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Streamer Fishing: Winter Patterns and Techniques
by
Gene Macri

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© 2017 E. P. Macri Jr.

Streamer fishing can be very productive even in the winter if the fly angler uses the right winter patterns and techniques.  Most of what has been written on winter fly fishing for trout leads me to believe that there is more theory than successful practice.  Perhaps many of you already knew that and have wondered yourselves about the articles written on the subject.

First you should know the basics of winter fishing.  Read: Winter Fly Fishing, Methods and Techniques on this site. Dress properly and make sure you are on a stretch that you know has a trout population. These techniques and patterns work in both freestone and spring creeks.

First, you will catch more trout by fishing the streamer upstream in the winter. My studies show that you'll get 75% or more of your strikes when fishing upstream in freestone streams and around 60% or more of your strikes when fishing upstream in spring creeks.  Why?  Obvioulsy, in the winter trout are less willing to chase anything in the colder waters.  Even in spring creeks with constant temperature trout seem less responsive to downstream presentations.

Second, you don't need excessively long or light leaders.  You want a leader of around 9-10 feet tapered to 3x or 4x.  You will also need weight either built into the fly or above the fly or a combination such as bead heads etc. and some split shot.

Third, trout are still spookey even in the winter time especially on freestone streams because the waters are often clear and low most of the time.  Spring creeks are basically the same all year. So limit your casting motion and pay attention to the shadows, the sun, and the line in the mirror of the stream.

The 3 Types of Streamers for Winter Fly Fishing

Don't waste time with tons of patterns when fishing for winter trout.  I believe that the following 3 patterns will fill the bill in most situations.  Here they are:

  • Black Ghost
  • Sculpin Pattern
  • Wooly Bugger

Here are my reasons for using these three patterns mostly for winter fly fishing for trout. The Black Ghost is a great pattern when trout are feeding on minnows or other small fish.  I have found this to be true no matter what type water or stream I fish. This streamer is also deadly for brown trout.  So you fish this you are now covering the first phase of what the trout could be feeding on.

Sculpin patterns (and I like Ed Shenk's Sculpin pattern but others will also work) covers the zone of the fish feeding on the bottom of the stream.  Trout feed on sculpins all year but especially in the winter time. So if you fish the bottom of the stream with sculpin patterns and use the Black Ghost as minnow pattern you have now given the the trout two of the major possiblities they could be feeding on at any particular time, and that's important because you are imitating the most likely scenario.

Finally, I like Wooly Buggers in variety of colors and types (bead head, bullet head etc).  The Wooly Buggers are basically an attractor type pattern that lures trout by flash, motion and shape. If trout are going to hit a streamer in the winter these are three types of flies that basically cover the major possiblilites and give you the best chance of success without wasting  time going through your streamer box.

Try the flies in variety of sizes.  Now the best way to do this is to use my famous method of three: Large (may be a 6);  medium (10) and small (14).  You can adjust these to your stream types and areas.

Have a good time winter fly fishing and these three patterns and techniques are based on practice not theory from a guy who has done a lot of successful winter fly fishing.

 

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