During the winter months in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, most people who enjoy fishing turn their attention to inland lakes and ponds, as well as the big lake. However, at the Caddis Shack, we continue to search for open water in rivers in search of the elusive wintertime trout.
As rivers freeze over, it's important to remember that with a few days of clouds and warm air, a river can suddenly open up and provide opportunities for fishing. For example, the water we fished in the photo above was completely frozen over just five days prior, but with a bit of luck and warm weather, we were able to find open water and catch fish.
During the harsh winter months, water temperatures can drop into the low 30s, making the fish in these rivers lethargic. However, trout are opportunistic feeders and can still be caught with the right techniques.
One technique we use is indicator fishing with a double nymph setup. We avoid adding split shot to the line, and instead use a tungsten bead or a double standard bead head such as a stone fly pattern or a 20 incher, with a trailer such as a prince on the back side. It's important to know what insect life is present in your river. The goal is to get the flies to the bottom, so that the presentation is on the fish's nose, as these fish will take the easiest ball of protein with minimal effort.
Another technique is stripping/swinging large flies such as DNDs, zoo cougars, and swung flies such as the Covid-19 fly. The idea is to present a big meal with a slow to very slow presentation, showing the fish a big and easy meal, again a big ball of protein with minimal effort. We use sinking tips or full sinking lines to get the fly deep quickly, and move the fly slowly, giving the fish ample opportunity to take the bait.
Lastly, it's important to fish slowly, don't rush or hurry to get to the next pool or key piece of water. Take your time and thoroughly fish each spot. This way, you will maximize your chances of catching fish and also, you will enjoy the day more.