Picture yourself looking at the forecast for a week during January, and spotting a break in the winter weather. Immediately you’re mind starts racing with thoughts about taking advantage of time on the water while the air temperatures are well above freezing. It’s exciting, and after all the warm weather should turn on the fish, right?
Snow on the ground is a major factor that needs to be considered to determine if a swing of warm weather will produce great winter fishing, or not. If the ground is not covered in snow, you will very likely find yourself having a productive day on the water. If the ground is covered with snow, you might be mistaken.
One thing to consider is whether or not the melting snow will impact the flows of the water you will be fishing. In the West, snow melt is known to create very high, unfishable water conditions. While this does happen some here in the East, the effects are no where near as dramatic. Although, I think many anglers are well aware how snow melt can increase flows to create undesirable fishing conditions.
The effect that I think anglers are more likely to overlook, is how melting snow affects water temperature. In the East, snow melt does not always create unfishable flows, however, the change in water temperature from melting snow can drastically impact fishing conditions. As snow melt drains into our water systems, it creates an influx of very cold water. This can lower the overall temperature of the water you are fishing, depending on how much snow is around to melt, or how quickly that snow melts. A decrease in the overall water temperature will make the fish more sluggish and less active.
Therefore, due to snow, it is very possible to have a less productive day of fishing than expected during warm winter weather. Depending on if the water you fish is primarily freestone or spring influenced can dictate how drastic the impact of melting snow may be on fishing conditions. The snow melt effect on flows and water temperature is yet another variable to consider when planning your winter fly fishing trips. Beware.