Classic Tips: 5 Keys to Winter Streamer Fishing

Written by: Tim Linehan, Linehan Outfitting Co.

This Henrys Fork rainbow trout was worth cold hands and feet.
Photo by Mike Dawes, World Cast Anglers

If you’re heading out on the river to fish streamers in winter, you need to think a little differently. Here are a few of my best tips for adjusting tactics to score when the mercury is low:

  1. Keep Moving: Water temps are significantly lower in the winter, and fish metabolisms slow down considerably. Keeping this primary fact in mind, don’t get concrete feet. Covering water will increase your chances of finding a hungry trout.
  2. Fish streamers with less action; even dead-drifting them will pay dividends during winter conditions. Baitfish are commonly sluggish this time of year especially around and in cover, such as boulder gardens and rip-rap. Cast into cover or along rip-rap banks and let your bug dead drift instead of stripping immediately.
  3. Know where to look. Trout do not want to expend as much energy during the winter and will move out of faster currents. Look for fish in cover and especially in tailouts, soft runs, eddies, and slower channels.
  4. Be ready. Trout will short-strike during winter. Don’t assume that if you get a short strike the gig is up. Let the fly fall immediately. Don’t start increasing action on the fly as you would during summer/fall. Trout are often hanging just below the fly. They may believe they’ve stunned their prey, and will often make another grab shortly after or even pick the fly up off the bottom.
  5. Switch patterns frequently during the winter. Lighter colored flies typically work better in the winter But if you’re not getting strikes, change patterns.

Winter is different, so think differently when you’re stripping streamers in cold water.

Tim Linehan is the owner of Linehan Outfitting Co. on the Yaak River near Troy, Montana.

4 thoughts on “Classic Tips: 5 Keys to Winter Streamer Fishing”

  1. I agree that you should be very still when you fish steam. I think that it is important to be able to be still and quiet so you can catch the fish. I think that it is important to be able to learn how to do fish steaming well.

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