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But there are some advantages to fall and winter fishing that cannot be found at any other time of the year. I'm not talking about ice fishing although ice fishermen certainly have their moments. More specifically, the fishing I'm referring to involves open waters in Wyoming's streams, lakes and reservoirs.
As mentioned, fall fishing comes with its own set of advantages. As you might expect there is one and only one disadvantage. It can be very cold, or maybe I should amend that to it is usually very cold. Now for the advantages. There is hardly any competition - streams and lakes that had ample fishing pressure during the warm summer months are largely vacated. People are wrapping up their big game hunts, others have started hunting birds, small game and waterfowl and others are busy planning their next year's hunting adventures.
Another big advantage is that the water is cool and clear. And the cool water inspires a great deal of activity that put fish on the feed. Fish that retreated to the deep, cooler water of reservoirs will be closer to the bank...and did I mention they will be more active? In this respect, it's somewhat like spring fishing in that fish tend to get active after the ice out and the fishing is good. The big difference is that in the spring, many anglers have been cooped up for several months and are anxious to get out...this translates to more people where in the fall there will be only a fraction of the anglers present in spring and summer. On some waters, especially in the middle of the week, you could be by yourself. Another big advantage awaiting fall anglers is that this is the spawning time for brown trout and brook trout Large browns lose some of their wariness when fall gets here and in some small streams, brook trout bright in their spawning colors, will be stacked as they make their annual pilgrimage out of lakes and ponds.
In the fall, river anglers often find that a well placed wooly bugger or streamer will reward the angler with a fish of substantial proportions. With few exceptions, flies for the late fall and winter are the subsurface stuff. Different colors and variations of wooly buggers, (black, vanilla, brown and olive, bead head and cone head) pheasant tails nymphs, half backs, midges, scuds, copper Johns and San Juan worms all have their moments. Spin fishermen also do well with a variety of Mepps, Panther Martins and small spoons. Bait is also effective in the fall but it is important to check regulations as some waters only allow angling with artificial lures and flies.
One advantage of stream fishing is there are rivers that never get ice covered during the winter. Tailwater fisheries such as the Miracle Mile and Grey Reef sections of the North Platte River do not freeze, and if you can put up with iced up guides, cold and oftentimes windy conditions, you could be rewarded with the catch of the year. Other waters such as the Snake and Bighorn rivers can also be productive...just make sure you check regulations closely as some waters have closures for portions of the river and/or restrictions such as requiring release of some species of fish and the use of artificial lures and flies during the late fall and winter months.
Fishing in lakes and reservoirs before ice up can also be very productive. Every year there are a few stories of hardy anglers who "really got into them" when everyone else was out hunting. These waters usually have more liberal regulations, and fishing with bait is often allowed in addition to artificials. If you plan to fish open water in lakes and lakes and reservoirs, don't wait too long to do it. Sometimes, depending on the weather, the water will stay open through most of November, but a cold snap of a few days will leave standing waters covered with ice.
But, late season fishing is one of those things that you don't know until you try. You might catch a cold or get frostbite, but, as mentioned, you might also catch the fish of the year or possibly the fish of your life. One thing is certain, you will be largely alone doing it.
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