About cjsflybox

Retired school teacher now marketing fishing flies that I tie.

Winter Fly Fishing for Trout

                It’s that time of year.  The temperatures have dropped, the snow is falling.  It’s time to hang up the fly rod for the season and just stick to the fly tying bench until the spring thaw.  Right?  Not necessarily.  As long as there is open trout water, there is trout fishing.  The conditions have just changes, so our tactics will have to change, too.

The fish are going to be slower as the water temperatures get colder – it’sIMG_1714 their way of conserving strength and energy.  You need to follow their lead.  Let the flies dead drift – the fish are not going to chase them for a meal.  Also plan on going deeper – fish a weighted fly, or put some weight on your leader.  Don’t be afraid to use the high-stick method – keep most of your fly line off the water. Sleep in.  The fish may not get active until around mid-day.  You should do the same.  Give the water a chance to warm up a little, then the trout, and the insects, will become more active. There is a lot of disagreement over tippet size for winter fishing.  Some favor lighter tippet, others opt for heavier.  Match you tippet to the flies you are using.  A little heavier tippet will turn over better if you are casting a heavier nymph rig, but with smaller flies, you’ll need the lighter tippet.  For me, it’s a matter of what I feel comfortable with. I have a few favorite flies for this time of year, and there are a few new patterns I’ve come across that I plan to try this winter.  Most of what I’ll use are nymphs, but once in a while, a small dry will be the ticket. In my box this winter, you will find: John Barr’s Pure Midge Larvae, size 16 – 20IMG_0176 This fly just works for me.  I tie it with a red, green, or tan body with a black head, or all black.  Drift it behind a larger nymph. Bead-eyed ScIMG_0160ud, size 14 – 16 I carry this one in olive, gray, and rainbow colors.  Those big, buggy eyes seem to do the trick. Disco Midge, size 16 – 18IMG_0155 I like this one in red or green the most, but have also used it in black.  I am thinking about trying it in blue this year.  I’ll do some with a poly wing, and some without. Parachute BlIMG_0143ue-Wing Olive, size 16 – 20 I’ve just always preferred parachute dry flies.  The BWO can be productive on the right winter days. Griffith’s Gnat, size 18 – 22 This fly imitates clusters of midges on the surface.  In fact, add a wing of white CDC to it, and it’s called the Cluster Midge.  Either way, it works. Some new patterns I’m going to try include: English Pheasant Tail Nymph, sizes 18 – 20 This is a slimmer version than the American PTN.  It’s supposed to be a better imitation for the BWO and for small brown stoneflies. Zebra Midge, size 16 – 18 Tied in black or red with a silver tungsten bead, this bad boy will get down into the deep holes where the fish are hopefully stacked up. ICSI (I Can See It) Midge, size 22 With a gray body and an orange parachute post, this as a floating midge pupa pattern that should be easy to spot on the surface. Finally, just a reminder to help you stay comfortable while you fish on these cold days.  Dress in layers.  Star with a good wicking layer next to your body that will move the perspiration away from you.  There are lots of new technical materials in different weights that will keep you warm and dry in almost any temperature.  Follow that with something warm, but breathable.  Wool is always a good choice, but again there are a variety of new materials that can really get the job done.  Finally, the outer layer should be wind and water resistant.  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. CJ

Looking Forward to Spring

Winter is fading, and Spring will soon be upon us.  Although I enjoy fly fishing in the winter, often being the only one on the stream, I do look forward to the arrival of spring.  It’s nice to shed a layer or two of clothing, and not have to constantly deal with ice in the line guides.  Spring also brings the opening of trout season in Wisconsin and Minnesota, giving anglers around here more choices of waters to fish.

During the winter months, I usually focus on midge patterns, tiny mayfly nymphs, or streamers.  It’s nice to be able to vary my choice of flies a little more.

I will continue to use midge flies – they tend to be a constant around here.  IMG_0143But when March rolls around, I will also be watching for Tiny Blue Winged Olives to begin to hatch.  My favorite version is a Parachute BWO in a size 20 trailed by an equally  tiny emerger or nymph.  Little Black Caddis will also show up on some streams in late March and into early April.  I’ll usually fish these in a size 18 to 20.  Early Black Stones will also begin to hatch.  I try to keep some of these in my flybox in a variety of sizes from 10s to 16s.

In addition to the usual flies that I carry in my boxes, I’m looking forward to trying some new patterns this season.  One is the Smoke Jumper Emerger, IMG_1543which is tied in sizes 16 to 22.  It can be tied using a variety of materials and colors, and should be a great imitation for a variety of small flies.

Another one is the Marabare, a new variation on the traditional Hare’s-Ear.  I found this one in a magazine article written by its designer, Vince Wilcox.  Tied with a tungsten bead head, it should be a great fly for those deeper pools on some of our local streams.

So here is to  Mother Nature, who has been fairly kind to us this past winter.  I hope she will be equally generous this spring.

Thoughts on Life Changes

                It started out like any other day since I retired.  I did my usual morning exercises, walked the dog, and ate a nice breakfast.  It was a beautiful sunny Sunday morning, so I decided to enjoy a couple of hours on the water at Swiss Valley.

                I felt a flash of dizziness while putting on my waders, but it quickly passed.  Must have bent over too quickly, I thought.  John came across the parking lot and asked me a question about a place I had visited last summer.  I turned to answer him, and nothing came out.  The answer was in my head, but the words would not form.  We both sat down in the back of my car, and John asked me some questions about how I was feeling, and all I could do was shake my head yes or no.  Then, as quickly as it started, it went away.  I called my wife, and we made a trip to the ER.

                Long story short, after two days of tests, I had suffered a very minor stroke.  There were no lasting effects, there were no apparent causes.  I got a clean bill of health.  But once you have had a stroke, the possibility of having another one increases.  So now I’m on a regimen of preventative medications.

                So what does this all mean?  How does life change?  While checking out, that’s exactly what I asked the doctor.  The answer – life goes on.  Take my meds, be aware of my health, watch for symptoms, but live life normally.

                It did get me thinking about other things, though, things I can control in my life.  Like a lot of guys, I’ve never been big on seeing doctors unless I needed to.  As we all get older, things can start to go wrong.  We need to visit the doctor on a regular basis to catch those things before they become a problem.

I enjoy spending time alone on the water.  I’ve always let my wife know where I’m going, and how long I plan to be gone.  From now on, those travel plans will be in writing, and will be more specific.  Along with that, I’ll start fishing more often with a buddy, especially on new water.  And the cell phone that I usually leave in the car while I fish will now be with me all the time.

                As we all get older, as things change for us, we all need to do one thing differently.  We need to live our lives SMARTER.  Take care of ourselves, our family, our friends.  Pay attention to what happens to us physically, and get it checked out if it doesn’t seem right.  Be more aware of the world around us.  Enjoy the good things, but watch for the things that can create problems, too.

                But never, NEVER, quit living your life to the fullest.  Enjoy every minute of it.  Share it with everyone you can.  Make it worth living.

                Good health and tight lines to all.

                CJ