Old man Winter hasn’t been to harsh so far. Since the new year has arrived its been rather pleasant here in central Virginia. Some beautiful weather, a little cold weather, and some wet weather, but I have seen way worse in my 42 years. I’ll take the inconsistent weather over just straight cold any day.
With the warmer than average weather the trout fishing has been pretty decent. Tailwater rivers like the Jackson and Smith rivers are the best places to find consistent water temps and flows during the Winter months. Midges provide the main food source this time of year for trout feeding on bugs. Midges are small, so you need to bring your size 18 and smaller nymphs out this time of year. There are some bigger insects around as well right now. Sunny days bring out the Winter black stoneflies on most rivers in the state. Sometimes they can be thick enough to get the trout rising.
If you would rather throw big flies than small don’t hesitate to put on the meat flies. I have been out a fair amount fishing streamers for wild Virginia brown trout this month. Brown trout dislike the cold water temps but will move for a bigger meal when it presents itself. Brown trout this time of year generally will be in the slower deeper water than moving current, so focus on covering the deeper water.
I can’t say a whole a lot about the musky fishing this month so far. I have run a few trips with just seeing a few fish follow and one day seeing nothing all day. Finally yesterday after 7 hours of hard fishing and moving to 3 different locations on the James River we found a hungry fish in the last hour of light. We have consistently had some cold nights which has kept the water temps below ideal. Even with the warmer days than normal, water temps lately have been below 40 degrees. Yesterday I saw 37.5 degrees being the lowest temp. With low water temps if you get a follow that musky wants to eat. For example yesterdays trip the musky followed to the boat and spun around on the figure 8 but did not eat. I went right back with a different fly color and the fish t-boned it on the retrieve.
In my opinion the best month for musky fishing is still to come. February is pre spawn and generally brings out the big females because of the desire to stuff their gut. I will be guiding musky till about the second week of March, then switching over to trout and shad till the striped bass show up in April.