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  • Writer's pictureBrian Lansing

Grinding Through January

fly fishing for brown trout in the winter in Central NY
I landed this dandy winter brown recently fly fishing in Central NY. Thanks to a friend, Eric, for the shot.

On the mild days that I’ve been on the local streams, fly fishing has been pretty decent for the middle of January. Streams have been free and clear of ice and water levels have been pretty good, leveling out to relatively normal flows for this time of year (we had some really high water at the time of my last post). Brown trout have settled into winter holds and are not going out of their way to eat. Nonetheless, some nice healthy trout have been fooled. The fly needs to be rolling along the bottom and in front of their face. I’ve been choosing my days on the water carefully. Luckily, we’ve had plenty of days with temperatures into the mid to upper 30s, great for this time of year. Luck may be running out this week though as sub 25-degree temperatures are forecasted for the next couple weeks. Call me a wimp if you’d like, but I find fly fishing when it’s that cold to be aggravating and a pain in the a$!. That said, it doesn’t mean I’m not going to fish.

My tactics and patterns for January haven’t changed. I’m still using eggs and my select few flies I have the most confidence in throughout the winter. Some days eggs are working better. A couple days ago, nymphs were far more effective. When I don’t pick up fish I feel that I should be, I circle back through with my next pattern I have confidence in. If that still doesn’t work, there’s clearly no fish in that run… I’m kidding. It’s winter and they get fickle. Keep work it and focus hard on making good drifts as I mentioned in my previous post. I make a couple trips through the run and then move on, regardless of whether or not I’ve picked up fish. I have my flies that I’m confident will pick up fish and they don’t do it for me, I move to find another run with, hopefully, more activity.

Fairly regularly, I get asked by other anglers about fly fishing with gloves, or my lack thereof. I can’t stand wearing gloves to fly fish and I do not wear them. I don’t get the feel and the connection with my fly and line that I like. My fingers and hands suffer, but I’m fine with it. I’ve never felt I gained anything by wearing gloves. I have worn them before and I find them to be a burden and get in my way. My hands are usually out high and exposed nymphing. They still get cold and I still lose dexterity with gloves on, so what’s the point of wearing gloves if my fingers are going to be cold anyhow? My solution has been hand warmers and a towel to dry my hands off whenever they get wet. It works great for me.

Don't wear gloves to handle trout.
Frozen fingers. Lose the gloves.

Another reason I don’t like wearing gloves is that every time I handle a fish, the gloves need to come off. Nobody should handle trout, or any fish you plan to release for that matter, with a glove that’s going to pull the protective slime off a fish. It really isn’t great for the fish. You can leave an actual hand print with finger marks on the fish where the slime has been worn off. This allows an avenue for infection. If you need to handle fish and plan to release them, lose the gloves and wet the hands. A quick google search will give you loads of pages on why it’s not good for trout. If you post a hero shot on the interwebs with gloves on, the FFBI (Fly Fishing Bureau of Investigation and yes, it is a real site) and many others will be quick to call you out on your mishap as well.

Unfortunately, Oneida Lake ice is slow to take hold for a second year in a row. Ice fishing on Oneida Lake hasn’t started yet for many. With cold temperatures for the next 10-14 days, I’m hopeful and encouraged that we’ll have a strong February on the ice. The lake had skimmed over and gained a couple inches once, but rain and strong winds ripped roughly 50% of it apart again to open water. I rode along the south shore after lunch today and found it to be locked up again for the most part. There are still a few patches of open water out there, but not like it was earlier in the week. Hopefully the snow stays away as snow acts as an insulator against the colder temperatures and inhibits the growth of ice. There are shanties and ice anglers out there today who are comfortable on the early inconsistent ice and, hopefully, have spudded their way out and have ropes to throw in the event things go south. I am not one of them and I’m giving it a little time yet to harden up. I’m happy to be patient and wait a bit longer for the cold to work it’s magic and hopefully build something more than a few inches of ice to stand on.

Until the ice is solid enough for me, I continue to pick my days on the streams wisely. I’ve been getting gear organized for the ice so it’s ready to go. I’ll be tying flies and filling boxes so I don’t have to do quite as much in the spring and summer. I continue to plug away on website work, both for this site and for my woodworking business (coming very soon). For anyone wondering what I was talking about with confidence flies earlier in the post, I’m writing a post about what they are and their purpose that I’ll have up next week.

Until next time, stay safe and stay healthy. Good luck on the water and GO BILLS!


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