A Winter Fishing Lesson

The winter catch-and-release fishing season in Missouri's four trout parks is a good time for beginning fly fishers to learn how to catch trout on a fly. The parks in general are wonderful places to learn how to fish and, in winter, there is plenty of room for neophyte fly casters to stretch their lines without worrying about bumping into someone.

The spring branches in the park are just as alluring in winter as in summer. There are fair numbers of eager fish, and you usually have your choices of spots to exercise your new-found skills. There is also the possibility of seeing wintering bald eagles in the parks, a sight the summer crowds don't get to enjoy.

The fish fight just as hard in winter as summer. Hone your skills here and, by spring, you may find your interest in the sport has grown to the extent that you find yourself seeking trophy trout and wild trout in other locations.

Clothing

 In winter there will be balmy days when you can fish in little more than a warm shirt, but there will also be days when you will watch ice pellets strike the water in 20-degree air and wonder what you are doing there. Bootfoot neoprene waders can help keep out the cold. Wearing insulated underwear under lighter waders will also do the job. Wool, neoprene or fleece fingerless gloves can keep your fingers working when the air is really cold. A combination of an insulated underwear top and fleece jacket is ideal, and don't forget a fleece or wool cap that will cover your ears.

Tackle

Just about any 7 1/2-foot to 8 1/2-foot fly rod for a 5- or 6-weight line is ideal for a new fly angler. An inexpensive single action reel will work great. A floating line to match the rod rounds out the outfit.

Leader

I am going to suggest two ways of angling that involve almost no casting. You will be fishing with your leader and little fly line. More about fly casting later.

Buy a 9-foot tapered leader at a tackle store, one that has a 3-pound test tip. Also buy two small spools of leader material, one 2-pound test, the other 3-pound test. If the water in the stream is exceptionally low and clear, use the 2-pound test; otherwise use the 3-pound. Buy two small packages of removable split shot, one size "bb," the other size "b."

As you change flies, you