Written by: Josh Berry, Lone Mountain Ranch
What do you call it when an Indian Summer continues into December? I’m not sure that there is a name for the unseasonable weather we have been experiencing here in Big Sky, perhaps an Indian Fall, but to the dismay of all of the ski bums in town, the warm weather and minimal snowfall have kept the rivers in prime condition. And the fish are hungry. Fishermen tend to daydream about 40-degree weather and sun while they are huddled inside by a fire trying to fight off cabin fever in the depths of winter, but for the time being, we can be out there chasing our finned friends without the worry of frozen fingers and toes.
On a recent outing to the Madison River, ranch crew members John McKinnie, George Pierce, and Clinton Walker found out why people will fish in the middle of the winter, warm weather or not. New to fly-fishing, Clinton was given a brief lesson on casting and getting a good drift with a nymph rig, and then went on to hook his first Montana trout on his third cast. All three of them left the river that day with multiple trout landed and smiles all around.
The modus operandi for most trout in the winter time is to find the refuge of deep, slow pools where they can get just enough food floating by while spending as little energy as possible. Warm weather and bright sun can drastically change this behavior though, and fish will move into shallower and faster water where they actively feed. It is not too uncommon to find pockets of fish that will hit your flies on every cast because they are feeding so hard, and this is why you will hear stories of how winter fishing can be some of the best all year.
So, what am I getting at here? Get out there and fish while the fishing’s good!
Josh Berry is a fly-fishing guide at Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, Montana.