- Pink! - For whatever reason, the colder the water, the more trout like pink flies. It doesn't seem to matter if the entire fly is pink or there's just a pink hot spot on it - UV Czech nymphs are one of my personal favorites in the winter months. Jig Soft Spots are another staple for me. I like the weight to get other flies down as well, but I'll oftentimes only fish a single pink fly in a 12-16.
- Tungsten vs. Weight - If there's one thing that's important in the winter months, it's getting your fly as close to the fish as possible. There's really two ways to accomplish that - using tungsten flies, or clamping a whole string of split shot onto your leader. I prefer to not to try and get mind-boggling tangles undone with freezing fingers, so I fish heavy tungsten patterns as my lead fly. As I alluded to above, pink tungsten flies in a 12 or 14 are my preference - they're heavy enough that they can get down in 4-5 feet of water easily, and they're still small enough that you'll pick up a lot of fish on them, and oftentimes most of your fish!
- Water Type - To be successful in the winter, you have to think about how the trout react to colder water temperatures. In the summer, we're usually fishing summertime water - fast riffles, and the edges and slots of really fast stuff that's oftentimes only a couple feet deep at best. The water is warmer, the fish are more active, and they're in the faster water. When the water cools off, we move our efforts into the slower, more 'boring' water. The trout prefer the slower, deeper water where they have to expend less energy to hold. When you're fishing this kind of water, make sure you set the hook on absolutely any movement of your indicator - the takes are very subtle in slow moving water.
- Streamer Time - Oftentimes in the winter, you'll have difficulty persuading big fish to eat small flies. These fish are generally holed up in a particular lie, and they aren't moving very far. They'll open their mouths and suck in something rather than moving out of it's way, but not often. My solution? Put on a sink tip and toss some meat in front of them! These fish can often be persuaded to chase down a big fly. Even when the fish are sluggish due to freezing temperatures, they can often be coaxed into chasing down streamers when they're presented properly. Here's a link to our latest streamer fishing video to give you some inspiration - Streamer Fishing Video.
- Small Flies - While many people including myself prefer fishing larger flies, smaller flies can be incredibly effective in the winter months as well. If you're not catching fish on your standard nymph rig, put on a 20-24 midge or BWO dropper below. Generally speaking, the bugs available to the fish in the winter are going to be very small, so if you're a 'match the hatch' kinda person, go small and put it right in front of the fish!
Even with the milder weather we've been having, winter fishing is here to stay for the next few months. With the colder water temperatures, the fish are going to be in a little different water and have a little different taste for flies - here's a few tips to keep you successful throughout the winter months in the Black Hills!