Fly fishing for winter trout can offer some of the most serene and scenic experiences on a trout stream, but it can also hold considerable frustration when it comes to choosing what flies to use.
Compared to spring or summer when aquatic insects are prevalent, insect activity during the winter is limited and there are fewer choices for flies that will work consistently on winter trout. There are some solid patterns, however, that have been shown to catch trout consistently during the coldest months. Here are 5 varieties of flies that you should carry for catching winter trout.
One of the main sources of insect activity during the winter months is the midge. These tiny black insects are found, even in frigid temperatures and are a key source of food for trout in the winter. To be prepared it is best to carry a heavy selection of midge patterns, including nymphs, emergers and dry flies. One of the best midge dry fly patterns is the Griffith’s Gnat, which exceptionally effective during a hatch. As far as nymphs, make sure to carry a Zebra midge. For emergers, your best bet is the Biot Midge. Other quality patterns include the Renegade, WD-40, Top Secret and Disco.
Remember, midges are tiny insects so most midge patterns should be size 20-24, and nothing larger than size 18.
Winter is the perfect time to use all-around nymph patterns, because they are effective all year long. They will usually catch a trout’s attention, because look similar to many nymphs found in the trout stream. They can be the best winter flies, especially if insect activity is slow. Make sure to have a good supply of pheasant tail, hare’s ears and prince nymphs. Try a variety of sizes and make sure to carry some tied in a soft hackle.
It is also important to carry a few all-around dry fly patterns. An Adams can work well, especially later in the winter, when insect activity begins to increase. Carry it in a variety of forms, including the parachute, and a number of sizes, ranging from 18-24.
While insect action can be slow during the winter months, minnows remain active throughout the winter and are an important food source for trout. Carry a few minnow patterns such as the Clouser and Muddler minnows are good choices, but there are many minnow patterns that can work, especially sculpin patterns.
Another pattern that can work well during the winter months is the egg pattern. The fluorescent colors of egg patterns, drifted slowly can entice a bite when other patterns do not seem to be working. Make sure to carry egg patterns in a wide range of colors and sizes, and do not be afraid to experiment, because you never know what patterns may work on a given day.