Winter on the Metolius is a special time. Gone are the hoards of people with campers and the buzz of generators. There is not a California license plate to be seen within a hundred miles of Camp Sherman. This is the time of year when the river and her fish return to their natural rhythms. After the campers leave, wildlife is more common in the canyon and it makes for an added bonus when the fish aren’t biting. But they usually are. The hardest part about fishing the Metolius in winter is locating water slow enough to hold feeding trout. Look for back eddy water and slow deep areas near banks. Often, trout feeding on the surface of the Metolius take insects so delicately that a sharp eye and concentration are needed to spot the subtle rises.
Nymphing is the name of the game in the winter. It’s hard to beat a heavily weighted stonefly nymph with a #18 pheasant tail nymph dropper rolled through a deep slow run. Fish this setup on a long leader, at least ten feet, tapered to 5X. Tie the dropper on 6X. You will catch a lot of whitefish, but the combo will also produce more than its fair share of trout. For the rest of November there will still be a lot of spawning Kokanee in the river and fishing a small egg pattern like the Unreal egg as a dropper can pay off huge.
Blue Wing Olive mayflies will hatch midday and can provide great surface action under ideal conditions. Unweighted pheasant tails, paranymphs and sparkle duns all work great. Midges also provide some isolated dry fly opportunities and they are well imitated with a #18 Griffith’s gnat. However, one should not drive to the Metolius in November expecting lots of rising fish.
Now until February is the best time to catch one of the Metolius’s elusive bull trout. These lunkers will come out of hiding to whack small whitefish or rainbow’s struggling at the end of angler’s lines. They will readily chase large streamers and eat big stonefly nymphs. They can be almost anywhere in the river but the best places to find them are near dead falls in deep water and undercut banks. Bull trout, not legendary fighters, can however reach enormous sizes and are a true test of a 6wt rod.