The beauty of fly-fishing is that it’s dynamic. As colder temperatures invade the north, you can migrate south (or east, or west) and find some incredible fishing in an area you’ve never visited before. In fact, adapting to the seasons is a great way to improve your knowledge and skills by learning a new fishery and new techniques for targeting its prime species.
So, as we look towards the onset of winter, don’t give up entirely. There are plenty of destinations in the U.S. that actually begin to heat up when temperatures are dropping, and today we’re talking about five of them. But first, a quick note. Just because we’re listing these destinations, doesn’t mean they’re the only winter fishing destinations. As we covered in another article, you can still fly fish productively throughout the winter by using different tactics and taking advantage of the right weather conditions.
But, if you’re looking to getaway for a few days and wet a line that’s not going to freeze to your guides, then here are five great options to look into.
“The Natural State” is one of the most dynamic ecosystems in the lower 48. It represents an intersection between the Midwest, South, West, and holds some of the best fishing characteristics of each. Don’t be fooled—they get a proper winter in Arkansas. But, there are still some incredible fishing opportunities to behold during the coldest parts of the year.
There are mythically large brown trout swimming in the water of the White River and it can be a great winter fishery. But, beyond the White, you can explore the Little Red River for large browns, rainbows, and bass as well. And, if you want a fantastic tailwater experience, try out the Norfork (North Fork of the White River), a five-mile stretch below Norfork Dam.
As far as fishing goes, California seems to have it all. And, their embarrassment of riches happens to carry straight on through to the winter as well. Sure, you have plenty of saltwater opportunities, but we’re actually talking about freshwater in this case. From the high country to down south, you’re sure to find some active fish swimming against the backdrop of jaw-droppingly beautiful country.
One of your best bets is going to be The Trinity River. Due to traditionally milder coastal temperatures and conditions, it’s great for targeting large brown trout as well as steelhead that run into from the Klamath River. You could also try out the rivers of the Eastern Sierra Nevadas if they’re not buried in snow, but the Lower Sacramento River is a more dependable bet. It’s a great tailwater fishery with both rainbows and late-run salmon.
Now, head up a little bit farther north and you’re getting to some of the most iconic fly-fishing in the country for any time of the year. But, Oregon’s coast is a great option for any angler who’s looking for something a little more dependable. As you head farther west, you’ll get gentler coastal temperatures, but be sure to pack your best rain gear.
On the top of the list is the fabled Rogue River, which is legendary for its King Salmon run near the coast, as well as its Chinook. If you’re into steelhead, then definitely check out the Umpqua River during the late fall or head to the Siletz River for its late-winter fishing. We could list dozens of other options, but the Coquille River and Nehalem River are two more standouts.
Of course, we can’t talk about winter fly-fishing without talking about saltwater and Florida is top of the list for anglers looking to hit the beach during the winter. Now, you may be surprised to hear that even Florida’s temperatures can plummet, but there are plenty of species that move into shallower waters and become easier targets.
If you’re looking to go way south, the Florida Keys are a great option to target bonefish during the winter months, but we think redfish are the way to go during winter. Across the state during late fall and winter, bull reds tend to move into shallower water during the “cool, but not cold” stretches. Or, if you’re wanting to battle the aggression of the snook, backcountry destinations throughout the Everglade mangroves hold these feisty targets. Long story short, there’s always plenty to do in the Sunshine State.
We’ll end this list with what we think is a bit of a hidden gem: Louisiana. They don’t call it the “Sportsman’s Paradise” for no reason, and the winter fishing lives up to the name. It boasts some of the most dependable and gentle winter months in the United States, without some of the crowds (and prices) that come with Floridian fame.
Across the marshy coast of Louisiana, you’ll find that winter is prime for targeting monster redfish, as well as schooling speckled trout as well. If you’re up for a bit of a journey, be sure to check out the Chandeleurs just off the Gulf Coast, which are renowned for their large schools of reds and specs. Don’t sleep on Louisiana.
So, where are you headed this winter? Drop a comment below and let us know some of your favorite spots for targeting fish when the frozen north is buried in snow.