Posted on: Feb 12, 2017  by: Tyler Dow

6 Winter Flies to Never Leave Home Without

It’s winter time and if you’re like me then you’re probably daydreaming of warmer weather and being on the river. You’re also probably behind the vice tying up dozens of flies for the months ahead.

I’m usually that guy you see that carries half a dozen fly boxes filled with weird new flies to test out and hundreds of different sizes and colors to make sure I’m not missing any potential hatches. But during the winter months I only fish with one fly box consisting of about a dozen different patterns. I believe you only need a handful of trout flies to be successful on your winter adventures.

I thought it might be fun to run you through a quick list of my go-to winter fly patterns for trout. These patterns are simple, effective, and can be tied quickly.


Red Copper John (Jig)

I’m sure you’re no stranger to the copper john, but during the cold months of winter I have found that the red wiring that makes the body of the fly has always out-fished the more traditional copper color. Add a jig style hook and this fly kills it!


Zebra Midge

No surprise here, this fly is probably on every essential fly list out there and for good reason. This midge imitation is extremely easy to tie and works great during winter. The small profile of this fly allows it to sink quickly and can fool most fish in clear water conditions. I carry zebra midges in almost every color combination I can think of in sizes 16-22. My all-time zebra midge pattern is a traditional black thread body with silver wiring and one piece of flash tied in as a small tag.



More often than not you will find this fly on the end of my line. I love fishing it in tandem with smaller midge and baetis patterns. This fly can imitate a number of different nymph species including larger stoneflies. It’s important during the winter to always be fishing deep, this fly will make sure your rig is getting to the bottom.


San Juan Worm

Of course no list is ever complete without mentioning the great san juan worm. A fly fished and loved by many purists…. All joking aside I rarely find myself fishing a worm pattern, but when I do it’s in the winter and typically after we’ve gotten a nice rain fall or if the water is a little high. Whether you’re fishing a squirmy wormy, san jaun worm, or chamois worm it’s always worth having a few in your box. Could mean the difference between a skunk and a nice fish.

mcfly foam egg2


The micro-egg! This fly is pretty unique, because I’m constantly catching fish on a chartreuse McFly Foam egg size 16-18 in the winter when I know there are no natural representations of this in the river. But, for whatever reason it continues to produce and I continue to fish it.


Cheech Leech

Forget what you thought about size 22 midges for a second and let’s talk meat! Fish eat fish, this fact remains true even in the colder winter months. Swinging, dead drifting, or slowly stripping a fly can all produce large fish in the winter months. For streamers I don’t think there is a better fly than the articulated Cheech Leech from Fly Fish Food. You might not catch the same number of fish as you would if you nymphed all day long, but fishing streamers in the winter can be very rewarding.

These six patterns are in no way an all encompassing list of winter flies, but they sure are a great start for anglers looking to brave the cold to net a few fish. I recommend you get out on the water and test out some new flies for yourself. Feel free to share any other successful patterns you have!

About The Author

Tyler Dow

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