Layer Up and Catch Big Fish

By Karl Ekberg

The happy holiday season has now past, and the long winter nights have settled in for January. Great rains of December have filled the rivers and streams around us here at Chattooga River Fly Shop. River flows have been great, and the fishing has been even better. Many large fish were being caught throughout December, and the trend looks to continue thru January.

Now the winter fishing season is upon us, and it is time to layer up and catch big winter fish. At times, with the heavy rains, the rivers will take a few days to subside from extremely high levels and unsafe wading conditions. After this, the rivers will fish extremely well, with many large fish being caught. Do not let the cold weather keep you home, just dress appropriately and enjoy the rivers. We have found using the wicking base layers and the Redington I/O Fleece Pants to be very beneficial, for keeping warm while wading. Let’s not forget about top layers either. Wearing a wicking base layer shirt, and then a fleece and an insulated coat, depending on the daytime temperatures.

Many large fish are being caught using tandem nymph rigs, with larger nymphs as a lead fly and a smaller nymph as the trailer, tied off the back end of the lead fly hook. Casting these tandems slightly upstream, and dead drifting these flies through the seams is essential. The seams are those areas where the water is moving more quickly than the area of the slower moving water. There are many flies to choose from, as the lead flies and as the trailers; we have a tremendous supply in stock, and please check out our “hot list”.

As for the streamers, big fish are being caught on these as well. Casting out and across fast moving water, dead-drifting, and then a strip-and-pause back to you along the seam lines has proved to be extremely effective. Keeping the streamers low in the water column is also a key to success, as with the colder water temperatures, the fish are holding low in the river. The use of a weighted leader or pinching on a piece of weight a foot above the streamer, will help.

On warmer days, some dry fly fishing may be at hand. Don’t be surprised to see rises as the winter days warm from the early day cold to the 50’s, maybe 60, and fish start rising. Pre-hatch fishing nymphs and emergers on the swing, will be the ticket, and then switching to dries will be the key to success.

If fishing in the cold weather outside is not your cup of tea, join us for a fly tying lesson inside our warm shop. We offer one-on-one fly tying lessons for the beginner, or to those that want to learn new ideas at the vise, just call for an appointment. We hope to see everyone out on the rivers and please don’t forget to “Leave No Trace”!

Karl and Karen Ekberg are co-owners of Chattooga River Fly Shop, located at 6832-A Highlands Hwy, Mountain Rest, SC 29664. Give them a call at (864) 638-2806 and visit their website at