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    In spite of several efforts, I have not been very successful in winter fishing at Snake Falls (I got caught in the blizzard this year!). I’ve tried several different strategies, and I have wondered whether the combination of high flow rates, cold weather, and poor accessibility to the more productive fishing spots just might make it too hard. But I have not given up. I am just beginning to learn to Euro-nymph, and this will be what I try next time. None the less, I thought this might be a good spot for a discussion of winter fishing, and, if some of you are willing, a place where those who have found winter success to post some of your tips for the rest of us.

    For those of you who also share this interest, I came across this article today:

    Pat Stout

      Wes, a great topic for a number of reasons. For one, simply a vastly under utilized time when compared to prime time on the Snake, June through October. And yet, fish are eating and some great days on the river can be had.

      As opposed to the Snake River up above the reservoir, the stream below the dam is 3-5F warmer, more of an effect due to the level of the dam outlet as opposed to effect of springs. Therefore the low is around the mid 30s, and, by the first week of March, the river is already warming up to 40-41F and the spawn is on for Rainbow.

      Food is ample from midges to scuds to stoneflies to dace and water bugs. This gives the angler many options to try. Alewives, a bait fish in Merritt, often suffer a kill at ice-off and flood the river below providing a protein jump of biblical proportions, lol.

      Nymphing is a tried & true method. Fish are apt to be in deep water, conserving energy and waiting for something to come close to their mouth. So, well delivered successive casts, working the lanes, is required. Or, you may find trout at the edge of high water, using habitat. As hatches do happen, usually midges, there might be opportunity for some dry flies. Midwestern salmonflies (stoneflies) are a staple above the falls and hatch late March-early April. A weighted black or brown stonefly nymph, or weighted girdle bug, can be a winner. The biggest female salmonfly I have encountered is 2.5 inches long. Typically, males are 1-1.5 inches.

      Streamers are good. While wooly buggers are a staple, I tend to use bigger saltwater flies anywhere from 2-4 inches long fished slow and covering all ground. Mostly, just a drift. As opposed to any stripping, I use a hand curl to bring a streamer across or up and over habitat, very slow. I also “nymph” them, dead drifting them trough riffle-run-pool to imitate dead alewives or dace and has been successful in that method. The fly, like a white zonker or other bait fish pattern. It is not unusual for a trout to stalk your fly, whether streamer or nymph, so be xtra aware on the end up swing and just before your fly gets to the surface. If the fish taps/hits it and does not hook at that time, immediately lower you rod, letting the fly drop and you may get another whack.

      Another strategy for early winter is an egg pattern. As the browns spawn, rainbows are scarfing up eggs on the downstream drift. One just has to be careful about fishing on the redds, or stepping on them.

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        In the winter the holes that I have had success fishing are the barrels, the big sandy, and the little sandy.

        The reason I feel that the small amount of fish caught during winter fishing is due to the large of amount of water being released out of Merritt Reservoir. It seems that during the winter their is always at least 250 cubic feet per second of water being released. With more water flowing down the river the fish have more places to hide. With more places to hide, then the lower the likely hood your presentation is close to a fish.

        The last time I fished the Snake was December 19. The occasion to go to Cherry county was to pick up my antelope meat and European mount from the antelope that I shot south of Gordon in October. My dad and I were on the ranch from approximately 10 to 3 and only caught one fish. It was caught in the little sandy hole. We fished other spots but had no luck. Due to the high water, productive areas during the summer were inaccessible or difficult to fish. I fished a hare’s ear nymph the majority of the day but could not get a bite. I switched to my spin cast pole and caught the lone fish with a green colored spoon. My dad used spinners and spoons but had no bites.

        In summary, I think Snake River winter fishing is a great way to get out of the house. I think big fish can be caught during the winter you just need to be patient and be ready to make numerous casts. In my experience the fishing has been better on sunny winter days.

        Pat Stout

          Thanks for chiming in, Kyle. Agree, there is great opportunity in winter fishing if one adapts to the condition.

          When it comes to winter high flows and cold temperatures, what was once a productive hole during the summer and low flows may change. As the flows are higher, trout will seek out other niches to lie, rest and eat. Therefore, more productive fishing may be in other areas of the river as opposed to the pool. Places unproductive in summer become a trout lie in winter. During cold temperatures, it is true that trout like the deep pools, but it is likely they do not have the feed bag on. So, it is important to fancast each river section you are in, not just fish a hole. Adapt your technique to the winter conditions and trout habitats.

          Temperature actually plays the most important part in winter fishing. While trout optimally like 50-68F temperatures, December, January and February are often in the 40-30sF. This significantly slows the trout metabolism and decreases the need to eat. So, instead of eating Big Macs, they sip in midges while lying still. So, an important part of the winter fishing technique is to go sloooow. Other factors are barometric pressure, light conditions and timing of hatches.

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