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.
(Video instructions coming soon…)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.