Winter Fly Lure Combos

Buzzers and nymphs are always a good start when winter fly fishing, but invariably, you will start to use lures at some point when things are slow. If you go back 20 or 30 years, the advice was always to fish big, black and deep in the cold months. This advice is still valid for today's fly angler, but for greater success, it's worthwhile adapting things to a more varied system.

Fulling Mill SR Black & Blue Taddy
The only possible creature that a black lure might suggest is a water beetle, but for rainbow trout, lures are mostly taken out of curiosity or aggression. What makes them so effective can be their construction in terms of the materials creating movement and therefore suggesting life, or the way they are retrieved along with the depth of the presentation.

Fulling Mill Nomad Viva
Adding another fly to the leader is a way you can swap colours around to find the ‘hot’ shade for the day. Alternatively, you can put a simple, old-fashioned wet fly or nymph in the dropper position and it can then look to the fish as though the bigger one is chasing the little fly. As trout are territorial, it will take the smaller fly in preference to the bigger one.

Conversely, if you put the ‘lure’ in the dropper position and then add a small fly to the point, what happens now is that the fish will come to look at the lure and then notices the trailing ‘smaller snack’ and takes that as an afterthought.

Fulling Mill Taddy Hot Viva
One of the most effective patterns to use in winter is the ‘tadpole’ style of lure because the long marabou tail creates great movement and it’s easy to swap colours while keeping the same action. Working on the traditional theory, when you can’t quite work out what to use when things are slow, then the best pattern will be something small and black. In this scenario, a Black Spider or a Butcher, if there’s a bit of colour in the water, are suitable choices.
Fulling Spider Black Magic

Fulling Mill Butcher
Using some form of lure combo also opens up the choice of fly line density, and one of the all-time favourites for smaller fisheries is the ‘slime line’. This clear intermediate line is a great choice for clear, winter water, and its only downside is that it’s a bit 'coily' in the colder weather. If your favourite fishery has water over 10 feet deep then maybe a slow or even fast sinking line will do a better job of getting the flies down quick, and holding them there. Or, if there are ledges or deep holes in the water, then you might find that a sinking polyleader on a floating line might be the better option.

Airflo Camo Clear Intermediate
Retrieving a lure set-up at this cold time of year is usually best with a slow, steady retrieve and it’s hard to beat the figure eight technique. It’s worth learning this retrieve as it can beat a 'strip' style hands down. Trout like to follow a slow, smooth retrieve for yards and then decide to take whereas they often give up the chase when the flies are moving along with a series of jerks and twitches. Of course, you shouldn’t blindly stick to what has been suggested or indeed to what worked last time if there are no takes happening. Trout can get bored with the flies moving through their area doing the same thing all the time, however, mix up the retrieve and they suddenly become interested once more.

Buzzers and nymphs in winter can be hugely successful when you hit the right conditions. However, lures can save the day when things are slow. Therefore, if you want to increase your chances of success, keep on the move because it sure beats just standing in the same old place and doing the same retrieve, hour after hour!

This article was brought to you in association with Trout Fisherman magazine.