Don’t overlook December trout

Anglers should dress in layers this month, and shed a layer or two as the temperature rises.

December offers great WNC trout fishing

Matt Evans of The Catawba Angler said December is an overlooked month for trout fishing in Western North Carolina’s rivers. He also said it can be the best time to fish these waters.

“Crowds have dwindled, but more importantly, the fishing can be even better this month than it was in the fall. The key is for anglers to be willing to adjust their tactics with the temperature fluctuations we typically see this month,” he said.

Those water temperatures can range from the upper 30s to the low 50s, and can change quickly when weather fronts move through.

“If water temperatures are hovering around 40 degrees, you want to downsize your flies. Trout won’t do a lot of chasing. And they’ll be eating smaller offerings,” he said.

That’s a great time to throw midges in sizes 16 to 22 on the Catawba River and other nearby streams. And it’s necessary to use 6x and 7x tippets.

“The water this month is normally crystal clear. So put away the 4x and 5x tippet for those tiny midges,” he said.

Evans said anglers shouldn’t race to hit the river first thing in the morning during December.

“I try to schedule my trips around the time the water temperature is beginning to rise. So it’s best to start later. The best fishing this month will generally be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.” he said.

Anglers should focus on the lower elevation trout streams this month.

“The higher elevation streams are much colder, which makes for shorter windows to fish. Lower elevation streams are normally consistent all day,” he said.

Even big swings in the weather won’t slow down December fishing here. But this is when anglers need to be willing to change tactics.

Too cold? no way

“If we have 60 degree days for a week straight, and the fish are eating egg patterns, then all of a sudden, it drops to a high of only 40 for a day, the fish may adjust what they’re willing to eat. So those egg patterns they were chomping might not be the best offering,” he said. “Be flexible and fish weather and water conditions. Every day is going to be different.”

Blue Wing Olives are also great flies for December.

“Some of the best dry fly fishing of the year can happen on the colder days of winter,” said Evans (828-460-2390).

It’s not uncommon to encounter long, flat sections above white water with fish visibly feeding on the surface on blue wing olives.

Evans anchors upstream of these fish, then drifts small blue wing olives to them. Sometimes, he ties on two dry flies at a time.

“One is a sighter fly. The other is a very small offering,” he said. “The best patterns are going to be tied in gray, because that is the color of blue wing olives,” he said.

About Brian Cope 2762 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of Carolina Sportsman. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at

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