Before I jump into recapping and reviewing my top flies of the year, it's important for me to detail the coming blogs and content during the winter months.
I don't fish too much in the winter, and there's a couple of reasons for this. First -- it's cold! I know, some diehards are rolling their eyes right now. But I like to spend time snowboarding and snowshoeing rather than fishing. Second -- I like to give the fish a break. While it's perfectly fine to fish in the winter, I like to think that the fish deserve some time off of the pressure we often put on our waters. I'm happy to give them some space during the cold season. Third -- I suck at nymphing. I can do it when it's the only option, but I'm largely a dry/dropper and streamer angler. Sorry, but nymphing just isn't my jam.
This doesn't mean I won't fish in the winter; I happily joined friends at the dream stream last January when the projected high was 3° F. There are days when the itch just needs to be scratched. But, for the most part, I'm off the water in cold season.
With that said, I also spend a ton of time in winter months filling my boxes. I have a decent arsenal of flies that I'll share here with you. Those will publish throughout the coming months. If you tie flies, stick around for those -- these are killer patterns that work across species and regions. I also tend to keep my flies simple and quick. If you're filling your boxes this winter too, consider some of the patterns I'll be sharing here.
Enough banter, let's get to the flies!
Nymphs and Emergers
Let's get these out of the way first. I use most of these nymphs in dry/dropper rigs, with a few exceptions.
This heavy chunker of a fly astounded me in the mid-to-late winter months, when golden stonefly nymphs begin to molt and often dislodge from their rocks. This was my go-to fly in those cold winter months, with a Zebra Midge or similar trailing behind it. Use it as a point fly or a tag in a full-nymph rig, dropped super low into deep pools.
Photo courtesy of Umpqua Feather Merchants
One of my top dropper flies! I love using this fly behind a fat, floaty dry like a Chubby Chernobyl or GFA Hopper. I prefer these with a tungsten bead tied jig-style to drop quickly in the column and reduce snags. I chuck these from a boat, and sneak into pools and chuck it throughout the run.
Photo courtesy of Fly Fish Food
Probably my other top dropper fly. I tie these in a funky way using wire and hollow tubing. These usually aren't weighted so they can flutter around the column, attracting anything that likes bugs. Also a great dropper for creeking! Tie these behind both small and large dries.
My go-to for those foam boilers. Similar to the Wire-rib Emerger, these are super light and blur the line between a dry fly and nymph. I usually have these behind an Adams or Indicator Gnat, both described below. These only come in size tiny, so keep some light tippet around.
If you thought I was better than this, you're painfully mistaken. I include these because I use them most often as droppers behind big hoppers at alpine lakes. Hell, I've tied them behind a streamer and caught Goldens (click here to read more about that). I don't care who you are, you should always keep these in the box in case of emergency.
When I fell back into fly fishing, I took to dries the quickest. I like to keep a wide color array of just a few patterns, but they continually put fish in the bucket.
Foam Stimulators put me onto my first cutts a couple of years back, and I haven't strayed away from the path. Stimis come in a ton of flavors, but I like the foam variety because they're usually easy to see and easy to tie. I fish these on the smaller end, but they can be fooled for everything up to larger salmonflies.
This is a homebrew between the Chubby Chernobyl and Amy's Ant. I fished Amy's exclusively for years, but wanted something a bit brighter and buoyant. By combining the excessive yarn on a Chubby and the fat wing and foam of an Amy's, you get this glorious high-riding dry that will float for days and even trick a trout or two. I fish these on floats and in river conditions, as well as alpine lakes as indicators.
The tiny cousin of the Chubby Amy. I started using these flies this summer with excellent results. I often use these interchangeably with Stimis on creeks and side riffles of larger water. While these can definitely be used with smaller trailing flies, I most often use them in a single fly scenario.
Whoever decided to put a hi-viz post on a gnat was a genius. These are awesome flies in those early spring months when you catch the occasional hatch but have no clue what's coming off the top. Want to get real dirty? Tie on an emerger behind this fly and chuck it at some sippers.
Ageless. Changeless. A true icon in fly fishing. Adams flies, in whichever configuration you prefer, perform well in almost every condition, almost every season of the year. Outside of the cold winter months, you'll often find fish rising to these flies time and time again. Keep a ton in different sizes in colors.
I saved the best for last! We all know streamers are the best, especially when they catch fish. This list includes streamers for rivers, alpine lakes, and everything in between.
UV Collar Bugger
This streamer put more fish in the net than I would like to talk about. It's a shameless fly inspired by the Goldy streamer, and it gets the job done. I love these in olive, white, and yellow, but don't let my preferences stifle your creativity. These can be tied in a ton of colors and a ton of different ways.
If you're into smaller articulated streamers, you have to give these a shot. There's the regular and laser version of the Mini Legal, and both are outrageously effective. Fairly easy to tie too, for an articulated fly!
These are the smaller version of my favorite streamer. While I prominently used them in the alpine, they work equally well in creeks, rivers, and lakes too. I keep these in natural colors, but I bet they would be slammers during runoff if tied in brighter colors.
Another new fly to me this year! I fell in love with the balanced leech at Pyramid Lake, even though it didn't catch me anything until I returned home to Colorado. If you're spey casting at stillwater, you'll know why these are on the list. Try them in a tandem dropper rig.
How could I not include the most controversial fly of 2021? Dungeons put me onto my first float fishing catches, and I also love to tie them in both mini and larger sizes. These are great in every color you can find them in. If you've never tried a Sex Dungeon, you should probably try a Sex Dungeon.
All of these flies caught fish this year, and they can perform for you too. I like to switch up my flies year-to-year, making adjustments to the patterns and keeping the selection fresh. Keep an eye out for some tying tutorials coming soon for a majority of these flies, where I'll further explain the process and discuss alternative materials and methods.
I hope you found this useful! Let me know in the comments below if you've tried these before, and which flies found their way into your top tiers for 2021.
Fish on, friendos.