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Discussion Starter #1
It look like the trout section needs a new discussion to shake the ice out of our heads since the start of winter.

Winter is in full swing and water temps are down about as low as my catch rate, I'd like to spark an updated discussion here with what everyone is doing to swing for winter trout.

My home water is a Tailwater in the northeast, which is heavily pressured especially by tightline guys, they are still regularly catching fish thanks to the massive midge population in the water so I know the fish are there and eating. My recent outings have been ok, with a few fish and a few skunks, I usually start mid day after the water has had a chance to warm up a few degrees and start by swinging streamers on a sink tip sometimes T11 to really get down. If that doesn't pan out I'll generally tie on an intermediate tip and swing some soft hackles.

I've been trying to dredge my streamers on the bottom and slow down the swing as much as possible giving the fly a few twitches here and there especially when fishing sculpin patterns. For the soft hackles, I attempt to keep them in the "fishy areas" as long as possible and sometimes feed them some slack to add some life to the fly. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't. I just started really swinging flies regularly and haven't had the opportunity to take my new DH setup in the warmer months, I'm sure I'll have better success once the water warms up. But for now, I'm left clearing ice from my guides and hoping for that rare chance that a fish grabs my fly.

How is everyone else doing for trout in the winter while waiting for the warmth to come back!
 

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Winter trout are tough! They can basically become dormant in the colder waters, I think. A steelhead snorkeler has seen steelhead behind/under rocks in large groups - all stacked up together not moving at all, using each others' bodies to help stay warm, presumably, or just "hibernating" in a safe place. I imagine regular trout do a similar thing when the water is super cold.
 

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Try swinging your soft hackles a little deeper, maybe a S2/S3 or something like that. Winter is a great time to experiment and work on swing depths, a fish grabbing is a bonus. If your tailwater sees ISO's in the spring, try swinging a bigger size 8/10/12 pheasant tail. I also like swinging a partridge and orange in the same sizes in the winter.
 

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I couple weeks ago I was swinging rabbit strip streamers on the St. George River here in Maine. Gorgeous snowy water, iced over guides, chicken stew in the thermos, but no takers. Swung some great water, but they were tight-lipped if there at all. I'll be going back out later in the week as it's looking like it'll warm up. Still a lot of fun to be fishing on snowy-banked rivers. Very thankful for my bootfoot waders.
 

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Out here in my part of Colorado the winter trout options are pretty limited, at least in the rivers, but the fish are still feeding. Our lakes pretty much all have trout and some of the best fishing of the year happens right now, through the ice, so the cold temperatures are not stopping them from hunting. That being said, on my home river it would be tough to get a decent swing, because I don't think anyone's made a line that can easily cut through ice when it lands and then pop back up through the ice after the hang-down.
Seriously though, I think that you have an ideal situation to do some experimentation. You know the trout are feeding on midges - have you tried swinging a chironomid imitation, maybe scaled up a size or two? I am also curious what most of your fish have been coming on - it sounds like the streamers have worked some and perhaps the soft hackles too. If that's the case, then it could be that you've got the right flies and, as others have said, it's more a question of getting the depth just right. My limited experience with winter trout suggests that they will tend to stack up in deeper, slower areas so if you do cross paths with one, it is definitely worth making multiple swings through there as there are likely other trout in close proximity.
 

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Last weekend I had good luck swinging a Kruk's Ducati (tied on a #4 Gamakatsu
T10-6H) for my local browns... Also on a highly pressured eastern stream. It was snowing and sleeting and raining the whole time. Miserable weather, but I caught 6 and missed many others in just 2.5 hours. I was fishing a dry line and a long mono leader. Pick your water, keep the swing slow, and have faith that you're fly is deep enough. You will get grabbed.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Out here in my part of Colorado the winter trout options are pretty limited, at least in the rivers, but the fish are still feeding. Our lakes pretty much all have trout and some of the best fishing of the year happens right now, through the ice, so the cold temperatures are not stopping them from hunting. That being said, on my home river it would be tough to get a decent swing, because I don't think anyone's made a line that can easily cut through ice when it lands and then pop back up through the ice after the hang-down.
Seriously though, I think that you have an ideal situation to do some experimentation. You know the trout are feeding on midges - have you tried swinging a chironomid imitation, maybe scaled up a size or two? I am also curious what most of your fish have been coming on - it sounds like the streamers have worked some and perhaps the soft hackles too. If that's the case, then it could be that you've got the right flies and, as others have said, it's more a question of getting the depth just right. My limited experience with winter trout suggests that they will tend to stack up in deeper, slower areas so if you do cross paths with one, it is definitely worth making multiple swings through there as there are likely other trout in close proximity.
The times I've gotten fish has been on streamers only actually since the temps have dropped, usually a sparse fly like a bucktail streamer with some flash. I have yet to try to tie some midge patterns for swinging I'll have to give that a go, even yesterday during my limited outing there were midges coming off the water, so there had to be some in the drift. I think the depth thing is gonna be the main part of the game, I need to get a faster sink sonar leader for my wet fly setup, the intermediate and hover just don't get down enough.
 

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Slow drift in slow water with a small fly. If truly trout, versus steelhead, a dark wet fly (think caddis) and a small midge on the dropper. I admit the ISO hint is also worth trying.

It you evoke the two pass through the run and pool strategy, first time go small as above and then return with a larger fly to swing, maybe a size 8 sculpzilla, conehead marabou muudler or rabbit. The fly should swim with movement from you.
 

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Winter can be a tease. It can be quite slow but can also produce some of the best fish it seems. On bigger tailwaters flows are down opening up wade access and fish can be more concentrated. I like to always start with a streamer but have learned it is wise to have midge patterns as well just in case.
 
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Discussion Starter #11
Try swinging your soft hackles a little deeper, maybe a S2/S3 or something like that. Winter is a great time to experiment and work on swing depths, a fish grabbing is a bonus. If your tailwater sees ISO's in the spring, try swinging a bigger size 8/10/12 pheasant tail. I also like swinging a partridge and orange in the same sizes in the winter.
That's a good idea, we do get a pretty good ISO hatch each year, I'll have to check to see what I have for pheasant tail wet's
 
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