Fly Fishing A Year Around Sport
Inside the Outdoors, December
31, 2010

Many anglers who feel the chill of winter coming on, will hang up their rods and wait until spring to wet their lines once again. This applies not only to spin or bait-casting fishermen and/or gals, too, but fly fishermen as well.

“It’s a little trickier in the winter time,” Rich Rohrbaugh told me. The owner of The Angler’s Room, Latrobe, related, “The fish are down deep and aren’t as active as in the early spring. Thus one must scout for the deeper holes before pursuing where to catch these fish.” That should give all sportsmen a heads-up when it comes to fishing this time of year.

In talking about the subject to a friend who fly fishes year around, he told me that if there is water, there are fish to be had, if, on the other hand, there is no water or the streams are frozen, don’t even try for them. Your chances of catching trout, for example, are slim.

One may say, “I’m a little bit fussier. I like to take a pH reading before I begin fishing any body of water. If the acidity water is too low, particularly nowadays with the Marcellus Shale drilling problem, I’ll head to waters that are more fish friendly.”

When asked about rod preparation for flyfishing in the wintertime, Scott Minster, secretary of Forbes Trail Chapter of Trout Unlimited commented, “Many people don’t do anything special. They just use the rods the same way as they would during the summer. However, sometimes I’ll put Vaseline on the rings and inside the eye to prevent them from freezing.”

There are two types of fly lines used for fly fishing, floating and weighted or sinking. If we are going to heed to Rohrbaugh’s suggestion that the fish are in holes and, in addition, their activity has slowed down, then the latter is preferred this time of the year.

Casting floating and weighted line requires two different procedures. Since the latter is heavier, it requires the angler to use a difference motion than when using the floating line. When taking the rod behind one, create a circular motion with the tip and then project it forward at about 10 o’clock to give the fly a proper drop. One may require instruction on how to carry out this procedure correctly.

Line is calibrated with different weights. To ascertain which is best for one’s locale, it is best to check with the specialist in one’s area.

Rohrbaugh also advised me what to use as far as fly choice.

“Remember, the minnows that trout usually eat are no longer available and have hidden for the winter season. When fishing deep in the holes, one must use something small and black when it comes to flies,” he said. “I recommend using wee, little nymphs. In presenting the bait,” so to speak, “let the current slowly work the imitations along the bottom of the streams, he said. One can also use wet flies.

Hare’s Ear, stonefly imitations, Woolly Worm, Woolly Bugger and dragonfly nymphs are all good choices for winter flyfishing.

It’s been said that the best stream to fish during the winter in Pennsylvania is Spring Creek, according to FTTU members. Located in the northern part of the central part of the state, it is a large, limestone spring creek. Running through Centre County, it is considered one of the best, large trout streams in Pennsylvania.

If I were looking to go fishing this time of the year locally, I would definitely head up to Ligonier and fish the delayed harvest area. Since it is well maintained, there just may be a chance of catching some nice-sized trout. Keep in mind it is a catch and release area of Loyalhanna Creek.

For those who want to adventure out into the cold, and take on some downstream challenges where there may be trout, I’d wager to try the crossover at Sleepy Hollow as well as the spillway at Kingston Dam.

Please let me know if you are successful. I’ll make note of it in one of my next columns.

Have a very prosperous and healthy New Year!

- Paul J. Volkmann
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