Skip to main content Skip to main content

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.

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

Recommended Articles

Popular Videos

Crash Course: How to Fish Swim Jigs for Bass in Heavy Cover

Crash Course: How to Fish Swim Jigs for Bass in Heavy Cover

The swim jig is a big-bass lure in a small package; learn how to fish it now.

The Modern Air Rifle: Air Rifle Hunting with the Umarex Gauntlet 2

The Modern Air Rifle: Air Rifle Hunting with the Umarex Gauntlet 2

This .25 Caliber precision air rifle can be used for anything from small game & coyote hunting, to target shooting and competitions. Using a regulated 2100 PSI system for improved shot-to-shot consistency, it's extremely accurate and easy to handle. If you're a shooter that's looking for a strong performer on the range or in the woods, check out the Umarex Gauntlet 2.

Action and Power Ratings- How to Choose the Right Bass Rod

Action and Power Ratings- How to Choose the Right Bass Rod

Most fishing rods feature both an action and a power rating, but what do those ratings mean and how do you use them to select the right rod for different scenarios? In this video, outdoor writer and tackle specialist Shane Beilue breaks down the difference between a rod blank's action and power and discusses what the various ratings of each mean.

See All Videos

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

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

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now