December and January trout options

Peter Hayes
I noted with interest recently that after more than a dozen years of guiding my most regular clients come during December January. Two clients in particular are emphatic that the best week of the season is the third week in December. In this dozen years one of these clients has never missed catching at least his bag (12) limit of trout on at least one of the days of his visit.

December and January are no doubt two of the prime months of the season at the lakes. The water is warming as well as the air temperatures. The bugs are getting happier and starting to think about mating. Stick caddis mature and feed like mad in the shallow bays before they hatch in the evenings. Mayfly nymphs are active and start to hatch. This really turns the fish on. Beetles are becoming keen on moving around from tree to tree and many of them accidentally end up in the drink. All of this makes for exciting sight fishing.

Clear blue sky days
December is also a great time for polaroiding the western lakes. The throngs of visiting anglers have not yet arrived and water levels are still pretty good. The fish have not been fished over too much and are receptive to a well presented nymph or a dry. Prior to December a dry fly is often shunned.
If you can manage to get some sun and a light wind to ripple the surface there is no better place to be. Our highland alpine wilderness environment really is heaven on earth to a fly fisher at this time of the season. Keep in mind though that the weather is still fickle and it can snow at any moment.
If you are after a big fish, a really big fish, then now is the time to seek one out. Search in the known big fish waters like First Lagoon or East Rocky, maybe even Paget. Consider taking a photo and releasing the fish to hunt again another day.
On blue days I often fish the deeper, clear water lakes like Echo, Dee and Great Lake. These waters provide good dry fly fishing and many fish come to a dry fished blind. Try the Chernobyl Ant or a big black Muddler to draw fish from afar. Bigger can definitely be better, but make sure you always have a small, discrete dark dry as well - a Bibio Hopper or Claret Bits just 5 feet from the first fly is a good choice. I like to look for slicks, draws off points or on the wave driven shore when doing this type of fishing. The windier the day the better.
Keep an eye out in the wave faces too. The warmer weather brings the fish up and many fish can be sighted and caught polaroiding in this manner on our larger impoundments.

Dull overcast days
On this type of day it is wiser for the fly fisher to stick to the mayfly waters. These include Arthurs, Penstock, Little Pine and now the more accessible Woods Lake.
Mayflies love to hatch at this time of the season on overcast days. If the action is scarce then consider hanging a nymph a couple of feet off the weed beds. This may mean a 10 - 12 foot dropper from the indicator. I use a Brown Nymph at 9 feet under and a Prickle Stick Caddis at 3 feet under the indicator. It is more common to catch on the deeper fly even thought the Prickle Stick is a killing fly.
Surface film flies like hoppers, Bob's Bits and Possum Emergers are all good flies and moving them often is a great idea. Particularly in wavy conditions. I like a fluro head on my mayfly emergers and a shiny holographic gold head on the possum emergers.
A Shaving Brush is also a great fly for this fishing but not so good to use on the pull.
Woods Lake is a great spot at this time. The fish are in superb condition and they fight pound for pound better than any other highland trout. The new road has really opened up this fishery. Too much I fear. Perhaps we all need to limit our catch in this water -much lower than the 12 fish limit. It is a unique fishery that deserves to be this way for what is left of my generation as well as the next.

Peter Hayes.

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