Another Look at Winter Fly Fishing for Trout

A few years ago, I wrote about fly fishing for Trout in the winter.  I thought it’s img_0070about time to revisit that topic again.  In doing so, I have to say that some things change, and some things stay the same.

Cold weather trout, as well as old farts like me, tend to move slower.  I used to be a crack-of-dawn fisherman in warmer seasons when I was younger, but I usually don’t hurry that much anymore.  In fact, for cold weather fishing, I’m closer to a crack-of-noon fisherman.  I believe in giving the day, and the water, enough time to warm up and encourage some activity.  When I do get on the water, I fish my flies slower, letting them drift comfortably along in the current.  Unless it’s an unusually pleasant day that might trigger a hatch, I fish entirely subsurface and usually as deep as possible.

Most of my flies are small for this time of year, usually sizes 16 through 22.  I’ll usually use the heaviest tippet I can with flies that small.  That gives me a better chance of landing the fish as quickly as possible, reducing the amount of stress placed on them.  I net them quickly, remove the fly, and release them in as short of time as I can.

In the original article I did on winter trout fishing, I listed a selection of flies that I liked to use in cold weather.  While I continue to carry all of those flies, some of them have become favorites that are used more often than others.

Zebra Midge, sizes 16 – 20IMG_7662

I still prefer this fly in red or black with a silver tungsten bead head.  This is often the lead fly in my nymph rig.

Pheasant Tail Nymph, sizes 18 – 20

This is a great all-purpose nymph pattern.  I fish this one with or without a bead head.  I also like to tie it as a flashback fly.  In addition to the natural pheasant tail color, I’ll also do this one in black or olive.

Parachute BWO or Adams, sizes 18 -20

On those rare days for a dry fly, both of these are great patterns to use.

Since doing the original article, I’ve found several other patterns that have really worked well for me and have become regulars in my fly box.  They include:

The Hacklestacker Midge, sizes 16 – 20img_7213

This is a great little midge dry fly for those rare days when you see some surface action.  It’s an emerger-style dry fly that floats very well and delivers some great strikes throughout the season.

The Poison Tung, sizes 16 – 20img_6118b

I tie a variation of this pattern using chartreuse Krystal Flash for the abdomen.  It’s simple, it’s slender, and it catches fish all year long.

The Ticket, size 18

I tie this pattern in either olive or brown.  Again, very simple and very effective.  I’m experimenting with a red version of this fly to represent a blood midge.  I’ll let you know how it works out.


Radiation Baetis, sizes 20 – 22

This is a great Baetis nymph that fishes deep with its tungsten bead head.  I’ve had some nice fish take this one.

img_8942Neon Nightmare, sizes 18 – 22

This fly was developed for fishing some of Colorado’s tailwaters, but has worked really well on the spring creeks in the Driftless Region where I live.  It’s tied in pink and white or in orange and white.  I’m playing around with a green and white version on my home waters.  I’ll report on this one as well.

I recently saw an article on Gink and Gasoline’s website that listed 10 great winter patterns, some of which I’ve already mentioned and have already used.  There are several others, though, that I haven’t used yet.  A fly tier’s work is never done.

Finally, just a reminder to help you stay comfortable while you fish on these cold days.  Dress in layers.  Start with a good wicking layer next to your body that will move the perspiration away from you.  There are lots of good technical materials in different weights that will keep you dry and warm in almost any temperature.  Follow that with something warm but breathable.  Wool is always a good choice, but again there are lots of other materials that can really get the job done.  Finally, the outer layer should be wind and water resistant.  When you are out there, keep some snacks in your pocket or your pack.  It will help keep your energy up and will also help maintain your body warmth.  Also have something to drink.  You will be surprised how much perspiration you give off by being active on a cold day.  And for safety’s sake, fish with a buddy.  Better safe than sorry in this weather.

So get out there and enjoy the challenge.  Keep your feet warm and dry, and your lines tight.