Once the cold weather of fall and winter start to set in, the majority of anglers choose to put their fly fishing gear in storage and wait until spring to dust it off to hit the rivers again. But for a select group of hard core anglers, the cold only fuels the fire within them to get out on the river and catch fish during a time when there is far less competition. Look inside any of these fisherman’s fly boxes and you will most likely find three flies that more than any others, round out an angler’s arsenal for fall and winter fly fishing.
The most common fly fishing flies that are used during the fall and winter months are without a doubt Woolly Buggers, Eggs, and Midges. Woolly buggers fish well any time of year, but are especially useful during the autumn season due to the apparent lack of insect hatches relative to the spring and summer months. Non weighted buggers work great for fast and shallow riffle sections, but if you find yourself casting into a deep and slow pool be sure to go for a weighted variety of bugger, such as a bead head woolly bugger. Give the fly time to sink and also a few twitches in order to imitate life, these techniques will greatly increase your chances of hooking up. Colors that I find work best tend to be those natural ones that imitate what might be swimming beneath the surface of the water (olive, brown, tan, black) but if none of those colors are working don’t be afraid to tie on a bugger with a bit of a bolder appearance. Sometimes the hot colors are the key to getting trout in the mood to eat.
Egg patterns are also great for fall or winter fishing because it is during these months that brown trout as well as anadromous salmon are spawning and it is not uncommon for a hungry trout to feed on the eggs of its own kind as they get swept into the rivers current. To fish an egg pattern, it is common practice to add a couple beads of split shot just above your fly in order to get it to sink down to where the fish are holding. Also the use of a strike indicator comes in handy when fishing eggs, or any sub surface fly pattern for that matter.
Midges are another type of fly pattern that you can have success with year round, and are a necessity to have in your box during the winter months. Nearly invisible tippet and light hooksets will be the ticket to landing a winter trout during a midge hatch. A keen intuition for the subtle takes the trout will make on these tiny patterns will also come in handy. The Zebra Midge is a common pattern which imitates a midge larva that you will find in most angler’s arsenals. Also spotlight on Disco Midges, as well as Rainbow Warriors.
Besides your fly fishing flies, other fly fishing equipment that may come in handy for a fall or winter outing are gloves, hand warmers, and possibly a thermos of something warm to drink like coffee…or some chicken soup.
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