Fishermen who target mountain trout in both Carolinas know a few things the average fishing public don’t, and one big one is that winter fishing can be excellent in streams and rivers in higher elevations.

Guide James McManus of 153 Charters in Sylva, N.C., is one of those guys who doesn’t cut back his fishing just because the calendar has turned over.

“The fishing can be real good in January and through the winter,” said McManus (828-421-8125). “We can get some warm days when the fishing is really good.”

But even if it’s cold, gray and even rainy, trout will bite — if you approach them correctly.

“There are two things that will work in the winter,” McManus said. “One is to fish something like a Woolly Booger or a bigger streamer that can be fished slow and deep.

“You’re looking for deeper holes where the trout will be holding. Fish a bead-head Woolly Booger or a bigger streamer, something that matches the little dace and minnows in that stream, something silver with red cheeks. 

“You cast quartering across the deep hole and retrieve with slow strips of a foot or less.”

McManus also said that fishermen need to watch for intermittent hatches of tiny insects, aka midges, that can be imitated by using No. 20 or No. 22 dry flies.

“There will be days all year when you get little hatches of these tiny flies,” he said. “If they’re hatching, you can see the fish rise and cast to the rising fish. A tiny Copper John or any little tiny fly, like a Secret Weapon, will work.

“Also, if we get some warm days, you might get a Caddis hatch. A little Elk Hair Caddis will work, stripped or hopped across the surface.”