I recently spent time in a high school gym fly casting with a friend. It was nice to hold my Orvis five weight and work on my form after not casting since October. Of course this practice session has made me gaze up the Cold River each time I drive through town and has me watching forecasts with other thoughts in mind besides travel plans and if I should cover the wood pile.
There are some key factors to consider if someone plans to brave New England waters this time of year in pursuit of trout. The recent edition of American Angler has a great article on the subject. Beyond the safety concerns which don't exist in July that do now, if success is even a remote possibility the first step is to wait for the right day. Trout do not feed on a regular basis during winter in New England, but during certain conditions there are slight metabolism shifts that can make trout feed passively during short windows. First, wait for times of decreasing air pressure but not pressure that is so low that the sky is filled with clouds and it is snowing. Blue skies or scattered clouds are best so the radiant heat can warm the water slightly.
That heat, of course, would be most intense at mid-day, so unlike fishing in warmer months when it is best to get out early or in the evening, during winter choose the warmest time of day. Also, look for those days when there may be a temperature spike. For instance, if the high temperatures for the past week have been in the teens and there are two days expected on which temperatures will get into the mid to upper thirties, those are your days. During January trout will not necessarily hold in the same places they do in the spring and summer. Also, in general, they will be less distributed throughout the river. In other words, they will be congregated together in the rivers slowest pools.
As we know insect activity is scarce during this time of year so most fishing will be sub-surface. Trout will expend as little energy as possible during winter so a fast retrieve of a fly is usually not going to bring-about a strike. Nymphs floated naturally are probably a good start. I am here in Alstead waiting for the right day and I will report back after that day arrives.