Spey Rod, Bootfoots and Fish

Spey Rod + Bootfoots = Fish

23.5 degrees is the angle of tilt our beautiful, blue planet has in relation to our celestial star. This oblique angle enables our seasons to ebb and flow with precise regularity as we orbit around the Sun at an amazing 67,000 mph. In the 10 seconds it took to read the last couple of sentences we traveled 185 miles in space!  Maybe it’s the sub-freezing weather. Maybe it’s the looong nights here in Montana. Maybe it’s the fact that this little, trout town of Craig, America slows down to a near stand still during these winter months. But this quiet, cold time makes my mind think of silly, trivial stuff. I’ve always been this way and as my dad used to tell me -affectionately, of course – ‘Chris, you know a lot about sh#! that don’t count.’ (My Clients that spend time with me in the boat can surely attest to this fact too!).

Winter gives us time here at CrossCurrents Fly Shop to do some inventory work, planing, reading books and blogs, watching some football (great job Griz – tough one for that national championship game -but we’re proud of y’all! -More strange trivia- I went to both Furman and SDSU. Admittedly, I was rooting for Furman but I was all Grizzlies after that quarterfinals game! I only did 2 semesters at SDSU so I can’t really call myself a Jackrabbit.) We also do a bit of beverage drinking and fly tying.  (Jim Stein likes to say, ‘Tie ‘em in the Winter, loose them in the Summer.’). Those that are smarter than us who have to shovel snow and bundle up with seven layers just to go get the mail, usually travel South to warmer climates for either vacation or to work for a couple of months. Our Craig Store Manager, Ben Cooley, is one of those wise ones. He got himself a USCG Captains License and a sweet Bay Craft tunnel-hull skiff and started guiding down in Louisiana for Redfish a few years ago. (www.muckinmarauderflyfishing.com) I think you can count on one hand the number of days Ben is NOT wearing flip-flops!  If 40″ fish eating flies within 40′ of the boat sounds good to you, get a hold of Ben.

However, this area of Montana does have a neat, meteorological phenomena that occurs a couple of times every mid-winter – the Chinook. Where Craig and the upper Missouri River is situated geographically -just East and South of the main front range of the Rockies, we get weather event called a Chinook (or Chinook Winds). I don’t know how it all works exactly but I do know the result of such weather occurrence -above freezing temps (and yes, often times wind). After spending an inordinate amount of time indoors, it’s sure nice to get a chance to don the waders and catch some trout! (Sameless plug for the best cold weather waders out there – the Orvis PRO Zip Bootfoot Waders! Bootfoots keep you way warmer than stockingfoot and the zipper on the front – well, go ahead have have that third cup of coffee -if you know what I mean!) 

Winter fly fishing for many of us now entails Trout Spey. Some may roll their eyes because trout spey can be a bit ‘trendy’ but it’s only because you may not have tried it (or you did and you’re terrible at spey casting!). Well here’s some reasons why I think it’s worth your while to try it or stick with it.

First, I can fish when I’m wearing gloves or even mittens. I’m not doing as much fidgeting with the fly line or rigging complicated nymph rigs or small flies with a trout spey rod so covered fingers is a doable thing. If you keep your cast short-ish, you can even wear mittens and never have to worry about stripping in line to cast -and when you hook a fish, you’re already ‘on the reel’ so all you need to do is just start cranking!

Secondly, trout spey allows you to effectively cover a section or water with a minimal amount of effort. You simply cast, swing, step, repeat.  Your fly will very efficiently be presented to a large swath of water. Provided you have the right sink tip and fly, your offering should swing in front of a trout’s face at some point during your walk down the run. That’s better than Door Dash for a big trout!

I’ll also add that trout spey can be extremely simple. When you hit the water, all you really need is a few flies, one spool to tippet (0X) and a couple of sink tips. No Sling Pack or Chest Pack or Vest needed. Everything you need should fit into 1 or 2 pockets. The only thing simpler it Tenkara. (Now I know I have a few of you rolling your eyes!)

Of course, in winter we also do some bobber lobbing and even Euronymphing (another eye roll session). Fishing with a couple of nymphs will probably catch you more fish on most days. The drawback to nymphing however, is the complexity of the set up and cold, numb fingers are not very good at rigging those up or untangling the bird’s nests that can happen.

Another big tip I can give for winter fly fishing (or for any time of year) -is to use a No Touch Hook Release Tool!  I can’t praise this simple but super effective little tool more. No need to grab a wet fish with cold hands -making your hands even colder and possible hurting the fish in the process. This is a must have gadget.

And yes, dry fly action does happen on occasion.  Midges hatch everyday, even when we are below zero. However, not everyday do fish rise to them. When they do, it’s a very nice winter bonus to get into dry fly fishing!

So, stay warm this season and keep an eye out for those days forecasted to be at or above freezing. Then plan your escape to some open streams or the Missouri River to scratch your fly fishing itch.  If frostbite isn’t your thing, I get it. Then just take solace in knowing that the time it took to read this article, we are over 11,000 miles closer to the Earth’s tilt tipping us towards the Sun, bringing back the warm weather!  We’ll see you in the Summer!


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