Winter Fly Fishing Tips

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Fly fishing in the winter can be a challenging and rewarding experience, yet it is often an overlooked time of year to target trout. There is a reason why late winter fly fishing is a favorite season for hardy anglers.  With the right approach and proper clothing, the angler seeking solace and a shot at some larger fish can have a great time while the crowds chase powder at nearby ski resorts.

Outlined below are some winter fly fishing tips to stay warm and comfortable while catching a few trout.

Clothing for Winter Fly Fishing

  1. In order to enjoy winter fly fishing, warm feet are a must. Start with some thin, breathable liner socks. Next, layer over those liners with a quality insulated sock made by Simms.  But make sure you don’t overdo it. If you overstuff your wading boot and your foot has no room to move, be prepared for it to turn numb in short order.
  2. Technical Capilene or merino wool long underwear will be your next clothing item needed to enjoy cold weather fly fishing.  Layer with a thin pair of breathable long underwear first, then add a pair of insulated fleece pants like the Patagonia R1 Pants.
  3. Your upper body should be layered similar to your lower extremities, a quality lightweight baselayer covered by heavier fleece.
  4. A wind and waterproof rain jacket is necessary to combat the elements. Nothing will end a winter fly fishing trip faster than becoming cold and wet.
  5. Your hat should be of a warm variety and a visor always makes sense on the water.  A tubular cloth Buff face shield will work to add warmth and block the sun.
  6. Breathable waders, heavy duty wading boots and a tight wading belt are essentials to comfort and safety on the river, regardless of if you’re fishing in the winter, spring or summer.
  7. Bring along a pair of fleece fingerless gloves and gloves with removable over-mitts for the coldest days. Patagonia’s Shelled Insulator Fingerless Gloves are a guide favorite.
  8. Hand and toe warmers can be advantageous on the chilliest days, pick some up at any of our Jans’ locations.

Tips for Catching Winter Trout

In some ways, winter fly fishing can be more consistent and even easier than fishing for trout in the summer. The rivers are low and the fish are very concentrated, making them easier to locate. Fly selection is usually not complicated and although trout do eat less aggressively in the winter, they still feed predictably.

  1. Time your fly fishing excursion with the insect activity on the river you plan to fish.  As a general rule, insects are most active when the water is the warmest.  Too early in the day and the river is covered by shadows and cold.  Likewise, in late afternoon when shadows begin to cover the water, consider heading for a nice warm fireplace instead. The best time to fish is when you will be the most comfortable, usually from mid-morning to late afternoon.
  2. Look for deep, slow moving water as most fish bunch up when the water temperature drops in early winter. They stay in these “wintering holes” until the water warms in the spring. When you catch a fish, chances are good there are many more in the immediate area. In winter, never leave fish to find fish!
  3. Strike at the slightest indication of a bite.  During the cold season, a trout’s metabolism slows to a point where takes can be very subtle. To determine whether you had a strike or if your nymph is hitting the bottom of the river, you must set the hook whenever your strike indicator hesitates.
  4. Small flies work well in the winter. Tiny midge and mayfly nymph patterns catch the majority of winter trout.
  5. Be patient.  Everything, especially knots and tangles, take longer to do and undo in the winter.
  6. Visiting anglers should always consider hiring a guide to improve their odds of winter fly fishing success.  And they’ll catch more trout when they hit the river on their own after a guided trip.

By following these simple tips, anglers can extend their fly fishing season and catch trout in the winter when the rivers lack crowds. Combining a ski vacation with a fly fishing trip is an excellent option in the Park City area on rivers like the Provo. The experts at the Jans fly shop can help you with selecting winter fly fishing gear and clothing.  If you left your gear at home and need some pointers and more advanced tips, book a guided fly fishing trip at

Brody Henderson, Content Writer