Wether it’s a thermos full of coffee or hand warmers, it’s always a good idea to bring some small comforts while fishing in the cold. As our winter continues to progress eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina, we will see temperatures in the mid to upper thirties. Some days can even get into the low teens and It’s essential to stay warm and dry in conditions like this. When these seasonal changes are happening we can also except to see changes in bug life and even water conditions. For example, on the South Holston tail race there is a transition from summer sulfurs to winter blue wing olives. While bug fishing can be good year round, It’s never a bad idea to chuck a streamer in the winter as large predatory fish are looking for quick high protein meal. On unregulated rivers, (not dam operated) a general rule of thumb is lower clearer water. This could make the trout spooky and could call for a downsize in tippet or even the fly. The cold can cause the trout to become sluggish. When you can obviously see or know there’s fish feeding but you can’t buy a fish, an adjustment in depth or cast placement may cause a strike.
     Don’t let the cold get to you, remember that trout have to be in the water all winter! Although trout are a cold water fish there is still a point when they begin to hunker down. Typically you will begin to find trout in slower deeper runs, in eddies or slack water because less energy is required to hold in these locations. Keep in mind food is relatively scarce during these times and a fish will want to exert a minimal amount of energy. Trout will also become less willing to travel far for a meal so a more accurate presentation could be needed. Getting in tune with your local fisheries and find out what food sources are available year round. For example in our area midges are a very common “fish finder” and can turn up results in tough conditions. Finding the fish or the right bug isn’t always the battle. Frozen guides can be extremely frustrating and it’s pretty hard to avoid. Try adding a very small dab of Gink to the guides. This isn’t a permanent fix but it can slow the water from building up and freezing. What’s worse than frozen guides? Frozen boots! Starting the day trying to jam your foot into a solid ice boot is not only impossible but if you manage to get in, it’s like your own person toe freezer before you even hit the water. So plan ahead and keep those wet boots from the day before above freezing temps if possible.