Winter Fly Fishing

The leaves are falling off the trees and the first frost of the winter has taken hold so to me this means it’s time to get ready for some fantastic small water fishing. At this time of year most anglers hang up the rods and sit in doors tying flies, dreaming of the new season or having nightmares about the fish they have lost in the season just gone.

The winter months can offer the brave anglers some fantastic sport with hard fighting rainbows in tip top condition. Remember as the clothing advert used to say “there is no bad weather it’s just the lack of appropriate clothing”, so layer up to make sure you stay warm and enjoy your fishing.
During winter, fishing sessions are short so you must be prepared to make the most of the time. My first tip is 2 or 3 rods with different fishing methods already set up so you don't waste time changing tactics.

My 3 rod set up would as follows -
Rod 1: I would be set up with an intermediate line with a 1 or 2 fly cast depending on the rules of the water. The flies I would start with would be an ‘apps bloodworm’ on the top dropper and a lure on the point. This covers both ends of the spectrum with the apps targeting the spookier fish and the ‘fluff cat’ targeting the hungrier fish.

Rod 2: This would be set up with a floater, ready to use the bung. I know to some this is a controversial method and if you don't like it then don't fish it but if you are one of those that do fish this method you will know how effective it can be. The bung allows you to suspend the fly at a specific depth and keep it at that depth for as long as you like.

Rod 3: Floating line with nymphs. Yes, even in winter fish will respond to this type of fishing especially if all the other anglers are pulling lures around you then this can be deadly. I will set up with a 3 fly cast. The top dropper will be a Cruncher, middle a Diawl Bach and a Bloodworm pattern on the point.

Having the 3 rods set up will mean that you will maximise you’re fishing time and allow you to change methods quickly and efficiently making sure that your flies are in the water most of the time.

I am often asked what method would I start with on new waters? My first point of call is the fishery manager and ask for advice (remember they want you to enjoy your time there and catch fish).
They will know what was catching the day before and will be able to give you advice on flies, depths and methods. This will give you a starting point then you work from there.

When pulling I always use a countdown methods which allows me to search out the depths and find the fish level quickly. To do this just cast out and count to 5 seconds before starting your retrieve and on the next cast count to 10 seconds before starting. Keep adding 5 seconds on every cast and this will allow you to search the depths. Remember through the day fish will move up and down the water column so once you have found the fish don't think they will stay at that level all day. Remember if you start to catch a few fish and sport starts to slow down change the flies, as often a change of fly gets an instant reaction.

There are 2 types of bungs; adjustable and fixed, tied on a hook. Both have their uses. The important thing with this method is to try and find the fish level, so I will use an adjustable bung and keep changing depth until I get some response. If it’s been cold overnight I will start deep and slowly move shallower to see what depth the fish are holding at. As soon as I get some response I will then swap bungs and put on a Fario bung as the fish do come up and take the bung, so this offers the best of both worlds; a great bung but with a hook in it.
When fishing this method don't just cast out and leave it you must work the flies. Cast out and let everything settle so the fly settles under the bung but after 20/30 seconds then retrieve the bung for at least 18 inches. This will lift the fly and then let it drop back down to the chosen depth. The lift and drop method can be far more effective than just leaving the fly to sit there.

Most anglers will not even think about fishing this method during the winter but believe me it can be very affective and while all other anglers are struggling around this could keep you catching consistently throughout the day.
Fish the nymphs slowly with a steady figure of 8 but every once in a while jerk the flies so that the nymphs will jump in the water. Everyone will tell you nymphs have to be fished static or at a ‘snail’s pace’ however another way to fish these is with a fast jerky short sharp pulls with the odd pause now and again so that the flies drop down in the water column. This technique is never talked about but believe you me on its day you will be pleasantly surprised how deadly it is.

See you out there.
Hywel Morgan