Winter Fly Fishing
Its been nearly three weeks since we have seen temps nearing the freezing point. The snow that fell right before Christmas is still lingering in the tops of the trees, and it appears there is no end in sight. There is not a better time to inventory ones fly selection and begin once again to refill the vacant slots in our fly boxes. However, no matter how much I love to tie, every now and then I need to refill my fishing canteen to get me through the rest of the winter. I would prefer to wait for a day that the temps reached into the thirties, but unfortunately I don’t think I can wait that long.
No matter how much layering and preparation for the cold one takes, there are simply some days that are going to freeze you to the bone. This winter I have already experienced a mild case of frostbite in which the top few layers of skin on a few of my finger tips blistered and peeled off after a week of tingling numbing sensations. The good news is they are getting back to normal and despite the ban from fishing when temps are below freezing that my wife tried to implement on me, I will be back out again very soon. I can only go so long without sharing a few moments with the beautiful trout of winter.
There is something very appealing about catching a beautiful trout whose colors are overly enhanced due to the white covered, colorless terrestrial environment we fish in. There are few times when the red stripe of a rainbow, or the blue halo of a brown look so pretty.
Fishing this time of year will surely make bystandards look on a call you the same name as the fly above (one frozen bugger), and think of you as being rightfully out of your mind. I still find much value in warming the fishing spirit when everything else is frozen. Tight lines, and try to stay warm out there!
Tomorrow night there is snow in the forecast. This is the first time I’ve seen the small snowflake symbol apear in the forecast this fall. There is no escaping what comes next. Cold, colder, and ever colder than that. To look on a much brighter side of things we must remember that cold means winter fly fishing.
I have a handful of favorite flies that are worth mentioning in a post about winter fly fishing.
Dry Flies: I’ll be honest, I have little use for dries during the colder months. There are midges and an occasional tiny black winter stonefly that hatch this time of year, and for that reason I reserve a small spot in my box for the Hi-Vis Grifith’s Gnat. This fly tied in small sizes (18-22) can double as just about any adult insect you may find in the winter. On days that reach even slightly into the 30′s this fly may come in very handy.
Tailwater Nymphs: Lets be honest Zebra Midges work on tailwaters all year long. Winter time is no exception. If there do happen to be noses dimpling the water’s surface I prefer to fish a Hi-Vis Griffith’s with a Zebra Midge trailing 12-18 inches behind. This is a deadly combination and has produced some of my best results .
Everything Else: There has been one fly that has consistently out fished all my other flies during the colder months. The Black Jack which is a prince nymph variation (pictured below) arouses even the most lethargic trout on most rivers. It is one of my finer creations and you should start seeing in fly shops soon. This is one of my patterns that is being commercially tied and distributed by Rainy’s.
Another great all-purpose winter nymph is the Frenchie. Pink will produce fish regularly, but lavender fishes very well when there’s snow on the ground. This and the Black Jack are the two flies I most commonly find on my line during the winter.
Last but not least, don’t be afraid to fish medium to large flies. Large stonefly nymphs are often my key to success in the winter. The Rowley Stone is a great year round fly pattern, and I will confidently fish it and larger flies during the winter. A size 12 Surveyor for deeper water is also a go-to fly pattern this time of year.
What it all comes down to is just getting out. I’m always being asked how I can stand to fish a freezing river with two feet of snow all around me. My response is if you can stand to sled, ski, or even build a snowman outside you can fish in the cold. Layer up, wear a decent pair of gloves and try not to fall in. Just don’t everyone get at the same time, I really like having the rivers all to myself this time of year.