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wm1miller
12-04-2009, 06:27 PM
I would like to start a conversation here on fishing our tailwaters in the winter.

I know that there are a lot of experienced fly fishers on this forum and I would appreciate your input. I have always heard that the bigger fish are caught in the fall or winter.

I have learned enough to catch trout regularly in the spring, summer and fall, but do not have any experience for winter fishing the tailwaters.

I am interested in wade fishing, but if you are a drifter, please feel free to comment.

Not looking for where to fish, but how to fish, when to fish, what to use, etc.

All help and comments appreciated.

William

silvercreek
12-04-2009, 07:47 PM
William, check out Byron's 12/01/09 fishing report. I have not done this but was with a guy who was years ago. One of two things will happen: nothing or a shattering take that threatens equipment. We are talking heavy leaders, bass type flies to imitate shad fished in deep holes as the last foot of water is dropping. He was using a floating imitation stripped across the water. You'll see crippled shad on the top of the water. Regards Silvercreek

David Knapp
12-04-2009, 07:58 PM
In addition to floating on high water and throwing streamers, the cold months are a great time to sight fish to large fish with midge patterns. The larger fish are hungry and will cruise while they feed. Once you figure out where the fish are, keep going back and you will eventually find them out feeding...big fish on small flies is a lot of fun! For this type of fishing, you will spend a lot of time looking and not always actually fishing...

Hugh Hartsell
12-04-2009, 08:10 PM
Wm,
I will get the ball rolling about wintertime fishing on tailwaters and tell what I have experienced for the last 2-3 weeks and others will chime in and give their wisdom as to what they have seen in the past.
At the moment , we are in a transition stage on most streams and each one will be different according to their respective water temps and flows. The South Holston is into the beginning of the brown trout spawning season and there is still a good Mayfly hatch taking place on it. Good fly selections would be Sulfur or BWO imitations with Stripper Midges used as droppers. Egg patterns or large shad imitations for the big browns are also good. As the temps drop even more the Shad imitations will become more important. The small midges also become more prevalent.
The Watauga River still has some BWOs hatching and the Stripper Midge worked well yesterday even though the fish were pretty small. Split Case PMDs have fished well in deeper rougher water too.
The Holston below Cherokee is just coming back into it's own and good Caddis hatches are still taking place up high at the moment. BHPTN are fishing well and Blackflies will become predominate as the temps get colder. As the temps get real cold and shad start pouring through the turbines,get ready to strip some big shad patterns for very large fish. Most of the fish survived this year and the fishing should be real good thru the winter. As the temps get real cold deep into the winter you will see the Blackfly and Creme Midges become the most active hatches.
Good luck,
Hugh

Varmitcounty
12-04-2009, 08:21 PM
You would do well to take Hugh's advice...I trust his angling judgment without question.

I use a weighted zebra midge most of the time in the winter unless something is going on that dictates another fly. Just like any other time of year, it pays to stop and pay close attention to what is going on around you, both in the air and in the water before you start your trip.

~marc~

gutshot
12-05-2009, 11:55 AM
With the exception of this years high water temps due to massive amounts of generation. During most years the water temperature is largely unchanged to the fish. The only difference with the winter fishing is the number of people on the water.

Now the prey species will change but that is not a topic to be discussed lightly....

rivergal
12-05-2009, 02:51 PM
I have a hard time tying on a fly when it is 40 degrees outside.
My fingers will not work in the cold . I usually tie on my lure at home, and hope I do not lose it, because it is too hard to re-tie another lure on my line with frozen fingers in the river.

silvercreek
12-05-2009, 02:54 PM
Rivergal, that's where I have high hopes for the Davy knot. Silvercreek

fishingman62
12-05-2009, 03:20 PM
rivergal try this ... get a pair of the brown jersy gloves .99 a pair then slide disposable latex gloves over them...the gloves help keep your fingers warm and the latex gloves keep the jersy gloves dry...its not the ultimate warmth but it helps to keep your fingers working....and its a cheap soultion.. carry extra latex gloves so when one pair gets holes or rips you can still stay dry and staying dry is half the battle and the gloves aren't to bulky for fishing or taking fish off..... dan

rivergal
12-05-2009, 04:05 PM
Thanks fishingman62 . Your double glove idea is a winner !

BlueRaiderFan
12-05-2009, 08:20 PM
I have a hard time tying on a fly when it is 40 degrees outside.
My fingers will not work in the cold . I usually tie on my lure at home, and hope I do not lose it, because it is too hard to re-tie another lure on my line with frozen fingers in the river.


I use a surgeons loop to tie the fly on...much easier. Put the fly on the line and then just make the loop and it's on...no tedious knot to deal with. Or, you can rig droppers and put them in envelopes and carry them with you, if you need a dropper rig changed in a hurry.

http://www.animatedknots.com/surgeonsloop/index.php

MadisonBoats
12-06-2009, 10:09 PM
Actually, I think Winter fishing is the greatest time to catch some sizable fish...

