Tips And Technique

Winter Trout Fishing, Don’t Ignore the Swing

Bright December Rainbow
Bright December Rainbow Taken on a swinging wet fly

December is one of my favorite times to fish the tributaries of Cayuga Lake and all year trout streams in the Ithaca area .  There are not as many anglers as when it is warm or as the spring, when it may be a bit overwhelming. When I fish December,  I usually start out swinging streamers or wet flies, before I move to dead drifting flies.  I’ve had some really great experiences in the winter catching big browns and rainbows on a swinging fly in the tributaries, which is easily the most satisfying way to catch any fish.  

There are many ways present a swinging a fly.  One simple set-up I use consists of a  10 or 11 foot  7 weight rod, an 8/9 weight floating weight forward line,  a 9 foot tapered monofilament leader,  a 3 foot tippet and a weighted or bead head fly.  I always try to use a tippet of 8 pound maxima or greater which helps absorb the shock of an aggressive take and helps fight a big fish quickly.  One presentation that has been effective, is to cast across or just slightly upstream keeping in mind the down stream spot you want the fly to swim the fly through.   As the line drifts down stream put some  subtle mends in the line allowing the fly to sink and keeping the fly line relatively straight(remove bows in the line).  As the line moves downstream follow the line with the tip of the rod.  When the line gets to about a 45 degree angle downstream of you, gently tighten and cease mending the line and let the fly swim across the stream.  fish will often take the fly as it first starts to move across the current.   Try to envision the fly under water while also watching the fly line so you can swim the fly through areas where you predict fish to be holding.  When they take using this technique there will be no doubt its a fish.

One of my all time favorites to swing, Olive bead head wet.

4 replies on “Winter Trout Fishing, Don’t Ignore the Swing”

Matt how is November for this fishery? Do you still guide? I have some friends that are looking to come here from Mass and do some trout fishing in this area, Syracuse, Watertown and avoid the crowds. Let me know

Jerry, Fishing can be good depending on if there is water. After a rain and after the silt clears is the time to give it a try. There will be some fish around mid-October through December but best is after a rise in water as fish can move in and out fairly quick.


Matt – there are no recent posts on here for 2016. I wish there was a “quick glance” to the member area before I joined this site. Am I missing something????

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