What to throw at the problem is the @#$%&$! problem. That fish are fussy, no frustrated angler will argue about and when it comes to fly fishing for Trout the debate quickly devolves into fly patterns? It is a question more worn than a green and gold jersey when the Boks are playing. A process of elimination would seem a sensible strategy, but if you have a fly box of Liquorice Allsorts, then you’re likely to freeze your proverbial nuts off before you get lucky. Winter at least narrows down your selection as the larger insects and terrestrials in particular are absent, but what you use also depends on your style of fishing. Most casual enthusiasts, due to limited time, favour a float tube and a sinking line of sorts, which means that your fly will, for the most part, be travelling more horizontally through the water column….Rip and Strip Streamer Fishing.
So we’re talking about attracting a fish as opposed to fooling it into thinking what you’re stripping is a real insect. Now whatever I suggest in size, shape, materials or colour will spawn a boring debate and every fly fisher has a valid opinion based on their personal experience. But, most would agree as the Trout start to fixate on each other, water temperature fuelling their urge to breed, of all the triggers, colour is the key. Hence, in the height of Winter, you can use any colour as long as it’s Orange. Now I also like natural movement in my flies, so it’s open season on Turkey’s ( Marabou) and Bugs Bunny (Zonker strip). Add to this some weight, ala tungsten beads, to ensure my fly on the pause will also drop and can be stripped more vertically and I’m covering most basis. Some rubber legs have also been known to materialise after a few single malts. Now this might not resemble any earthly creature, but I choose function over form and you tend to stop asking why when your reel is singing.
If you think it might be too bright, then tone it down in which case you can never go wrong with an Olive contrast. It’s important that you have confidence in your fly, so you’re not changing too often and spend more time retrieving. Remember this is just one simple fly strategy applicable to Winter streamer fishing and by no means the only successful one.
The beauty of hunting still water Trout in Winter is that the water clarity affords you a visual. We tend to start casting or launch a tube before we think (which is just plain lazy) and the best advice any guide will give you is to find the fish before you start treating the water like a misbehaved puppy. All fish gravitate towards structure and in a dam Trout will move in a circuit or pattern, so take the time to observe surface movement or sight your target with any decent polarised glasses.
Naturally, you only need a floating line and generally due to water quality opt for a small fly. This is not a party you can crash, it requires a subtle invitation, so try not to spook them with your cast……a longer leader helps. And most importantly don’t cast at the fish, pick the direction and lead it by a couple of rod lengths. The trick is to either let it find your fly by forward-thinking / casting or get its attention with a tap on the door, loud knocking will get you nowhere. Any nymph might do, but I’m a fan of Peacock’s and their hurl, so I don’t experiment much with anything else. My only variation would be a gaudy attractor above the little nymph, just in case a horny cock fish is spoiling for a fight.
I’m not a big believer in having to go down to ultra-light tippet when Trout are in spawning mode, just concentrate on minimal and gentle casts, no slapping the water! Aside from these two Winter fishing options, I always carry a bastardised version of a Dragon, to work any weed beds as well as a white fly for the early evening. So you don’t have to pack the kitchen sink and if I had to pack only five flies for a Winter fishing excursion, they would be -: – The Alien Bugger – Psychedelic Blob – Peacock Nymph – Red-eyed Roach – White Death And remember, sight casting is infinitely more satisfying than blindly chucking a line, hoping that something will swim by.