Winter angling is not on everyone’s list of favorite things to do here in Oregon, especially because the winters can get pretty cold. Trying to catch fish that are slower than molasses doesn’t hold the same kind of excitement as when they snatch your fly off the surface and run with it. But if you’re just getting started in angling and can’t wait for the water to warm up… Put your waders on, grab your fly rod, and tie on a nymph. Here are 3 tips on how wake up the winter rainbows…

1. Nymph it up

Nymphing should comprise most of the fly fishing you do during the colder months. Even in the warmer months, the diet of fish usually consists of 50-60% midges. Midges are an easier floating meal for fish than having to dart up to grab something on the surface. Tie on a small indicator, or some pinch foam, or maybe even a dry fly with some tippet and nymph off of it’s hook. Just remember to keep hooks and indicators small. If you’re using a round bob indicator, snap on some split shot to get that nymph all the way to the bottom quickly. The ideal flies to use during the winter will be black stoneflies, smaller dark midges, black or dark green wooly buggers, and smaller leeches.

2. Walk Softly and Carry A Big Stick

During the winter, the water temperature in rivers and streams obviously drops. Which in turn makes fish lethargic, but no less spooky. The reason for this is that the water is usually lower and clearer in winter than in summer. Try not to cast long shadows over the water and slow your movements down a quarter. This speed decrease includes stripping line, which should be short and slow, and fewer casts as well. Also, think of casting downstream, letting your line float through a run instead of making a large movement casting back upstream.

3. Tippet in your favor

Lighten your tippet down a size, say if you’re using 4X drop it down to 3X. And don’t be afraid to tie on up to three flies in a row to provide for more opportunity, as you will have to smack fish in the face with the fly to get it to bite. Also, use a little more length on your tippet than you normally would.


These tips have only scratched the surface of winter fly-fishing. When fishing the major rivers in Oregon during the winter, the steelhead are what many anglers are after…check out this well written article on tactics for steelhead from Deschutes Trout Unlimited