night king fly
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BEGINNER’S MASTERCLASS: Night King


[By Tim Flagler]


Winter fly fishing isn’t for everyone and thank goodness it’s not, because those of us that do enjoy it really like the lack of crowds most of all. During the winter months, you’re not going to run into blanket hatches of larger mayflies and caddisflies. The occasional midge hatch, maybe, if you’re lucky. Most of winter fly fishing involves getting flies down deep, in an effort to fool less than energetic trout. Modern Euro Nymphing equipment and techniques excel at this.

Flies tied on jig hooks, with slotted tungsten beads that get down to where the fish are fast, have become the go-to for those of us not afraid of a little cold. Over the years, I’ve found flies that are mostly blue, or have blue accents, perform exceptionally well in the winter. This is based solely on experience, not on any specific scientific data. It doesn’t seem to be any particular shade of blue either. Really anything from navy to powder blue has worked for me. In addition to blue, black and white flies are also effective during this time of year. If possible, I’ll incorporate two or even all three colors into one pattern. In addition to these “winter colors”, I’ll usually include a small amount of a contrasting bright color, often called a “hot spot”. The idea is to have just a little something extra to draw the attention of a lethargic trout.

On the subject of colors, I have kind of a bizarre theory that I’ve been using for a while now to help me decide what color flies to use at different times of the year. It goes like this. Early on in trout season, say March, when you look around, the predominant color of the landscape is brown, so I’ll favor fly patterns that also incorporate a lot of brown. Moving into April and May, things are starting to green up so I’ll start using patterns that include a good bit of green. June and July, I think summer, bright sun and so lean toward yellow. With summer changing into fall, I’ll transition to flies that incorporate orange and red, similar to fall foliage. Then, into winter, I think longer nights, deep blue shadows and, of course, white snow. Like I said, a little bizarre but it works for me. Also, if you think about the bug life at those various times of the year, it does kind of correspond to the colors as well: early brown stones, bright green caddis larva, yellow sulphurs, and pumpkin orange October caddis. Things do kind of fall apart in terms of bug life with blue, black and white in winter but, like I said, it’s just a theory.

The fly shown here, the “Night King”, checks all the boxes for an effective winter fly pattern – lots of weight and a slim profile, so it sinks quickly; black, and a few different blue elements for the tail and body, and to seal the deal, a bright pink hot spot collar.