Despite the fact that many of us have had a few warmer days this month, we're still in the heart of the winter trout season. This means that you have to adjust your tactics a bit to accommodate slow, sluggish trout.
Trout do not hibernate, but they do become lethargic in cold water. They still need to eat, but they're less likely to be aggressive predators. Instead, they'll eat whatever comes near them. So to catch them, you have to not only have to get your baited hook or fly near them, but you many also have to offer them something they can't resist.
Spoons tend to work well in winter months for this reason. The flash emitted as they move through the water can excite fish and cause them to strike at it. This flash can also "wake" them out of a lethargic stupor. This strike is not always one of hunger, but sometimes one of defensiveness ... in that the trout is trying to protect its territory from unwanted intruders.
So when trout fishing in winter, try using a variety of spoons (different colors, sizes, etc.). And course try to fish them in deep pools or warm pockets of water where trout may be holding. Learning to read the water, is important when trout fishing.
Spinners can also be effective lures when trout fishing in the winter. Like spoons, spinners emit a flash as they move through the water, but they're vibration is different. This vibration can also help entice a sluggish trout into checking your offering. Once again though, you want to get the spinner close enough to a trout lie to entice the fish without scaring them away.
If you're fly fishing, nymphs and other wet flies are usually the best bet during the winter months. Fly fishing during the winter tends be more challenging than spin fishing, because of the fact that there aren't as many insects around.
Lighter line (or at least leaders) can also help during the winter months ... especially if you're fishing in clear water. Trout will often taste bait before eating it 9which is why some strikes tend to be subtle). This is especially true in the winter months. Using a lighter line can help disguise the fact that your baited hook is a trap (so to speak).
Another thing to adjust is the time of day you go fishing. During the summer months, we conditioned to fish in the early morning hours and at dusk. The afternoon hours (between 10 am and 2 pm) are generally the worst hours to fish during the summer months. However, during the winter months, fishing between 10 am and 2 pm tend to produce better results. This is because the water warms up a bit during these hours and warmer water means less sluggish trout.
Trout fishing may be slow in the winter months, but you can still catch trout. So don't give up.