As we ease in to winter fishing conditions here in the Rocky Mountain West, fishing with stealth becomes all-important. Low and clear water tends to accentuate our movements and the disturbances we “telegraph” across the water. Trout are at their most paranoid state in the winter, considering the pressure from eagles, herons, and pesky anglers like you and I.
Stealth requires slow movement, dressing in drab colors, and disturbing the water as little as possible. We all see anglers standing right in the middle of the trout zone out there; these fish are typically better approached from shore. Hitting the fish in the head with your flies doesn’t help, either. Try to get those flies in the water upstream of the fish without spooking it, and drift them right into the trout’s “window” of vision.
Minding your shadow is super-important during fall and winter, too. If you are facing the sun, generally your shadow will be away from the water. The slap of your fly line on the water is accentuated during low and clear water conditions as well, so be mindful of where your line is in relation to the fish you are pursuing. Another issue I see quite often is anglers that cast too far upstream, which tends to scatter every fish in that zone. Focusing on short and sweet perfect drifts to fish you can see actively feeding should cut down on the “hero casting” we can all be guilty of doing out there.
Most importantly, trout tend to sense when we anglers get into a rhythm with our cast, and this puts them off their tea. When we cast over and over again, trout tend to take notice and head to another county until the coast clears. The most successful low-water anglers cast the least—and make those shots count when the fish is in the right mood and caught unawares. Stay stealthy and subtle out there, and you’ll have a lot of fun this fall and winter!