Winter Fly Fishing While the city of Denver is celebrating a Super Bowl victory with a huge parade downtown today, my mind is on a stretch of unusually warm weather for this time of year and getting out to do some winter fly fishing this coming weekend. While I am happy for the Broncos, I am a Chiefs fan, so I am more excited about the aspect of winter fishing fly fishing when the temperature is supposed to be in the low 60’s on Saturday.
I wrote a good article on winter fly fishing a while back, which you can read by clicking here, and as I read that tonight I was feeling pretty much the same way when I wrote it two years ago as I am feeling today; excited to get out the fly rod in winter time! Just 10 days ago I was pheasant hunting in snow and temperatures in the low 20’s, and while there will still be a lot of snow on the ground, this week it will be 20 degrees warmer. That’s Colorado weather for you, and I will take advantage of this opportunity because I know we have a lot of winter left ahead of us.
That last article I wrote is very informative, so I won’t rewrite all of that, but instead focus on a few of my favorite flies for winter fishing. It is important to understand that in low light conditions (such as winter when the sun is further south than at other times of the year) a fly that is high in contrast to a trout’s vision will be most effective. That doesn’t necessarily mean a bright color; in fact it means the opposite. In a trout’s world, they can see ultraviolet light (which is light beyond violet), and the light wavelengths of green, blue, and violet are visible at greater depths. In those conditions a black or silver fly is going to create the most contrast to a trout’s eye, which will trigger a strike more readily than the actual detail of the fly.
My all-time favorite winter and spring fly is the Bead Head Zebra Midge in size 18 – 20. This fly sinks quickly due to its size and the bead head (brass or tungsten), and it can be fished by itself without a strike indicator as long as you keep your line tight, or with a light strike indicator or dry fly, or as a second fly behind a larger nymph (like a pheasant tail), which is my preferred method. This fly is effective in both slow and fast moving water, which in the winter you aren’t going to be fishing very fast moving water in the first place.
A very similar fly is the Black Beauty, which was created by well-known Colorado guide and author Pat Dorsey. I use this fly in smaller sizes, 22 – 24, and it works well in slow tail water runs not just in Colorado, but any where you will find tail water trout. I usually fish this fly under a light strike indicator by itself with a small weight about 18 inches above the fly.
My third favorite that works great on warmer winter days is the JuJu Baetis in size 20 – 22. This fly imitates a bluewing olive nymph, which could hatch on a day when it gets up to 50 degrees in the winter. The JuJu can be un-weighted or have a small bead head, it can be fished alone, as a dropper under a dry fly, or with a light strike indicator. This is a good fly to fish in shallow water below riffles on a warm winter’s day.
These will be the primary flies I will be using this weekend, I will make adjustments as the conditions dictate. It’s always a gamble fly fishing in the winter; I have no idea how much ice is on the river banks, which can make for an exciting entry into the river, the mountain roads will likely be icy in the early morning, and who knows if the fish will be interested. Never the less, I will be getting out and enjoying this false spring weather and wetting a line, that’s all that really matters. It’s the experience of being in the mountain wilderness on a winding river and doing what I will be doing, that’s why it’s called fishing, not catching.