Fly fishers come out in the spring, casting their fishing flies out over water in the early morning sun. Often the streams are crowded not just with other anglers but with swimmers and tubers who scare away the fish. Finding that dream spot on a stream can be difficult but rewarding, and the dedicated fishers continue to cast their lines through the summer and fall. And when winter comes, that is the time to put away the fishing flies and wait for spring to return. Or is it?

The fish aren’t hibernating, so why should the fly fisher? There are fewer people on the river. The fisher doesn’t have to get out at daybreak, since even the fish know better than to be out when the temperature is near or below freezing. Instead, an experienced winter fly fisher will amble down to the river about midday, taking advantage of the brief window of opportunity to find the fish rising in sunlit pools.

Winter fishing usually calls for wet flies rather than dry. The fish are sluggish in the winter and don’t want to chase fishing flies, so it’s best to drop the fly right in front of their nose. Winter flies often have a brass bead so they can sink more quickly than glass or plastic fishing flies with lower densities.

Motion and color are important when choosing the right winter fishing flies. Materials like rabbit strips and marabou work well, as does anything that will catch the light. White and yellow are good colors, though black and red seem to work well too.

Use a hook with a large gap, such as a scud hook or a size 10-14 singer-style hook. Sparse fishing flies work better than denser patterns. Nymphs tied to a tapered leader are usually the preferred winter fishing flies. Attach a split shot 10 inches above and a strike indicator far enough up the line to keep the fly drifting just above the river bottom.

Winter fishing requires attention to more than just your fishing flies. Long periods in the cold, not moving, maybe even standing in the water, can bring hypothermia on quickly. Dress in layers and add more clothing than you think you’ll need. Mentally check your hands and feet throughout the day and if you start to lose feeling, it’s probably time to go in.

Winter fishing sessions are shorter than in other seasons; as little as an hour or two. Bring along the right fishing flies, the right techniques, and the right equipment and winter fly fishing can add a whole new dimension to your fishing experience.