Winter Midge Fishing
|Many fly fishermen refer to all tiny aquatic and terrestrial
insects as midges, but, strictly speaking, midges are aquatic insects. In
many areas midges constitute a major percentage of the trout's annual diet.
Anglers often miss out on significant midging opportunities because they
quickly become frustrated by the problems of limited tackle, flies or techniques.
Many anglers fail to appreciate how much most trout depend on midges. From the first time they feed on insects as tiny fry, through the remainder of their lives, trout in both streams and lakes learn to rely on midges as a food source. Midges often are the most abundant and most accessible of the annual aquatic trout foods, especially in stillwaters and slow- to medium- speed flowing streams. Winter fishing and midging are inseparable elements of a day afield.
In Colorado we are blessed with some of the best winter fishing in the West. If you have the inclination to get through the rigors of cold weather fishing -- frozen digits, biting wind and iced through guides -- you can have a chance at catching some big fish in relative solitude. The crowds of summer and fall are usually a dim memory come the end of November, and the river seems to regain that special feeling of calm and aloneness it loses with the summer crowds.
The best places to find the fish of winter are the great tailwaters of
the state. The Frying Pan near Basalt, the Blue in Silverthorn, the Williams
Fork near Hot Sulfur Springs, and the South Platte in Cheeseman Canyon
and Spinney Ranch are just some of the streams available. These locations
are special because the water comes out of the bottom of dams at a relatively
warm temperature. With this warmer flow (usually around 40 degrees) the
river will stay ice free for a certain length and will have a greater
concentration of food for the trout. As such, the fish will feed regularly
and generally grow year-round.
To be successful in midge nymph fishing you first must be able to spot
the fish. This is not to say you will catch nothing by blind drifting
through probable spots, but your chances are greatly increased if you
can concentrate on your quarry and observe their habits. Once you spot
your prey, usually in slow moving pools and eddies, find the closest spot
you can get without being spotted by the trout. Watch how he takes naturals.
Try to see the moment he opens his mouth; there will be a slight movement
and a white flash of his mouth closing. Locate where your fly needs to
land in order to get within an inch or two of the fish's head at about
the same spot where he just took the natural. Some times you can be off
the spot by mere inches and the trout will never even see your offering,
much less take it.
With a little forethought, a thermos of hot coffee, and thick wool socks, a winter outing can be the most rewarding of the year. You can find yourself alone in some of the state's best spots with big trout all around. By being quiet and stealthy you can observe these fish's habits and become more in tuned with your favorite prey. Get good at the finer points of winter fishing and you will be a better angler come spring. Bundle up, stay dry and enjoy the peace and thrill a cold day on the river can offer.