Winter weekends are meant for sleeping in, slow coffee and – no, scratch that. Winter weekends are for chasing trout. Even in sub-zero temps, fish are still hungry and we still have the itch for that tug. So, as any weekend chase would go, we checked the fishing reports around the state, loaded up our rig and headed out with high hopes.
In southern Colorado, specifically, the San Luis Valley, the temps can be painfully cold. Typically, frozen fingers, frozen guides, and frozen waterways are a common occurrence from mid-December through late February or early March. So, fishing our local water (the Rio Grande) isn’t often in the cards. The good news: flowing water isn’t far away.
A “quick” 90 minute drive – a short hop and a skip in our world – produces some favorable results. But what are favorable results when your “norm” is frozen rivers or drowning worms in the local reservoirs?
Answer: See above.
Fish to net vs. cast to loss on the stretch of water we explored for the day was in our favor. Thankfully, rainbows, brown trout and even a hybrid cutty found their way to our nets that day. While most willingly gobbled up some hot head pheasant tails, others indulged in some dry flies, thanks to a small hatch happening mid-afternoon.
It’s weekends like this that remind me just how funny what we do is; this whole chasing fish “thing”. Think about it. You know your local water. You live it, breathe it, day in and day out. You know it’s going to shut you down come January; but the pull to fish is still so strong – especially when a new year means new fishing goals.
So, you find a fix. You adorne your waders and puffy jacket (in my case, Simms because, well, they’re incredibly cozy, reliable and everything I Need for winter wading), grab some celebratory brews (juuust in case), and go for it (hoping for the best, but always planning for the worst).
If you think your season is over this January, consider reconsidering. Here are 3 steps to finding fish this winter:
Step 1: Check the fishing reports.
The Orvis Fishing Report has reports from nearly every state in the country (via a local guide or fly shop for a specific waterway in that state). Check the report, grab your gear, and try your luck.
Step 2: Prepare properly.
Step 3: Hope for the best, plan for the worst.
If growing up as a navy chief’s daughter taught me anything, it’s to be prepared for just about anything and realize that some things don’t turn out exactly how you plan. I stock my fly box with everything from zebra midges to hot heads to small dry flies; you never know if a winter hatch is going to happen and if bait casters are slinging some bait nearby, you better be prepared with green weenies!
Based in southern Colorado, Ryan is a photographer, outdoorswoman, fish chaser, and proud mama to two wild Outdoors-loving kiddos. When not wrangling little ones or cattle dogs, you’ll find her on the water, on a trail or on the road looking for the next piece of water and (hopefully) high country trout.