Strategies for fishing winter, low, clear class A water

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PaScoGi

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I've mostly fished (not stocked) class A small streams in central PA lately. I understand its not ideal but can anyone recommend how to go about fishing these waters? I am not talking about spring & summer when bugs are hatching, thats a different discussion. But what about winter? Here are the typical variables:

Air temp: 36 degrees
Water temp: 42 degress
Depth: Riffles about 8 inches (not plunge pools)
Misc: Crystal clear water, some logs & branches throughout stream, width varying from 6 feet to 12 feet.

I tried soft hackles, eggs, pheasant tails, black woolys. Using 7 1/2 foot 3 weight, 6 foot leader, 6x tippet.

Zero fish. Im really struggling, which is ok im just happy to be outside. But was wondering if its possible to catch wild brookies & wild browns in the winter.

Thanks for any help!
 
One good place to start is to try to fish small streams that are mostly, or all, Brookies. Brookies are much more reliable to still be induced into a strike in cold water than Browns.

Also, adjust where you expect to find fish. I don’t catch near as many fish in riffles, or pocket water or faster runs in Winter on small streams. They’re in the slowest water you can find…deep, slow pools and back eddies. I skip a lot of water when fishing in the Winter and cherry pick the deep slow holes. Then, just get your flies deep, fast. A heavy micro-Bugger works well for this, as do heavy tungsten nymphs. I most often fish a small, heavy Bugger, or an egg and stonefly pattern combo. Don’t be afraid to add some shot above your fly. Low, and slow.
 
Yes it's possible to fish the water in winter and catch wild fish, especially brookies. It may be less about what you use versus your presentation.

I'm not an adherent to the philosophy you need to super stealthy on these types of streams but I am an advocate on not being super CLUMSY. What that means is wade if necessary but don't go plunging into the water if it isn't required to make your presentation.

Keep you casts short and controlled and fish ALL spots where a fish will fit. You may be surprised WHERE they will hold at this time of year. The spots you neglect or walk thorough may be where they lie. Once you figure out the lie they like look for similar spots.

As far as flies go, I fish mostly nymphs this time of year with Prince Nymphs and Gold Ribbed Hares Ears being among my favorites, usually under an indicator on a 3X or 4X tippet.

Good luck!!
 
Also, adjust where you expect to find fish. I don’t catch near as many fish in riffles, or pocket water or faster runs in Winter on small streams. They’re in the slowest water you can find…deep, slow pools and back eddies. I skip a lot of water when fishing in the Winter and cherry pick the deep slow holes.

Seconded.

This time of year, unless I'm on a plunge pool brookie stream - like the one where a fish took the comically large chubby that was my bobber last week - I'm generally looking for the spots where I can see bottom well all around but then suddenly a hole or a channel is too deep to see the rocks. It's not always a deep, completely stagnant hole, but rather the very middle of slow moving areas in between riffles or seams. Where it's just deep enough and the water slows enough to provide a slight refuge, I often find fish there.

In my experience, fish are not spread out well, and a hole like this will often deliver a few that seem to be stacked up.
 
I've mostly fished (not stocked) class A small streams in central PA lately. I understand its not ideal but can anyone recommend how to go about fishing these waters? I am not talking about spring & summer when bugs are hatching, thats a different discussion. But what about winter? Here are the typical variables:

Air temp: 36 degrees
Water temp: 42 degress
Depth: Riffles about 8 inches (not plunge pools)
Misc: Crystal clear water, some logs & branches throughout stream, width varying from 6 feet to 12 feet.

I tried soft hackles, eggs, pheasant tails, black woolys. Using 7 1/2 foot 3 weight, 6 foot leader, 6x tippet.

Zero fish. Im really struggling, which is ok im just happy to be outside. But was wondering if its possible to catch wild brookies & wild browns in the winter.

Thanks for any help!
Low and slow. Feel for almost imperceptible pickups and you may be rewarded with some rather large fish.
 
Thanks all much appreciated!
 
They likely won’t be in riffles (shallows) in cold water unless there’s a hatch going on. The current speed is much faster in shallow water than at the bottom of deeper pools and runs so it requires more energy to sit there. In winter my go to is slow to medium water with some depth. Frequently at the interfaces between tailouts and pools does the trick.


Also for nymphing that small of water I’d encourage you to check out the mono rig.
 
Advice for fishing in the winter: Go on the warmer days, at the warmest time of day.
 
42 degree water temps are dang cold. Trout metabolism slows way down during periods of extreme temperatures on both ends of the spectrum. Still trout have to eat at some point. Action in the wintertime is always less than reliable and your best option may be to dredge large nymphs or buggers in slow moving pools.
 
Went out and fished a very small, mostly shallow wild brown stream yesterday evening. Air temp was about 60 (!!) but water temp was still very cold. I didn't even bother with the thermometer. It was cold.

Took the skunk with you in solidarity. Never even spooked one.
 
Stay home and paint the interior of the house, caulk the tub, clean the oven and take the better half to visit her mother so you will have no conflicts when the fish are a tad bit more cooperative.
 
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