Slow and steady is the mantra for winter fishing in the Bozeman, Montana area. The trout live in different water in the winter than they do in the summer. You want to find the slower pools or deeper, slower moving water. The trout are conserving their energy, working as little as possible when water temps are below 42 degrees. The only bugs hatching this time of year are midges, and they are sporadic and day-to-day.
You must fish slow and thoroughly. Where a trout may move 2-5 feet in the summertime, in the winter they hardly move to eat. Be sure to slow down, almost to a crawl. You may throw five casts in the exact same line and they will eat it on the sixth drift.
Most of our fishing is done with nymphs in the winter time. With the exception of midges, the trout won’t expend a lot of energy to come from the depths to eat a super small meal off the surface. You have to get down to them and put it right on their noses.
Winter nymphing for trout in the winter consist of many changes of depth, both on your indicator and adding and subtracting weight on your line. You want to tick the bottom of the river often, but not snagging up every cast. The trout are usually close to the bottom of the river and finding the sweet spot is the key.
You can have success with a variety of patterns of flies in the Bozeman area in the winter, but there are definitely some proven patterns that always seem to work. Here is a short list of flies we suggest:
Remember, the most important lesson is to fish slow and thoroughly. I don’t believe for this time of year the trout are all that selective. You just need to identify the proper winter time water for trout and get your flies in their face.