Top 6 Flies for Winter Trout Fishing


Winter is my favorite time of year for trout. Trout during the winter months have a much slower metabolism that makes them far more lethargic than the warmer summer months. What does this mean for the fly angler?

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Well first, focus your efforts fishing slower deep runs. Trout are very lazy this time of year, they need to be as efficient with their energy as they can. Next, get your weight right. Get your weight adjusted to the exact depth of the fish. Do your best to hit that fish in the face. From there we really need to focus on the right fly. Trout during the cold winter months are keyed in on midges and baetis nymphs but if you have a tiny micro worm as a point fly, they just might be enticed. Below you will find my top six flies for winter trout fishing.

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The Neon Nightmare Midge is my go-to winter midge pattern on Colorado tailwaters.

Neon Nightmare Midge

This midge pattern will definitely stand out from the crowd of other larvae floating in the current. I usually fish the Neon Nightmare on very bright days, in both orange and pink in sizes #18-22.

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The Mighty Midge, another highly effective winter midge pattern.

Mighty Midge

This pattern is a blend of natural colors as well as a small amount of flash to trigger that eat. I would have to say that the Blue Mighty Midge size #18-24 is my go-to during the colder months.

Two Bit Midge Top 6 Flies for Winter Trout Fishing
The two beads make the Two-Bit Midge drop into the water column faster.

Two Bit Midge

This fly has the right profile of a midge pupa and delivers a ton of weight in a small package. I start using this fly when I notice fish are spooking away from split shot. Blue and Red are preferred for winter in a size #18.

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The Demon Midge is a highly effective midge larvae pattern.

Demon Midge

The super-slim profile and the small hint of flash make this a killer winter bug. What trout doesn’t love red larva patterns? Recommended size #18-22.

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The Span Juan Worm is a great attractor pattern in the winter.

Span Juan Worm:

This pattern is a small worm fly with a ton of movement. One of my go-to point flies. Both red and pink are my top producers in size #18.

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The ultra buggy and effective Massacre Midge.

Massacre Midge:

This very buggy looking pattern is the perfect winter pattern. Yes, it has midge in the name but it does equally as well imitating baetis as well. You can fish this pattern deep and in the mid-column as well as greased up and in the film. The top colors are blk/silver, brown, olive sizes #18-24.

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The author Matt McCannel with a nice winter rainbow trout.

When it comes to choosing the right fly for the winter months, I first look for the right profile of fly. I don’t want to fish an emerger first thing in the morning, fish are more likely to be eating midge larva and pupa patterns. Late morning and afternoon I will start fishing pupa and emerger patterns. From there I will choose the color by the light conditions. red and blue is always a great choice, but I typically choose brighter patterns like the Neon Nightmare for sunny days and darker patterns on those cloudy days. Stay warm and don’t get your gloves wet.

Article and photos from Matt McCannel. If you are interested in booking a trip with Matt be sure to reach out to RIGS Fly Shop, which is the shop he guides out of in Ridgway, Colorado. And be sure to check him out on Instagram at @mattmccannelflyfishing. Matt is a signature tyer at Umpqua Feather Merchants, check out some of his patterns here.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>