Winter fishing tips from our resident Fish Whisperer, Ken Kastorff
Winter is just around the corner but don’t hang up your fly rod yet. Time to get the waders out and search around in the closet for the heavy rain jacket. November starts some of the best fly fishing to be had in Western NC. It is delayed harvest season. There are so many options to choose from – angler will run out of time before they run out of rivers to fish. Last month I talked about all the local delayed harvest streams. This month I’d like to touch on some of the best flies to use when fishing them.
Starting in October and November, and then again in March, April and May, the NC Wildlife Commission stock thousands of brook brown and rainbow trout. The stocking schedule is available on their web site. At the beginning of the month it is a fly anglers dream. If you can’t catch trout then, you better check to make sure you have a hook on the line. As the month progresses it is amazing how fast these stocked trout get smarter and smarter leading to more challenging fishing.
The rivers are stocked at the beginning of each month and your fly options are across the board. It is a great time to work on that nymph fishing technique, using a prince nymph or a pats rubber leg. I will often use a dropper set up with a Y2K or an egg pattern just above it. If you are fishing clear water your can oft times see the bright egg pattern under the water and use it as an additional strike indicator. If it all of a sudden disappears, set the hook. I personally prefer to Czech Nymph with a sighted line rather than use a strike indicator. Many of the streams here have deep holes where bigger fish like to lay. Using a slighter line allows me to easily vary the depth that my nymph is at by just letting my slighter line go under the water.
Dead drifting woolly buggers and stone fly nymphs will almost always produce fish. Remember you are dealing with stocked fish coming straight from the rearing ponds. They are not leader shy! Most of the stocked trout will be brook trout and just like their cousins, the brown trout, they will attack large flies. I like to fish a double streamer set up using a black and a white wooley bugger or flashy streamer in tandem about a foot and a half apart. Sinking line is a good way to go. Get those streamers down on the bottom for the best results. It is not unusual to hook into brook trout in the 18 to 20 inch range. This is also a great time to be surprised by hooking into a big native brown trout, especially on a rainy day when the water color changes and gets a little dingy.
Dry flies are another option. I have seen some of the biggest dry fly hatches ever in the fall and spring of the year. Bring your fly box with a variety of caddis patterns. If you happen upon one of these hatches you can land one fish after another. I have seen caddis and mayfly hatches so big it looks like a snowstorm of flies on the water.
Here are just a few of my favorite patterns that seen to work well.
- Wholly Buggers in black, white and olive. Find some with rubber legs on them.
- Any steamer pattern with some flash on it.
- Conehead Bunny Leach in black, white or olive.
- Pats Rubber Leg in brown, black or a combination of both colors with black, brown or yellow legs.
- Y2K or Egg Patterns in yellow, orange, red or white.
- Prince Nymphs. Don’t be afraid to go big. I will oft times use a number 8 with rubber legs.
- Black Caddis and October Caddis
- Light Cahill
The list goes on! But if you show up with these flies you will catch fish.