled. I fought the trout for a few seconds until it popped off. I was bummed, but I knew this was a convincing sign for the rest of our day.
Switching Spots: A Saved Day
After a fish-less 30 minutes at our previous spot, it was time for Shane to head home. We walked back to his car, thanked him for coming out, and said our goodbyes. With more daylight left, Howie and I hopped in our cars and drove to a different section of the stream to finish out the day. This time, we threw a dry dropper rig. A dry dropper is essentially a dry fly with a small nymph tied beneath it. This is an extremely effective way to fish, as it reaches fish that are rising and also those that are feeding subsurface.
The spot was a bit of a walk from our parking spot, which only heightened my expectations. Howie threw a Stimulator with a small Scud dropped off the back, while I threw a size 18 Parachute Adams with a purple Zebra Midge as my dropper. Howie took the first cast at the hole and instantly hooked up! As I watched him strip in a small 8 inch brown, I saw a huge shadow dart out from beneath a rock, trying to attack the smaller fish. It was a massive 20+ inch Brown Trout! “Dude did you see that?!”, Howie yelled. I stood there with my jaw on the floor. A couple minutes passed and we eventually collected ourselves. Howie threw back in the hole and pulled out a couple more nice fish. We had finally found productive water!
The Icing on the Cake
Howie’s recent success at the previous pool really got my blood pumping. We were approaching the next hole and I knew it was my turn to fish. I slowly snuck up to the water, making sure I did not push a wake over any feeding fish. Prior to my first cast Howie told me, “If there’s one spot on this whole stream where we pull out a nice fish, it’s this hole.” So I sent a cast dead center of the stream right where I thought a fish would be holding. It was only a couple of seconds until I saw my Adams shoot under the water. “Set!”, Howie screamed, and just like that, it was fish on!
The fish took me on two nice runs and put a hell of a bend in my Orvis 5 weight rod. After fighting the fish for a while, I lifted my rod tip just enough to get his head out of the water and guided him right into Howie’s net. High fives and “Hell yeahs!” were exchanged before releasing the trout back to his home. Needless to say, we were stoked.
From then on we took turns fishing the hole. Howie’s first cast was a good one. We watched eagerly as his dry fly slowly drifted down across the water, but no takers. He wound up for a second cast and sent it dead center, much like mine. Almost immediately after hitting the surface his simulator shot under the water. I ran to get my net as I watched him carefully play the fish. This time it was a rainbow. I ran in front of Howie and waited until the fish was ready. The colors on this fish were unlike anything I had ever seen.
A perfect fish to end a perfect day.
Tight lines everyone!
Owen Rossi is currently a senior at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. When he is not in class - or on the field competing for Duquesne’s division one men’s soccer program - he is out on the many trout streams that Maryland has to offer. Owen is currently working on launching his very own fly fishing media brand, Native Release and will be interning for Flylords this spring. Give his work a look @nativerelease on Instagram.
Others featured in the story:
Howie Fischer: @howardtheduck23
Shane MacGregor: @bluelineshenanigans