When winter rolls around, many fishermen abandon moving waters and head to iced-over lakes, where they often sit for hours in one spot, their primary activity being struggling to stay warm.
Don't get me wrong. Ice fishing is a great pastime, and one I have enjoyed quite a few times over the years. It's hard to beat a mid-winter fish fry after pulling a mess of perch through the ice at Pineview Reservoir.
Maybe it's just the cold or the short days, but for whatever reason, local streams and rivers become a lot less crowded after the snow falls -- but that doesn't mean there isn't some fine fishing to be had.
For Paul Thompson, assistant aquatics program manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources' Northern Region, the appeal of winter fishing on moving water is simple.
"You can still catch a lot of fish, and you don't see as many people," Thompson said. "You can pretty much have holes to yourself."
A good pair of neoprene waders is your best friend for river fishing during the colder months. Hypothermia can come quickly if you get wet.
Hands can get cold quickly, especially if you're catching fish and regularly getting your hands wet. Since fishing with gloves on is a tricky proposition at best, sometimes you just have to take a break and warm your hands. Keeping my hands warm is one of the winter fishing problems I have yet to solve.
Sticking to the lower elevations is another way to avoid the coldest locations, but as long as you're in Northern Utah, you're not going to get below 4,200 feet.
Brad Christensen, an avid angler from Layton, said he's caught some of his best fish when there is snow on the ground.
"I haven't seen as many of those days when it seems like you're catching something on every cast, but I have landed a few big ones," Christensen said. "Sometimes it takes more patience, but if you don't have patience to begin with, fishing is probably not your thing."
I don't know enough about fish behavior to get into the details of how, or if, you should change your strategy for winter fishing. Suggestions are welcome.
Food is more scarce in winter, so they try to conserve more energy. That means you may have to search longer and harder to find them, but once you do, your chances for success are typically good. On warmer days, they may move into the shallows in search of food.
On my first true cold-weather river outing of the season, I spent about an hour and a half on a short stretch of the Weber River last week with nary a nibble. But even when I don't catch anything, I still find relaxation in the hypnotic sounds and undulations of the river, the glorious backdrop of the Wasatch Range, and the frosty air that has provided the solitude I sometimes require.
I don't have any advice for fly fishermen because I haven't taken the time or spent the money yet to get into it. But it's an art form I fully intend to explore sometime in the not-too-distant future.
Fly-fishing can be tough because there aren't a lot of insects out, but even in January, the occasional caddis or mayfly hatch can occur. That might present some opportunities for wielders of the fly rod.
For those who decide to hit their favorite stretch of river this winter, please keep two things in mind:
First, check current state regulations before hitting the water. Some waterways are off limits during the winter months.
Second, the brown trout spawn has effectively ended for the year, but the eggs won't hatch until February or later, so anglers should continue to avoid redds, the spawning nests browns create in gravel beds along waterways.
Don't walk on submerged gravel beds if you can help it. Future generations of browns depend on it.