Sunday, March 14, 2010

Fly Fishing in a Snow Storm. Really?

Winter fishing can be a tough cold gig. The weather in Colorado can be a tricky thing and the higher in elevation you are, you should expect to experience a few weather patterns moving through on you. I’ve been caught in blizzards and white outs on stream, when only an hour earlier the skies were cerulean blue and sunny.

I can recall one snowy adventure on stream that made me re-think the need to winter fish. I had just attended a Trout Unlimited meeting where the speaker mentioned fly fishing in a snow storm is great experience.

“There’s nothing better than casting your fly in a snow storm!” Taken aback by some of our reactions, he said; “No really. The skies are gray and overcast. You may catch an early Blue Wing Olive hatch. I’ve had great days fishing in snow storms.”

What? Seriously? Well maybe he knows something I don’t? Ok. I’ll go fly fishing in a snow storm…and I did.

A few days later it started to snow, I piled my gear into truck and told my wife I was off to fish in a snow storm. The higher I went in elevation, the harder it snowed, the harder it snowed, the more worried I became. Snow storms in the Colorado Rockies are not to be messed around with. These storms can be killers and I was going fly fishing in one of these potential killers.

When I pulled into the trailhead leading to the stream, I thought I saw another vehicle parked. I wasn’t sure if it was a truck. The snow was blowing so damn hard I couldn’t tell if it was truck or cattle that had gathered together for warmth and protection from the blizzard. Wait a second, it’s a truck, and there’s two guys getting ready to fish in this snow storm. Well, they must know something too. OK. If they are here maybe this is a good thing?

The storm continued to build as I rigged up. And I was ready to pack it in and go home when the two other adventures came over to my truck.

“Wow! This is one hell of storm!” one of them shouted over the wind and fury of the blizzard.
“Sure is!” I shouted back.
“You think this is worth our time?” he asked.
I shrugged and yelled; “I hope so. I heard fishing in a snow storm can be pretty good.”

He smiled and nodded to his friend, as if I had confirmed his advice and their conversations, “Yep, I’ve heard that too. The other day I attended a Trout Unlimited meeting and the guest speaker said it can be some of the best fishing.”

I laughed and told them I was at the same meeting. They both had a look of fear and mistake written across their faces.

After a few seconds of discussion, we all decided to tough it out and fish. As we walked down to the stream, one of them turned to me and shouted; “For the interest of safety, we should all stick together, within sight of each other.”

I gave him the thumbs up and we marched on. We didn’t catch a damn thing. Fly fishing in a snow storm, a blizzard. That was stupid.

I like using the winter months for fly tying. This year I pulled together a list of flies, common western flies, needed to fill my fly boxes. Basic flies one should not be on stream without, here’s a few I’ve tied up this winter; Elk Hair Caddis, Adams, Blue Wing Olives, Pale Morning Duns, Red Quills, Stimulators, Trico Spinners, Mosquitoes, Ants, Grasshoppers, Hares Ear Nymphs, Midges, Copper Johns, Pheasant Tail Emerges, Griffith Nats and Streamers. Sorry, that reads like quite the laundry list.

Like anyone else who ties, I’ve created a few of my own patterns. Mainly, these creations are variations of existing patterns, tweaked to my liking. I’ve had great success with my Moose Tail. The “Moose” is a simple pattern using moose mane for tail, cream dun for body and grizzly hackle. Size 14-18.

I sent a few Moose Tails out to a friend in Maine. He emailed me a few days after receiving them and told me he needed more or the recipe to make them himself. Seems Maine Brook Trout love the pattern. That was a nice feeling knowing my pattern is effective in a few regions of the United States. Truth is; the pattern just looks buggy and trout love buggy things. I think the pattern would work anywhere.

Tying flies, warm and happy versus fishing in a blizzard cold and worried. I think I’ll stay home.


  1. I had a personal chuckle when I read that you used moose mane for the tail of your moose fly.

    While working out of town with your father in 1965, we and a few others shared a meal of, what we called "Moose Main"! It was chow main made with moose meat. I know,,,that has nothing to do with fly fishing. It is just a fond memory I wished to share.


  2. Very cool, tale Erik. I still love the "Moose" fly. I'm sure that even NW cutties will groove on it.

  3. Uncle Billy, great story. I think I recall a story about you smearing moose turds all over my dad. I think you were about 17-18?

    As you have seen, my blog has fly fishing as a main theme, but, life doesn't stop because one fly fishes. As suc, you will see some of my entries have nothing to do about fly fishing. So, in short, your comment is perfect and made me have a "personal chuckle."