Winter is coming… That phrase has always held meaning throughout our existence, our very survival has dependent on it as we needed to prep for the upcoming cold months ahead: Storing and gathering food to keep us alive, slowing down our lifestyles as we conserve our energy, hibernation. Although to most of us now living in a modern society this does now apply. We have stores to supply us our food, our homes are heated and hibernation is a practice of our ancestors, this society doesn’t allow us to slow down at all as nice as it would be. So “winter is Coming” holds less meaning now and has become more of a pop culture reference now, but. Not for us fly fishermen.
No more time spent at your favorite stream, wading in the water to cool down from the summer heat, casting to trout rising for flies while evading all the trees and brush around you, and finally the excitement of seeing a trout actually rise for your fly in a perfect display of a classic summer evening. Well those moments are gone at least temporarily speaking as we wait for the beginning of another trout season which depending on where you live could be as long a wait as another half year from now. So what to do with that time now as you retire the rod and reel. To some of us who have the time and funds there is always a vacation, never mind retiring your fly rod, let’s simply take our business elsewhere and cast for some southern hemisphere trout. Or why even delegate our hobby to just trout.
Just because Trout season is over doesn’t mean that there aren’t a number of other species available still with their designated seasons still open. There are a lot of “bugs” in the world and evolution didn’t just make trout to feed on them, every fish at some point in their lives eats bugs, even the vegan fish albeit accidently as they simply got in the way. Like I said there are a lot of bugs in the World, they’re everywhere! You know it simply when you had to cut a fishing outing short as the evening march of the mosquito happened upon you as you exhaled your Co2 there on the river minding your own business. And they say we consume many bugs in a lifetime involuntarily as we sleep, or hidden in your food, but we don’t want to think about that now do we.
Back to the fish! Yes they all consume bugs, and while fall progresses there are fewer to no bugs willing to fly around as they’re not stupid, it’s cold out! Or more likely their cold blooded physiology just doesn’t give them an option. That being said there are still a lot of dietary options for the fly fisher to mimic not to mention the larval form of insects are still alive and well in their aquatic environment, so don’t just put away your fly rod just yet. This is why all us fly fishers equip ourselves with a wide arsenal of flies in the first place rise, time to bring out all those nymphs you’ve been collecting over the years. And also last time I checked trout aren’t the only fish beckoning the waters in our northern hemisphere. It’s time to avert our attention to the other species out there as bass, panfish, pike, muskie, carp, walleye and other species not only continue feeding well into the autumn months but also up their appetite as they look to fatten up for the cold months ahead. Surviving the winter is a long haul as our cold blooded aquatic friend’s bodies and especially their digestive systems slow down as the temperatures drop. The seasons of many other fish continue to be open throughout the fall months as the chapter on trout closes for the year so many a trout fishermen can alleviate their seasonal depression simply by turning their allegiance to another species for the time being. I’m sure the trout will forgive you and be just as eager to offer at your fly next spring.
And what about come winter? Kind of hard to incorporate your fly gear once the frigid temps take a stronghold converting your favorite waters into an impenetrable armor of ice! Well I’m sure your fly boxes after a long fun year of fishing have gotten noticeably lighter as the amount of flies left from the start of the year has greatly diminished. Whether you lost them on a trophy fish or at least you can make up stories to tell your buddies, but we know that the greater majority have been consumed by the unforgiving nature of the fish’s environment. Call it an offering to the Stream Gods or Trout Gods as your flies lie stuck up in trees, amongst brush or submerged and wedged in between some rocks, like fallen soldiers from the season that was. This is where us fly fishers get to bring out our artistic sides as we lock up the fly rod and all attention gets paid to our fly tying equipment. This can be just as enjoyable as being out on the water: The challenge of learning how to create and dress bare metal hooks into little works of art, mastering your craft so that you can fool any trout. Trout are one of the most intelligent, wary, and detail oriented fish out there, as any fly fisher finds out quickly within that first year of taking up the sport. Once a fly fisher learns how to tie their own flies and perfects it, it adds a whole new element to the whole fly fishing game, becoming more of a lifestyle and way of life as opposed to just a hobby or summer outing. There are many fly tying competitions to get involved with all year not just in winter. Artistry, intelligence, science, spending time outdoors, is there any other reason as to why the sport of fly fishing has grown so much in popularity over the years!
Oh and with all this being said, I guess i should have mentioned the fact that there are still special circumstances where some our waters are left open to trout fishing all year for those diehard, and serious fly fishers who get that itch to cast out their gear before spring once again shows itself. To those foolhardy individuals we salute you…