Layer Up and Catch Big Fish

Here is Morgan Voke & Anthony Rossitto with a great Chauga Rainbow!

By Karl Ekberg

A great Happy New Year from all of us at Chattooga River Fly Shop and we are excited for the upcoming year with great weather, gear, and friendship out on the local waters here in South Carolina. The holidays are now behind us, and we hope by this article being published we received some much needed height in the rain gauge. November thru December, had been quite dry, leading to lower water levels and “Gin Clear” conditions. Very spooky fish at those water levels, leads to lengthy leaders and a very stealthy approach to the rivers, to have a successful day. Numerous days of colder than normal temperatures had brought waters down to the low 40’s with occasional warm ups to the mid 40’s.

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, to 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 day time temperatures. Let’s make sure wading belts are tightly secured around the mid area, as well as the top draw sting. Nothing worse during the mid -winter cold, is a slip and fall in the water, and a gush of icy cold water down the old waders due to a loose belt or draw string.

Deep, deep, deep, as the saying goes if you’re not hanging the bottom once in a while you are not deep enough. As water temperatures fall down through the low 40’s and high 30’s, this is absolutely true as the river water will be warmer down in the depths of larger pools and trenches. As warmer days increase the river temps, back off the big heavies, and swing some soft-hackles, in tandem with some smaller nymphs. Heavier large steamers can also be a great way to be Winter fishing as well. Large fish cannot resist putting the big bright flashy in their mouths. At times, though a little slower retrieval can be necessary as colder temperatures will lead to lethargic fish.

Let’s remember that we only have one great outdoors, enjoy them, respect them, pick up a little bit of trash on our way out, and always remember, “leave no trace” ourselves. We hope to see everyone out on the rivers in 2022!

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