Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives
3. Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
Fishing Cold Water - Part 12
There have been many times we have fished in the middle of the Winter during cold weather
in Pennsylvania but it was usually in a spring creek where the water wasn't extremely cold. We
have fished in cold weather during the Winter in tailwaters throughout the nation but again,
the water wasn't as cold as it gets in the freestone streams in most of those cases.
The water in a spring creek is cold all the time, but is more like 50 to 52 degrees in the
immediate area of the spring itself or the area the water comes from the ground. During cold
weather the water downstream of the actual spring itself begins to get colder. The further
downstream you fish during cold weather, the colder it gets.
We usually didn't fish in the warmest part of the area of the underground spring itself in the
many limestone spring creeks we fished during winter. We usually fish water that's somewhere
in the forties. It depends on the size of the spring, how cold the air is, and if more springs exist
along the way. Usually the water downstream as little as one or two hundred yards is colder
than the water in the spring itself. It's usually in the upper forties and sometimes as little as a
mile or two downstream even in the low forties. I have already mentioned that trout in
spring creeks grow to huge sizes and if they didn't eat in cold water they couldn't
possible do that.
We have also fished numerous tailwaters during cold weather. They are very similar to the
spring creeks with respect to the water temperature. The water is discharged below the dam
at varying temperatures during very cold weather. The exact temperature depends greatly on
the varying depth of the water in the reservoir or lake above the dam. It's often somewhere
around fifty degrees but like the spring creeks, the water gets colder the further you go
downstream. The downstream temperatures depend on the extent the water is being released
(how much), the size of the stream, just how far downstream you fish, and just how cold the air
is. It varies greatly from tailwater to tailwater.
I'm not going into details about what we have caught in spring creeks or tailwaters, but we
have caught well into the thousands over the years from cold water in tailwater streams and
spring creeks. I have all the video logged and the temperature of the water was recorded
during those trips. That's one of the first things we do and it is the third blank on the stream
journal form we use that stays on file with the video logs. Anytime the water temperature
is fairly high or low, and anytime we are trying to determine the status of an insect
hatch, we take the water temperature. You should do the same thing. Remembering the
temperature is easy. We just make a note of it to ourselves by speaking into our remote mikes
and recording it on-camera. When we log our video, we always have it immediately available.
By the way, for those of you that record your fishing on camera, digital video, as opposed to
analog video, makes this much easier. You can instantly go to any segment rather than
having to wait for tape to wind and rewind.
There are also numerous times we have fished very cold water during our many trips to the
western, mid-western and northern sections of the country. I hope you don't take this as
boasting but we have fished 92 of the streams in the "Trout Unlimited Top 100 Trout Streams"
book. In addition, we have fished more than three-hundred other major trout streams in the
U.S. I don't know the total including all the small streams but it's much higher.
During our Fall and late Spring trips to some of areas, we have run into situations where the
water temperature was in the forties and sometimes the high thirties. We have been to Utah,
Montana, Wyoming and Idaho in late Spring (one year in late May and two other years in the
very first part of June) and encountered some heavy snows, very cold weather, and very cold
water. We always caught plenty of trout in the cold water when that happened. Although I
forgot to mention it yesterday, the main reason for the cold water in Colorado and
other Rocky Mountain streams in April is the fact they get most of their water from
melting snow. Although we get some water from melting snow in the Smokies, the Rocky
Mountain and northern streams are quite different in that respect. You can be fishing Rocky
Mountain streams when the air temperature is in the seventies, eighties and even the low
nineties when the water temperature is in the low forties due to melting snow.
To Southerners, this probably sounds strange. In fact, this Southerner wasn't too wise,
or he would have probably waited a little later to make those trips. We didn't leave
home intending to fish during cold weather. The freestone streams water temperatures vary
greatly depending on the elevation. On one trip we ended up fishing in two feet of snow
during the second week of June. Even in Yellowstone National Park, it can snow a lot and get
extremely cold during the first part of June. Even during the first of July, the water is still
in the high thirties and low forties in some streams in the park. I'm not referring to the
runoff period. Even during the first of July, the early morning air temperature in West
Yellowstone is usually between freezing and the high thirties.
I won't go into details regarding which streams we fished during those times the water
temperature was very low, what we caught, etc. I did plenty of that in yesterday's article. I will
go into details regarding fishing cold water in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Copyright 2011 James Marsh