So, what’s different about winter? The major differences are lower air temperatures and shorter hours of daylight. The major variable is precipitation. What does this mean in the stream? Rainbows are said to be happiest between 11 and 16 degrees Celsius. So, what if water temperature is lower?
The fish do feed but not as actively probably because invertebrate life slows down.
After the winter solstice, days lengthen, water temperatures start to rise and hopefully melting snow raises levels. One certainly observes more feeding activity.
Part of this may be because fish have spawned and now have the head space to concern themselves with other activities like feeding. I think it is more likely to be a case of increased invertebrate activity and hence availability as food.
I’m quite certain that flow rate is the most important variable influencing spawning, and insect activity.
I have watched portions of river come alive almost over-night as snow melts increasing the flow rate and depth. Water where one could not find a fish yesterday becomes active overnight and you may take a fish on every decent drift. Deeper faster water definitely caries more food items. I have seen mayflies hatching during a blizzard. (there was good flow)
Stream insect may well have deposited their eggs in the stream environment to lie waiting until water temps increase. Eggs are definitely always present in the stream beds. This becomes obvious when one sees how quickly the insect populations recover after extended low water periods.
At present, due to lack of snowfall we have low flow rates and lower stream levels with exceptional water clarity and a build-up of algae. Among the benefits of snowmelt, are that it arrives clean, over an extended period and scours the stream beds.
In other words, the odds are stacked against the angler. Two issues arise here: disturbing the water and revealing oneself. The solution encompasses stealth, patience and presentation. One must remove oneself from your quarry as much a possible by lengthening your leader and using flies that land gently, flies like the RAB or Cdc patterns. In shallower water the fish will be looking up and I doubt that a nymph would be necessary, the plop as it arrives on the surface may well scare the fish and then there is a need to clean one’s fly regularly because of the algal build up.
Slow down, watch.
You may well cast line onto bank, leave it, watch the feeding fish and present with one single sweep according to its rising rhythm.
Observation has revealed that the targeted fish may not be taking ones fly when you see the rise, they are actually drowning the fly and then quickly turn to eat it. A fish of a greater length than the depth of water it is taken from is certainly a trophy. Deeper pools offer refuge to larger fish. With decreased flow swinging a streamer becomes impossible and one may well have to animate ones fly by retrieving.
In still water, midges and snails take on more importance as food sources.
Trust that this gives readers something to ponder on and I hope that we receive good snowfalls before winter ends and you all come to visit the area.
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