Fishing with Fabel: Winter Brookies

It’s a really great and awful time of year for us fly fisherman. Frozen eyelets are happening and it’s getting a little bit harder to tie those knots with our bare hands. It means some really good and bad things for fly fishing. First, the bad. Most of my favorite places to fish are high country alpine lakes above 11,000 ft in elevation that are well under a couple feet of snow and ice right now. It forces me to fish lower and work more on creek and river systems that have a flow and do not freeze. And the good? This is the only time of year I like to fish the typical “Blue ribbon” usually highly populated shores of rivers that no one fishes when it’s 3 degrees.

Holding a fish

My last attempt at a high country lake before it freezes was a couple weeks ago in search of some hungry and plump brook trout. A quick hike through the pines and I reached my destination with about a half hour of daylight left. I spotted some brook trout rising occasionally as well as feeding on something subsurface. First I messed around with some nymphs and wooly buggers but the fish were deep and it was taking too long for the flies to get in front of the trout. With no split shots on me and only a reel with floating line I quickly put on the heaviest fly I had in my box at the moment… a black sculpin. Sure enough a couple casts in a feisty Brook took it. This one was short in length but plump and looking healthy for winter. The sculpin really was the ticket for that night. I used a series of stripping patterns and the fish went crazy for it.

Trout in a fishing net

My next Brookie expedition was to another spot way off the beaten path in search of a big Brookie on the fly. I got to the lake and started off with what usually does the trick on these big brooks and that is a bead head black wooly bugger with red or orange flash in it. I like to cast alongside logs of moss beds and wait for the bugger to sink before giving it a couple strips towards me. I was very lucky that day and landed this beautiful Brook trout. Any fish with good “shoulders” on it is by far my favorite to look at, and catch and release. This Brook gave a great fight and I could see the vibrant colors swirling on it as I brought it in. This was my last go at these spots until spring and waiting until then is going to be very long.. And painful. But on the bright side river fishing in the winter is one of my favorite things to do so I have large rainbows and Browns on the fly to look forward too. Thanks for reading.. Until next time!