Since hatches are limited and virtually nil, focus on attractors and presentation.

Sunny days are insane for a top water attractor. I have caught most of my largest fish at these times. Fish a fly that is peculiar. You will catch less small fish and more size fish.

*tip: you will probably have to dunk you rod in the river to break the ice after ever other catch. Get some tip less gloves....

pineman19
12-07-2009, 06:33 PM
Madison Boats,

Interesting technique. I haven't done a lot of winter trout fishing, just some Jan.-Feb. trips to the Nances Ferry are of the Holston since it's only 20 minutes from the house. I have mainly used small nymphs and midges. Never even thought of using a dry fly in winter, in fact I don't use them much during the warmer months on tailwaters either. I'll assume you're sight fishing to rising fish?

BTW, great topic William.

Waterborn
12-07-2009, 11:18 PM
Haven't be able to lurk about the tailwaters last couple of winters matter of fact, haven't been able to fish much lately period - but hands down my favorite time to be on the water...solitude.... and usually some midges and blackflies popping off on the clinch - an olive and an even smaller black midge - which a small parachute dry is great for prospecting and risers. Blackflies are prevalent and many people label them as midge, but they do have a different profile though and a tiny LBC or a griffiths works great - though you probably could limit to a simple generic pattern for the both.
SoHo I bring the BWO's and sulphurs patterns as they'll come off in the dead of winter...I like using emerger patterns there...
For subsurface, a softie with brassie dropper on the fishless, a small pt with grey zebra dropper on the soho, an orange scud and olive zebra on the grinch, and a red brassie and some camel midge on the Caney...though my experince is limited on the Caney, but something about that red - Varmit and his "RedRum" tie is proof....
basically my fly winter tailrace box, but by no means the only stuff that works -just what works for me...as they say, its all about the journey so layer up, get out there, and have fun putting it all together...

MadisonBoats
12-08-2009, 11:22 PM
Madison Boats,

Interesting technique. I haven't done a lot of winter trout fishing, just some Jan.-Feb. trips to the Nances Ferry are of the Holston since it's only 20 minutes from the house. I have mainly used small nymphs and midges. Never even thought of using a dry fly in winter, in fact I don't use them much during the warmer months on tailwaters either. I'll assume you're sight fishing to rising fish?

BTW, great topic William.

I caught a nice rainbow at the sholes right above Nancy's Ferry about a month ago. The river was too warm for most trout. We actually caught mainly bass.

Bud, if you want to up the ante on a fly fishing; spend a day throwing attractors. You will catch fewer fish; but, definitely larger fish...

This pattern is killer on a warm sunny day in the Winter....
http://littleriveroutfitters.com/forum/picture.php?albumid=30&pictureid=172

Maurer
12-09-2009, 05:21 PM
Hey Shaun I never thought of using an Orange Palmer in the winter on Tailwaters. Great idea. I wonder if they think it is a midge cluster or just something yummy. Back in Missouri on Taneycomo we used to fish Crackle Backs a lot. We would fish them as dries, swing them, skate them and even fish them with split shot under an indicator and it all worked.

My go to winter fly was an unweighted Gray Ray Charles 18 to 20 dropped below a a tungsten zebra size 16 or 18.

Also, next year I hope to be in the market for a boat and would love to see what you've dreamed up.

MadisonBoats
12-09-2009, 09:23 PM
Kris,
Basically, that fly is just an attractor/stimulator. I use a variation with yellow and black stripes to mimick a yellow jacket pattern.

I have several people interested in my boats; I just need to square up the legal aspects before I start selling them to the public. There are a few other issues involved too... However, I do plan on getting a few boats out next year.:smile:

waterwolf
12-10-2009, 07:49 AM
Tailwater water temps do not vay enough to change fishing conditions, except during lake turnover. The same places and patterns will produce 365 on our tailwaters.

The only difference is that on the Clinch there is a semi-migration of fish which move upstream to spawn around Miller's Island and the Weir, which results in slightly better fishing upstream.

Midges, scuds, BHPT's, etc still work well troughout the year.

MadisonBoats
12-10-2009, 08:20 PM
Tailwater water temps do not vay enough to change fishing conditions, except during lake turnover. The same places and patterns will produce 365 on our tailwaters.


I must disagree. I often see huge temperature fluctuations after heavy rains - especially on the Western Side of the river coming from Coal Creek.

Additionally, I have noticed hot spots in the river during extended periods of low generation. I attribute this to solar heating.

*I have been studying Lymnology extensively and I have charted some interesting temperature readings on the Clinch.

Maybe I will post an article on this in a week or so to share what I have discovered...

highpockets
12-15-2009, 03:30 PM
Ok, so how do you fish the Zebra Midge? Drift under an indicator, bottom bumping?

Maurer
12-15-2009, 05:37 PM
Hey High Pockets,

Different folks will proably tell you different things and everyone has thier own way of doing things.

