Winter Fly Fishing Tips for Catching Trout

Winter fly fishing for trout success can vary quite a bit in Pennsylvania. Temperatures ranging from below zero to 60 degrees are all possible. Believe it or not, trout can be caught on any of these days throughout the winter in PA. There will be days where fishing is tough, but also days where plenty of fish can be caught. Follow these 6 tips for winter fly fishing for trout in Pennsylvania’s streams and creeks.


Fishing Report: 2/6/19

  • Location - Tulpehocken Creek 
  • Weather was cloudy and in the mid 40’s.
  • Flies used were red, pink, and green squirmy wormies, black woolly bugger, mop fly, and a lively legz pink pheasant tail nymph.
  • 15+ fish were caught in about 2 hours of fishing. Most were good sized rainbows but also some smaller brown trout.
  • Most fish were caught in the deep, slow moving pools. 


  1. Fish a warmer day- A good rule of thumb to follow is to fish the warmer days when possible. It is not only more pleasant to be outside, but also more likely for the trout to be feeding on the warmer days. Winter in Pennsylvania can have long stretches of frigid temperatures and the fishing can still be great during those times, but if a fisherman has some freedom in their schedule, try for a warmer day if possible. If fishing on a very cold day, the best hours are going to be during the middle part of the afternoon when the sun is highest.

  1. Find the slow water- During the winter, trout are not going to expend more energy than absolutely necessary. That means they are going to be laying in slower water more times than not, to avoid using more energy in the faster water. Often times, a trout’s food or prey is going to be drifting downstream with the current. Trout will lay on the edge of the slow water, where they can still see over into the current where food will be drifting. A fisherman should spend a lot of time casting to these “seams” where slow water comes up next to faster current.
  1. Fish your best spots- Most fishermen are going to have limited time to trout fish in the winter. Go to proven creeks or spots where trout are plentiful. Wait for spring and summer to explore new areas that are unpredictable. Fishing during the winter can be slower than spring so a fisherman should give themselves the best chance they can by just hitting their best spots.

  1. Don’t overthink it- In reality, trout fishing in the winter is not too much different from any other time of year. The same basic tactics still apply. Find where the fish are, try to match the food source, and give a natural looking presentation of your fly to the fish. If those basic rules are followed, trout will be caught in the winter just like any other season of the year.
  1. Have the right apparel- Wool socks are a must-have when trout fishing in the winter. They will help keep feet warm while wading in cold water. Wear layers as needed on the body to stay warm. Waterproof gloves are also a very nice addition to have.

Take the right fly fishing gear:

  • Fly Rod and Reel- A 5 weight rod is the most common choice for fishermen pursuing trout in Pennsylvania waters.

  • WadersFrogg Toggs Hellbender II Stockingfoot Chest Waders are made from an ultralight outer shell material, with an exclusive waterproof and breathable 4-ply nylon upper. These waders feature an advanced, double-reinforced knee construction that provides superior durability for a more comfortable and better fit.

  • Sling, Vest, or Fanny Pack- Use one of these to keep all flies and other miscellaneous gear in order. Keep nippers, tippet, extra leaders, and forceps in here.

  • Flies- With no surface action happening during the winter months, fly selection can be kept fairly basic. Focus on using nymphs, streamers, and soft hackle wet flies. Some great choices are Pheasant Tail Nymphs, San Juan Worms, Squirmy Wormies, Woolly Buggers, and Muddler Minnows.

  • Pennsylvania Fishing License and Trout/Salmon Permit

Follow these tips and gear recommendations to experience the winter fly fishing for trout success you've always dreamed of attaining.