There can be, and I’m not talking about mosquitos. When the weather does the right thing and the bugs go nuts, Missouri River trout often get so focused on emerging insects that they start to ignore everything else. That includes my streamer? Hard to believe you can rip a Kreelex through a group of big Borwns rising in 8 inches of water and not get a response – or blow them up – but you can.
While we generally think of fish focused on hatches as a summer thing, it can and does happen in the winter. Things go dark, midges start to hatch in respectable numbers, and the fish that were pounding your streamer go dark as well.
When we’re swinging the Missouri during the winter months, as a general rule you do not want to see a bunch of midges hatching. The more fish you see rising, the less likely that you’ll get that pull you’re waiting for. Not always true, and not on all sections of the river (the Dam always seems to have it’s own set of rules). But I have experienced this enough over the years that I feel alright calling it a “rule”.
This sceanario is not typically a problem for us right now. Our big midge hatches are a couple of months away. But recently we’ve had some ideal hatch conditions and the bugs went off. And the two-handed fishing went south. Why? The fish have switched gears. No longer looking for that occasionally baby burbot to swim by. They are gorging on the millions of midge pupa rising through the water column.
Trout also move during a good winter midge hatch. It’s not uncommon to find them cruising slack water and back eddies. Midge larva are trick in those silty bottom spots with no current. Not where you want them to be when you’re swinging. If you think about it it’s really not any different than conditions you encounter during the summer months. The fish are shallow, or up in the water column where emerging bugs are available.
While you’re out on the river on those nasty, snowy days, pay attention and adjust accordingly. We love to swing, but there’s nothing wrong with a Midge Cluster/Zebra dropper either…