The air temps have been well below freezing for the last few weeks, but there have been a handful of anglers out fishing. If you’re able to tolerate the cold temps, and have the right January flies, winter fishing can be very good.
January Flies – Nymphs
With the exception of some midges, nothing hatches during the winter months. The fish are eating scuds, sowbugs, midge larvae, and aquatic worms on the bottom of the river. Eggs from fall-spawning brown trout and mountain whitefish become important diet items.
To be successful throughout the winter, anglers must be prepared to imitate these food sources. A large variety of flies is not necessary to do so. Some anglers fish a Rainbow Czech Nymph trailed by a Pink Lightning Bug all winter and have great success. Other anglers get bored with this static approach and are constantly experimenting with various winter fly patterns or tying their own to give themselves an edge.
Most effective winter flies share several characteristics. They are often beaded or weighted to get near the bottom where winter fish lie. They often have a bright orange firebead or a fluorescent hotspot. A lot of them incorporate pink materials. Flashy materials help entice sluggish winter fish into striking.
The photo below shows several examples of winter flies that work well. The group on the left are heavily weighted and work well as your point fly. The middle and right groups are all good trailing flies.
The names of the patterns are listed below the image.
First Group: Bloom’s Tungsten Weight Fly Pink, Ninch’s Bubble Yum Scud, Bloom’s Tungsten Weight Fly Rainbow, Rainbow Czech Nymph, Amex, Ninch’s Fishfinder Worm Fl. Pink
Second Group: Caviar Scud, Hot Wire Ray Pink, Firebead Ray Charles Grey, Firebead Tungsten Sow Pink, Firebead Ray Charles Tan, Lucent Bead Ray Charles Pink, Firebead Ray Charles Pink, Soft Hackle Sowbug Pink, Allison’s 2-Tone Scud Pink
Third Group: Ninch’s Tunderbug, Egan’s Frenchie, Pink Lightning Bug, Rainbow Warrior, Allen’s Holla-Back Girl Pink, Tailwater Sowbug, Gunkle’s Radiation Baetis Pink, Jake’s Flash-a-Midge Black, Jake’s Flash-a-Midge Red
January Flies – Streamers
In addition to nymphs, winter streamer fishing can be quite good. Swinging streamers with a two-handed rod has become popular during the last few years. Whether fished with a single or a two-handed rod, streamers should generally be fished deep and slow. Jigging flies with the line hand, rather than stripping them, is very effective. Winter streamer selection doesn’t differ significantly from the patterns used during the rest of the year. However, winter streamers are usually on the smaller side. Baitfish and leech patterns are both very effective.
The photo below shows several examples of winter streamers that work well. The names of the patterns are listed below the image.
First Row: Pig Pen Leech Black/Purple, Simi Seal Olive, Tungsten Thin Mint
Second Row: Wooley Bugger Olive/Grey, Hot Eye Kreelex Copper/Gold, Ninch’s Water Gremlin
Third Row: Bloom’s Brown Trout Minnow, Bloom’s MRS Bugger, Clouser Minnow Foxee Red, Shock and Awe Psychedelic
If you’re going to try your luck this January, stop by the shop to warm up with some
whiskey coffee and stock up on some effective January flies.