First, I'd like to say that I'm quite fortunate to live where I do. Generally, open water can be found all winter long and there is no closed season. Furthermore, I have access to wild trout streams, public park ponds, warmwater streams, mid-size rivers, and large reservoirs all within an hour's drive. I frequently go fishing on my lunch break and on most weekend mornings that are above freezing. But I'm still frustrated by my lack of success in winter. Actually, what got me back into fishing in 2010, and ultimately led me to fly fishing in 2011, was a burning desire to figure out how to catch fish in colder water. But so far, my lifetime winter fishing success consists of one brook trout last February in a wild trout stream. This was on a day where it was partly cloudy at home, but a light snow/ice mix in the mountains 45 minutes drive uphill.

A little further south and the water might only rarely dip below 50F; a little further north and I might be ice fishing. My near-fish experiences include once seeing a 4" sunfish in a small stream nearly dead in midwinter. On several occasions I've seen creek chubs or similar fish dart from one rock to another during winter, never to be seen again. Yesterday I saw a 6" shad in a small stream swimming with it's dorsal fin out of the water and thought, "what strange behavior". I frequently see schools of minnows in winter streams, although those schools seem to become smaller and more scarce later in the season; perhaps an indication there are still fish around eating them. Despite years of searching, I've not been able to find the pools with hundreds of smallmouth and sunfish huddling together until spring returns. I've read about them, I've seen pictures of bass that people like Jeff Little, Tim Holschlag, Darl Black, and In-Fisherman have caught in the winter, and I believe the stories, but I've so far been unsuccessful.

I guess there was the one December creek pool I found with dozens of rainbow trout, and I did catch one, but that was in California, so it doesn't really count, at least I don't think.

This past weekend was a really great one weather wise. Saturday the temperatures climbed to near 60F, followed by nearly 70F on Sunday. The trend continued yesterday with a high of 65F. I took advantage on Sunday afternoon by going down to the small stream near my house to try Tim Holschlag's float-n-fly technique for anything that would bite. My original intent was to cover as much water as possible, but I learned late that I would be taking my 4 oldest children, the youngest of which is only 4, so I was limited to only a couple hundred yards of water for safety's sake. I pounded 4 or 5 holes fairly well but only saw one lonely minnow. Yesterday I went to a city park stream at lunch and that's where I saw the strange shad, but my time was limited and I got no bites in the one stretch of stream I tried. Water temps were 44F on Sunday, and 45F on Monday, up from near freezing a week ago.

So who has had success fishing in the winter, especially on warmwater species? Who has advice for me, and others, that are tormented with cabin fever by this time of year, and can't wait for pre-spawn?

Here are some things I think I might need for success:
-Wintering holes with actual fish in them; the same tired stretches I've tried over the years aren't it. I need to cover more water, methodically, but quickly, eliminating empty water until I find a place with actual fish in it.
-More time at the wild trout streams; it's a bit of a drive, but the trout are more active in cold water than bass and sunfish.
-Possible trip to a stocked trout stream; they're even further away, but offer the promise of larger trout, and without guilt over keeping them for dinner.

Here is what I don't think I need to change:
-My fly or technique; the float-n-fly is time tested and works for others.
-A place with a spring seepage; there aren't any springs to speak of on this side of the Blue Ridge, the limestone in Virginia is west of the Blue Ridge.
-Pond and reservoir fishing; the deep water of my local ponds is not suited for winter fly fishing, and winter holes on a large reservoir can be almost impossible to reach on a fly rod, even from a boat. Plus I'd still need to find them, just like I'm trying to do on the streams.
-A warm-up like this past weekend can't hurt, but balmy weather shouldn't be the only time that there is a bite to be had.