While we all fantasize about moments of ferocious trout surface activity with insects fluttering about our faces, for a couple more months yet it’s time to participate in the feeding occurring below the surface that we don’t see. We’ll take a quick look at what we consider to be the top 5 winter subsurface patterns when winter trout fly fishing– and we’re interested to know what yours are! While we will NOT agree on the top 5 I’m quite sure, it is generally agreed that going small and deep to imitate the multitude of nymphs over wintering underneath rocks and clinging to structure on or near the bottom is often the best strategy. Getting sluggish winter time trout with slow metabolisms to bite can be challenging, but combining proper technique with proper fly selection can yield some great days, and beautifully colored up fish!
Everybody has a favorite fly or three, but the fly fishers who catch a lot of fish, and quality fish, stay flexible and embrace the effort to focus on what the FISH wants, not what fly you caught your biggest/most/best fish on and are most comfortable with! Hey we’re guilty of it too- getting in a ‘fly rut’ or ‘hot-fly-itis*’ and over focusing on a favorite pattern is easy to do. Our hope with this post is that we generate a conversation and share information to help all of us break out of any fly rut we may embroiled in, and make the most of our precious time on the water.
We came at this from the perspective of which 5 subsurface flies would we always want with us to fish in the winter, in all conditions, all locations, and all water types? We KNOW yours are different- and we’d like to hear what yours are as well. So here’s our lineup (no particular order): Partridge Soft Hackle, Wooly Bugger, Egg, Hare’s Ear, and Pheasant Tail. Now some of you may look at that list and think: boring, obvious, or standard. I did too. I’ll tell you
it was MUCH tougher than I thought to choose just five for the purpose of this post- it was a really interesting exercise and I challenge you to do the same. I was as informed as much by what was left off the list as what I included. If I was fishing exclusively stocked fish the list of course would be somewhat different- I’m sure I’d sub in a Zug Bug, Y2K, and one or two other flashier patterns. The conclusion here (and the conversation we anticipate) is that these lists are personal and arbitrary, and this exercise should get us thinking about what will generate a winter time take in what conditions and location. It’s about what the TROUT is programmed (or has learned) to want, not what we want to run past their noses.
I was left with some GREAT winter time flies that just can’t be omitted (so I completely failed at my own exercise) and felt compelled to include a picture of ‘honorable mentions’. All great patterns in their own right and all fished across the country with a great deal of success.
Expect no companion article in a couple of months on ‘the Top 5 Dries’. That I think would be even more of an impossible endeavor as it is so location specific and invites endless argument with no clear purpose. We WILL look forward to a review of the most popular dry fly patterns as part of a the continued insect profile series we have begun- so stay tuned. For those of us still chasing trout in the wintertime though, we hope you’ll share your thoughts on YOUR top 5 and perhaps a story and picture or two of your winter success. We hope this post sparks a thought or two about your own winter trout fly fishing fly selection, and as always tight lines and catch ’em up!
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