The Best Winter Trout Flies

The Best Winter Trout Flies

Winter Trout Flies

Fly-fish for trout in winter? Some would say that's crazy. Those in the know say heck yes. Here's the lowdown on a few of the best winter flies that will get you out of the house and on the water catching winter trout. All too often, winter fly boxes are only filled with the tiny flies on the mistaken belief that only tiny trout food is available in the cold months. Experienced winter trout anglers know winter trout foods come in all sizes.


TINY FLIESĀ 



Chironomids, perhaps better known as midges, live in lakes, rivers, streams and spring creeks, making them the tiny fly of choice. Two excellent patterns are Zebra Midge size 20-24 in black or red and Ice Cream Cone size 16-20 in black.

Some still-water fly-fishermen object to fishing chironomids, especially when the flies are suspended 20 or more feet under a strike indicator. They liken fishing that way to watching paint dry. When done properly, even at those depths, action can be non-stop. When the larvae wiggle their way to the surface to emerge, trout take notice. And so should fly-fishermen.


When fishing deep, the fly should be suspended a foot or so off the substrate. During the emergence in clear water, use a small strike indicator or even a small dry fly to suspend the chironomid close to the surface.


In spring creeks and still waters, trout can key on adult chironomids. The English call them "buzzers" for the way they buzz across the surface. A Griffith's Gnat size 20 is a good imitation, particularly when the adults form a raft. Cruising trout can chomp a bunch at once.

NOT SO TINY FLIES

Stoneflies. No, not the giant summer stone or equally big salmonflies. Winter means small black stoneflies best imitated by a size 14 Early Black Winter Stonefly Nymph. As winter progresses and the nymphs begin to hatch, the adult can be imitated with a Percolator. Try size 12-14.

Trout love scuds — those crunchy freshwater crustaceans that live most everywhere from desert spring creeks to alpine lakes — that are available year around. Bead Body Scud in size14-16 is a good choice.

Like the stonefly nymph, the scuds should be weighed and slowly drifted along the bottom under a strike indicator when fishing moving water. In still water, fish the weighted fly on a floating line in the nearshore for cruising trout.

TROUT FLIES

All trout are predators. And the bigger the trout, the more likely it will turn from snacking on aquatic invertebrates to dining on full-sized entrees. That's where streamer patterns come into play. Sculpins of one variety or other swim in most trout waters. A big fly of choice is Chuck's Sculpin size 4-8. Sculpins live on the bottom. When disturbed, they move a short distance, then settle down. Imitate their behavior for the best results.

Woolly Bugger patterns abound and for good reason, as they flat-out catch fish. An effective variant is tied with dark copper or opal dark olive Estaz and a black straight-cut rabbit tail instead of traditional marabou. In chilly winter water, the key is short and slow strips with pauses between.

WHERE THEY LIVE

In winter, trout have moved out of oxygenated riffles into deeper, slower pools that allow them to conserve energy. Western tailwaters, preferably those below dams with moderate water releases, are excellent cold weather choices.

The cold winter water allows still-water trout to expand their range and move into habitat that was denied to them during the summer heat. Shallow flats hold the most fish food, with the fish often slowly cruising along the shallow/deep water transition zone.

Dress in layers, fill your fly box with these flies and get out on the water.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You

Try these tips to improve your wild boar hunting skill set. Hogs

Quick Tips: How to Spot and Stalk a Hog

Ian Nance - May 28, 2019

Try these tips to improve your wild boar hunting skill set.

Adam Heggenstaller takes over after 14 years with NRA Publications. News

Game & Fish Magazine Names New Editorial Director

G&F Online Staff - May 23, 2019

Adam Heggenstaller takes over after 14 years with NRA Publications.

Memorial Day sale offers 15 percent off everything website-wide. Gear

Get Ready for Summer with Cordova Coolers

May 23, 2019

Memorial Day sale offers 15 percent off everything website-wide.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

New Optimum and Optimum TS Downriggers from Canon

New Optimum and Optimum TS Downriggers from Canon

From rugged reliability to smooth integration of cutting edge technology across several different platforms, OSG's Lynn Burkhead learns that there's much to like about the new Optimum and Optimum TS downriggers from Canon.

New Abu Garcia Baitcasting Reels

New Abu Garcia Baitcasting Reels

In the booth of one of fishing's all-time great reel makers, Outdoor Sportsman Group writer Lynn Burkhead and Andrew Wheeler of Pure Fishing discuss one of the brand new baitcasting reels from Abu Garcia being released at ICAST 2019.

Mustad

Mustad's Inkvader Octopus Live Jig

From big fish to small, just about any saltwater game fish out there will love the new Mustad Inkvader Octopus Live Jig that Mustad's Russ Whisler shows to OSG's Lynn Burkhead.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

While wildly popular amongst anglers around the world, the IGFA World Record book shows the biggest pike come from Europe. Records

Top 10 Biggest Pike World Records of All Time

Jack Vitek - August 19, 2015

While wildly popular amongst anglers around the world, the IGFA World Record book shows the...

 Veteran bass anglers often dismiss urban fishing opportunities as Bass

Bass Pond Fishing: Catch Lunkers at Small Lakes Near You

Dan Anderson - February 13, 2018

Veteran bass anglers often dismiss urban fishing opportunities as "kid's fishing ponds," but...

North Dakota Game & Fish Department said the 16-9 walleye doesn't qualify for record. Walleye

Record-Sized Walleye Was Foul-Hooked, Agency Says

G&F Online Staff

North Dakota Game & Fish Department said the 16-9 walleye doesn't qualify for record.

See More Stories

More Other Freshwater

Understanding shad is key to finding them, no matter which river you're fishing. Other Freshwater

American Shad! Facts About 'Poor Man's Tarpon'

David Paul Williams

Understanding shad is key to finding them, no matter which river you're fishing.

Freshwater drum are considered roughfish by some anglers, but these relatives of redfish are fun to catch and delicious. Fish

Keep Those Drum and Cook Them

Keith Sutton

Freshwater drum are considered roughfish by some anglers, but these relatives of redfish are...

 Missouri angler Rick Sartin is shown with his state-record silver redhorse. (Photo courtesy of Other Freshwater

Missouri Hot Streak for State Records Continues

Game & Fish Online Staff - July 19, 2018

Missouri angler Rick Sartin is shown with his state-record silver redhorse. (Photo courtesy...

See More Other Freshwater

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×