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The Road Not Taken Part 3: Streamer Philosophy

Imagine that you’ve taken my advice, and ventured onto a winter trout stream. Based on the prior passages of The Road Not Taken, you now understand the fundamentals of reading the water, and the influence of environmental factors, such as water temperature, on trout behavior and physiology.

Unlike the spring, summer, and autumn, winter trout streams are devoid of hatching stoneflies, mayflies, and caddis. You scan the surface of a favorite riffle, and notice a few hatching chironomids, known as midges in the United States. Unable to resist this opportunity to "match the hatch", you begin nymphing the riffle with a #24 Brassie. Methodically you probe the seams, slicks, pockets, and trenches. These efforts are not rewarded. Slowly the hours pass, and gradually your optimism begins to dwindle. This winter fly fishing adventure is becoming a mere exercise in frustration. You switch fly patterns, but with the exception of a few snags nothing touches your offering. Finally, you storm out of the riffle, cursing that dreadful British Columbian writer who seemed to argue so convincingly about the glories of winter fly fishing.

Admittedly, winter fly fishing is a challenge, but with a proper understanding of streamer philosophy those dreary winter months can actually provide some top-notch experiences afield. As streams are not often frequented by fly fishers during the winter months, you will probably have an entire section of the stream to yourself. Furthermore, fly selection is relatively straightforward, as the complex hatches of spring, summer, and autumn no longer complicate the selection of a proper imitation. Fly selection can be as simple as the famed Woolly Bugger. As a generalization, winter fly fishing is based on presentation, rather than exact imitation of aquatic insects.

Remember, winter fly fishing requires a different philosophical approach than during the spring, summer, and autumn. Water temperatures are steadily declining, aquatic insect hatches are degenerating, and consequently the trout population becomes lethargic. Trout no longer inhabit the same riffles and runs, which were so productive during the gentler months. Instead, winter trout seek the comfort of sheltering lies. Fly fishers should therefore abandon the riffles and runs, and focus their attention on more productive water - pools and off-current lies.

As mentioned in an earlier passage, fly fishing a winter trout stream involves a binary approach: (1) reading the water, and (2) presenting the fly in a seductive manner. In this passage, we shall bridge the gap between reading the water and streamer presentation. In other words, this passage will explain the philosophical foundations of streamer presentation. If you want to consistently catch trout during the winter months read this passage carefully.

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