One of the reasons fishing is such a popular pastime is the fact that in most places it can be enjoyed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. Even in the dead of winter you can ice fish or target open water at tail races, warm water discharges etc. Of course success if different than fishing and if you are fly fishing in the colder months there are some flies you want to make sure to have on hand.
One of the keys to catching fish is offering them flies which either imitate a natural food source or entice an aggressive response. During late winter food is limited and fish are getting lazy so this is sometimes a challenge, but with one of the flies listed below you can drastically increase your chances. Each has been tried and tested over the years and anglers worldwide have agreed they are among the best go to winter offerings.
During warmer weather, even late into fall, the most popular patterns include mayflies or caddies flies. But as the weather turns colder both slow and eventually go dormant leaving the midge as a main good source in many areas. Thus, it makes perfect sense that late season anglers have a variety of midge patterns on hand – first rule of fishing is to offer naturally occurring bait or lure. Some of the more popular patterns are the zebra, jujube or emergers and each have a place in your tackle box. For best results start with what is most common locally and then try a more exotic version to full weary fish with something new.
This is an excellent winter fly, especially when run in tandem with an attractor. When fish are striking short they may miss your egg, worm or flash only to inhale this fly as if it were their last meal! I have found it a favorite when fishing for late season steelhead that have seen a lot of other flies or become sluggish due to cold temperatures. When you need to get a little deeper or slow the drift a beaded version can be equally well. Again, the beaded version can be fished solo or in tandem and is a perfect means of getting eggs down deep.
Some fly anglers dislike egg patterns, feeling it is cheating or too close to using bait. But the bottom line is egg patterns work and if you want to catch late winter fish you need to have some on hand. There are days when nothing else will bring a weary steelhead out of hiding until that single egg bounce past and he seems to be on a mission to catch it. Your patterns do not need to be complicated, although I do prefer those which include a different color spot in the design, but you do need to have a wide selection of colors available. Depending on visibility and spawn stage different colors will be more effective than others and it pays to be prepared with whatever you might need. When fishing the egg pattern it can be fished solo or in tandem, where the egg makes a nice attractor, but in either case it is important to get it deep into the water column. Winter fish tend to lurk in deeper pools and when eggs naturally break free they bounce along the bottom with the current so you need to replicate this as much as possible.
Good luck, good fishing!