I’ve always had a hard time understanding what people mean when they use the term “off season”. The last two nights have been well in to the negatives, and that has helped me understand a little better why people clean up their fly rods and put them away for the winter. As I write this, it is currently -2 here in Rexburg, Idaho. When it that cold, I usually will not go out and fly fish. First and foremost, it can be very dangerous, especially if you are fishing alone. If you take a spill in the river when it is that cold out, you can get yourself into a troublesome situation very quickly. Secondly, exposing fish to subzero temperatures is not good for them. I don’t usually keep wild trout that I catch while fly fishing, so I always do what I can to safely release them. If the temp is -10 outside, that gets a whole lot harder to do. Eastern Idaho has some of the harshest winters around, but I am still a firm believer that there is plenty of good fishing to be had. The metabolism of a trout slows way down in the winter, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want or have to eat. Temps in the teens can be enjoyable to get out and fish in if you dress the right way. A couple days ago, Brent and I decided to head out and hit the Henry’s Fork. The forecast called for warmer temps (32 above zero vs -20) but it also called for a big snowstorm. You’ll rarely hear me complain about a good blizzard. A good water year makes for some excellent fishing, as well as healthy fish. When we arrived at the river, we quickly noticed it was littered with shelf ice.
Brent with a Beautiful ‘Bow
Brent was the first to hook in to a fish. As he retrieved his wooly bugger along the shelf ice, a willing trout came out and struck. Landing fish with the shelf ice can be a little tricky. Brent’s net made things a little easier. We continued fishing a while and eventually started working our way back down river. I hooked in to my first fish of the day, a little 14″ ‘bow. It wasn’t the big brown I was looking for but it sure felt nice to feel the tug on the fly rod again. It had been a while. The fishing was slow so we decided to head up to the Box.
Little ‘Bow…My First and Only Fish of the Day
The hike in encompassed so much of what I love about winter fishing. You are able to enter a world that few people ever get to experience. The solitude is refreshing. The snow was deep, but not to the point that it was uncomfortable. Brent brought snow shoes and that certainly helped the situation. We made it down to the river and there was not another soul in sight. We were both a little surprised considering how nice the weather was that day.
It didn’t take Brent long to hook into a fish. Small streamers were the name of the game. Over the next couple hours, the snow continued to fall, and Brent continued to catch a fish here and a fish there. I missed one small ‘bow but was unable to hook or land any more fish that day.
Brent with a Beautiful Hybrid
Falling Snow (Photo Courtesy of Brent at Uprising Blog)
Despite the slow fishing, it felt great to get out and on the river again with my fly rod in hand. There is something about standing in the middle of a river, casting a fly, and anxiously waiting for a fish to attack your offering. Winter fishing is a great way to ward off the cabin fever during the “Off Season”.