Fish the wrong gear- a sure fire start to non-success is to use your summer steelhead lines for winter steelhead. Swinging flies on the surface is fun and rewarding way to cast, and cast and cast. Winter fish are frozen to the bottom so swinging a fly on the surface will ensure you don’t get fish slime on your hands.
Consistency is for the birds- don’t worry about your cast length or wading. To be consistently unsuccessful it is helpful to cast short, then long. Especially helpful is to make a short cast then wade 20 feet then make a long cast. Being consistent and concise moving 5′ down every time is boring.
Ignore wind knots at all times. When the wind blows (or even when it doesn’t) and your fly and leader end in a tangle be sure to keep casting. Nothing slows you down like fiddling with knots! If for some reason you snagged a rock or somehow hooked a fish – look at the bright side; the tippet would break and casting would go so much easier and you didn’t waste any casting time fiddling with that knot!
Wear lousy traction to ensure a short day. If your wading boots suck you might get home earlier and have more time on the couch. How you say with interest? Once you go for a swim in winter waters the rest of the group will be forced to get you home where hypothermia will not be an option. Rubber bottomed boots on large boulder rivers are a perfect combination for non-success. Try this on days when your casting may be especially lousy or when there is a good football game on.