.......................  ......Fly Fishing Yellowstone National Park

09/23/09

Catching Yellowstone Trout in Cold Water - Part 3

Unlike many anglers think, trout don't position themselves in cold water on or
near the bottom because the water is warmer. First of all, it isn't any warmer and
secondly, they could care less anyway. They are perfectly comfortable in cold
water that is forty degrees F. They position themselves there to be in slow
moving water that is safe from overhead predators. They can find slow moving
and even still water on and near the surface in most streams and they will
occasionally be found in such places; but, anytime they are positioned in
shallow water they are subject to being eaten by predatory birds and mammals.
They will normally only move to shallow, slow moving cold water when there is an
ample amount of food there. For example, when the BWOs begin to hatch and
the water temperature is only in the high forties, they will move in and out of the
shallow, slow moving water to feed on the Blue-winged Olive nymphs and
emerging duns because that is where they hatch.  

Now you may think from what I have said so far that there is a very simple
solution. Just fish the deepest water in the stream. That is not a bad idea but
doing so isn't exactly easy. Fishing a fly that moves at the same speed other
drifting food is moving near the bottom in deeper water is not an easy thing to
do. In fact it is quite difficult to do in most cases. For example, trout holding in
deep, slow moving water of runs have the advantage of being concealed by the
broken surface of the fast water above. They are hidden from you and that puts
you into a blind fishing situation. You don't know exactly where the slow moving
water is. Even worse, you will find it very difficult to get the fly to drift at the
speed of the slow moving current in the deeper holes and pockets of the run.
That is because the current near the surface above the slow moving current on
the bottom is moving very fast. Even when you weight the fly and get it down,
the fast water on the surface pulling on your leader and line sweeps you fly
through the slow water on the bottom much faster than natural food drifts in the
slow current. The fast moving fly may even tend to spook the trout holding in
such places. Imagine what happens when the trout are holding in slow moving
water near the bottom and suddenly a fly shoots through their home at the
speed of light.

You can resort to fishing the slow water on the bottoms of the pools. The
problem with fishing for the trout holding in the slow moving water where you can
see them is that they can also see you. Trout holding near the surface have a
very small window of vision. Trout holding in deep, clear water have a very large
window of vision and can detect objects above the surface much easier and
much farther from them. Another inherent problem is that when your fly is
moving slowly through their home they can get a very good look at it. They fly
needs to look more realistic than one moving at a fast rate of speed.

Both types of water creates yet another problem for anglers. You simply cannot
present your fly to a lot of trout in any given amount of time. It is slow fishing.
Making short, upstream cast to surface feeding trout gives you a lot of shots in a
short time at the fish feeding there. That isn't the case when you are presenting
your fly to trout positioned in deep water - especially when they are not going to
move but maybe a few inches to eat anything.

So far all I have done is tell you about some of the problems you face in fishing
cold water. I haven't told you anything you can do about the problems. I think
you can see why catching trout in very cold water isn't easy.

Copyright 2009 James Marsh