I fish Zebra's under a dry fly when the fish tend to be feeding/midging near the surface. Sometimes as short as six inches and other times up to 20inches below the dry. This you have to figure out.

I also fish Zebra's deep or on the bottom, typically with some sort of two fly rig and alot of times using a tag system similar to cech nymphing (so I've been told as I am not an expert on that). I tend to prefer using pieces of yarn as indicators, no rubber rings or do dads. However if yarn is not your cup of tea I do like the new thingamabobbers (just be sure to cinch line on line). Depth varies from 1 to 2 times the depth of the water but is usually somewhere in the middle, but is really dependent on current and how well you can mend your line.

I once saw a presentation by Steve Sylvis www.xtremetrout.com (http://www.xtremetrout.com) , who said that on the Caney you want to focus on the top 12 inches and bottom 12 inches and that the middle is somewhat of a dead zone. I think thier is definately some truth to this.

When fishing indicators I always try to get the slowest drag free drift possible. Fish close to you before you try bombing casts way out. If the current is heavy enough you can usually pick up fish a rod or two lengths out from you.

Look for seams or dead/slower pockets, micro currents, depressions on the bottom, or finally larger out of place boulders within a larger run and this is typically where your fish will lay. Less amount of engergy expended with most amount of food coming down.

Hope that helps, I'm sure others will have their own twists on how to do things, but the best way to get good at it is to go a whole lot.

I think I may be coming down with a cold, cough, cough....maybe I'll call in sick tomorrow (I wonder what the generation will be:biggrin:)

fishingman62
12-15-2009, 06:58 PM
highpockets...when i fish midges or nymphs i almost always fish them 12-24 inches below dry fly indicator depending on the average depth of the runs on that river...i'll use a tan caddis or a parachute adams size 14....i can see it well on the water.... it dosen't mess up my cast...and i have a twice as good chance to catch a fish...to many times i hear guys talk about fish hitting their yarn indiators so thats why i use a dry indicator and some of my best fish have come on the dry even on the caney where there really are no hatches in that size fly....good luck
dan

gutshot
12-15-2009, 10:08 PM
Hey High Pockets,

Different folks will proably tell you different things and everyone has thier own way of doing things.

I fish Zebra's under a dry fly when the fish tend to be feeding/midging near the surface. Sometimes as short as six inches and other times up to 20inches below the dry. This you have to figure out.

I also fish Zebra's deep or on the bottom, typically with some sort of two fly rig and alot of times using a tag system similar to cech nymphing (so I've been told as I am not an expert on that). I tend to prefer using pieces of yarn as indicators, no rubber rings or do dads. However if yarn is not your cup of tea I do like the new thingamabobbers (just be sure to cinch line on line). Depth varies from 1 to 2 times the depth of the water but is usually somewhere in the middle, but is really dependent on current and how well you can mend your line.

I once saw a presentation by Steve Sylvis www.xtremetrout.com (http://www.xtremetrout.com) , who said that on the Caney you want to focus on the top 12 inches and bottom 12 inches and that the middle is somewhat of a dead zone. I think thier is definately some truth to this.

When fishing indicators I always try to get the slowest drag free drift possible. Fish close to you before you try bombing casts way out. If the current is heavy enough you can usually pick up fish a rod or two lengths out from you.

Look for seams or dead/slower pockets, micro currents, depressions on the bottom, or finally larger out of place boulders within a larger run and this is typically where your fish will lay. Less amount of engergy expended with most amount of food coming down.

Hope that helps, I'm sure others will have their own twists on how to do things, but the best way to get good at it is to go a whole lot.

I think I may be coming down with a cold, cough, cough....maybe I'll call in sick tomorrow (I wonder what the generation will be:biggrin:)

Very solid post.

wm1miller
12-15-2009, 11:31 PM
Yes, Maurer, I agree; excellent post.
Thanks
Wm

monktrout
12-16-2009, 05:51 PM
Highpockets, Lately I have been fishing zebras and the like below an oversized griffiths gnat sz14. I adjust depth similar to those who have posted. The big gnat can also be palmered with an additional oversized red or yellow hackle. I strip off one side and it gets a leggy effect. After the drift you can pull it under and expect some hits on it underneath. I don't bother greasing the gnat. It floats like a stryofoam cup. I rarely use indicators and my catch rate suffers a little for it. It's just what I enjoy.
Monk

wm1miller
12-17-2009, 01:29 AM
Monk, I am like you when it comes to using strike indicators. I know that I could catch more fish, but just do not enjoy fishing that way. I do drop under a dry fly quite often.
I have noticed on some days that the fishers using strike indicators do catch more fish, but, I have gotten pretty good results by watching my line very closely and by high stick drifting through runs.
Maurer made some very good points. We all need to fish more often.
Regards,
Wm

monktrout
12-17-2009, 04:52 PM
Wm, I feel it's OK to leave a few. Probably missed some big ones along the way. Monk