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Winter Fly Fishing Tips and 6 Favorite Winter Nymphs

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With cold winter water the fish tend to hug the bottom of the deeper pools, drop-offs and slower tail outs. 

This time of the year you need to get your bugs on the bottom and in front of the fish (low and slow) they can be lethargic in the cold water and will not move far or fast to take a bug. 

I always fish a double nymph rig with one of the flies being double or tungsten beaded with the heavier fly on the bottom of the rig and the smaller 12 to 18 inches above. 

  • I attach the flies eye to eye not hook shank to eye.
  • The first or lighter fly is attached to the leader. 
  • Tie a 16 to 24-inch piece of tippet that is one size smaller than the leader to the eye of the bigger heavier fly and attach this to the upper fly through the eye. 
  • The extra length gives you enough line for your knot so the flies are separated 12 to 18 inches. 


Using tippet one size smaller to the bottom fly will save you an occasional fly if the bottom one hangs up. 

  • If the flies do not have beads I use split shot to get it on the bottom. 
  • If your flies are not bumping the bottom regularly, add more weight until they are. 


I always use an indicator as the bite is often very light and with the heavy rig bumping the bottom the bite can be hard to detect. Set the hook at any hesitation or deviation in the drift it is either a rock, stick or a fish. A fish biting and the bottom can look the same.

If you don’t set the hook you very rarely catch fish. Set the hook hard enough so that you will be in your back cast if there is not a fish on the line.


You are now set up to recast and out nothing, if you hesitate or just lift lightly to try to feel the fish before you set they will be gone. 

It is a fine line between setting to hard or not hard enough if there is a big fish on the end you can break it off if you do not back off when you feel the resistance. I feel the trade off is worth it and can make the difference between a good day and a great day.   

Following are my 6 favorite winter flies.  

Prince Nymph, Tungsten BeadSan Juan Worm, Shell Pink, Bead HeadBlack Stonefly, Bead Head, Rubber Leg

Lightning Bug, BH, SilverZebra Midge, Tungsten Bead, BlackBitch Creek Nymph

Book a trip with me and find out how to get 20% off your first order of RiverBum Flies!

Jim Mitchell 

jim@montanahuntingfishingadv.com

(406)363-3510

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