As winter persists and snow storms continue, many Utahns take advantage of the wonderful skiing and boarding opportunities. Not me, after a few years of tumbling down the mountain I retired in dramatic fashion and vowed to never ski again. It’s been four years since my retirement and I haven’t looked back. The retired life has been good to me and I have found my cure for seasonal depression on the river. Winter fishing is one of my favorite times to be out on the water with fewer crowds, amazing wildlife viewing, and sometimes a few good fish to admire as midges dance along the surface of the water. Finding these winter fish is much more enjoyable to me than barrelling down the side of a mountain strapped to a pair of 2x4’s.
Winter is one of my favorite times of the year to be out, as an angler and a guide I enjoy the peace and solitude of winter and the unique fishing opportunities it presents. Winter fishing can be mentally and physically taxing, especially in January, and it can be a difficult time to be on the water even for the most avid angler; 7X tippets, and size 26-32 flies. Adding to the difficulty, the trout, fresh off of the fall spawn, tend to be extra selective and easily spooked or flat out uninterested. This challenge is one of the things that makes this time of year and fly fishing in general so enjoyable. Working through these challenges helps throughout the year. While these challenges exist in January, once February rolls around this all goes out the window and the fishing starts to pick up as temperatures rise. With the improved weather we also see bigger bugs join the party which brings fish to the surface. This is the rise that really melts away the winter blues.
These bigger midges, often referred to as the "buffalo midge", are a favorite among local anglers and our local trout because it is the first large bug we see in the year. The buffalo midge is usually dark in color with large wings that form a hump down their back resembling a buffalo. They can usually be observed in the size range closer to 18s and 20s. These midges start to emerge in February and they’re the only bug that is a factor this time of year. It is around this same time of year that we also start to see the smaller midges that we’ve been straining our eyes to see come off in larger numbers, mate, and cluster together creating another large meal for the fish. Consequently, larger meals for the trout mean larger flies for the angler to tie-on and spot on the water.
Whether you are new to fly fishing or well experienced on the water this can be a great time of the year to tune up your skills. Working on your cast, drift, and fly selection can greatly increase your odds throughout the year. With an increase in opportunities this can be a great time to start dialing in these skills. Kigen and I love trying to match these new hatches and we are constantly collecting bugs, examining them under a microscope, and tying up new flies to match even the smallest details in these bugs. We take pride in our flies and invite you to come join us in some of our new fly/product testing. We also really enjoy working with guests on improving their presentations. With the fishing conditions improving, this can be a great time to work on dry fly or soft hackle techniques, and enjoy the beauty that surrounds the river. To encourage you to join us, Western Rivers Flyfisher's guide service is offering extended half day trips (about 6 hours, for $350 per trip, 1 or 2 anglers), with a hot meal provided on the river for the month of February.
If you’re like me and want to avoid the ski hill, or if you just need a break from torturing yourself on the slopes, come join us for some of the best dry fly fishing of the year. We look forward to getting out on the water with you.