Winter Trout Flies with John Hey

Wooly Buggar trout fly
Woolly Buggar Trout Lures. Winter trout flies.
Woolly Buggar Trout Lures.

Winter Trout Flies

by John Hey

My first adventure with winter fishing was at Lake Coleridge, back in the early eighties. There were 12 inches of snow on the ground. While we were sitting in the truck with the tinny on the back we were trying to convince ourselves that it wasn’t that cold, and anyway we were here now, so with grit and determination, we set out.

Being on this lake in a tinny, even in summer, keeps you on your guard. Many a nice craft has met with tragedy and here we are, early winter in a 10-foot alloy dinghy.

With fly rods set up, we moved out far enough so that we were past what we guessed to be 200 metres; as winter rules apply. No fishing in that zone either side of the mouth or any river flowing into the lake and out into the lake. Having read numerous books on Taupo fishing I decided to tie on a Red Setter and cast into the lake. Having been born in Southland you would think I would be used to the cold. Well, have I got news for you. I caught a small rainbow (we had stuck it out for a little over an hour and a half) and because my hands were so cold I could not bend my fingers to wind in my line, and I had to wind in with the palm of my hand. Winter Trout Flies

We decided to head back to Christchurch to watch the All Blacks beat France. I didn’t winter fish much after that until the 1992-1993 season. In late July and early August, I would fish late afternoon till after dark, using flies to which we had added luminous ribbing or strands along the body on the dropper.

We would fish a doll fly, now a very popular night fly. One thing about tying your own is the opportunity to mix and match. Take the Red Setter pattern for example. By changing the hackle colour to black you now have the pattern of the Fuzzy Wuzzy. Vary the body colour to whatever you want, with bright fluoro colours for winter flies.

Another pattern which is great for turning into winter colours is the Pukeko style Craigs Night-time and Scotch Poacher with luminescent bodies and bright hackle collars.

I am playing around with the Woolly Bugger pattern with four colours for winter. White, yellow, hot orange, and purple, with Crystal Flash in the tail, and of course the luminous cheeks.

Winter fishing is not just a high country pursuit. Sea-run trout are caught in the tidal areas in our major rivers throughout the South Island, with the season going into September this year. Fish your whitebait patterns and if you can find room take your whitebait net with you. If there are no trout, a patty or two is just as nice. I have caught some scrappy rainbow trout in the Waimakariri River by the South Branch, and I have heard of them being caught up as far as the willows.

For the Woolly Bugger, wind on a base of thread. To the tail tie in a good size clump of marabou, then on each side tie in some Crystal Flash in a similar colour, making sure it’s the same length as the marabou.

Next tie in your chenille, ready to wind on for the body. Also at this stage tie in a good size hackling feather and some tinsel. This makes the fly a bit more durable.

Now wind forward the chenille and tie off, bring forward the hackle Palmer style, that is, in even spirals through the chenille to the head. Wind the tinsel through the opposite way to the hackle and tie off.

Tie in some lumo Flashabou as a cheek or throat hackle. Finish the head and cement.

I will let you know which one works later, or you could tie some up and let me know. I’d love to hear from you. Go well prepared, as you can always remove your clothes. In the winter of 1995, I went to Coleridge for the day, rugged to the hilt and arrived to see the lake looking like glass, the sky clear blue, just like a summer’s day. You can never tell.

Keep your line ice-free and good luck.

Woolly Buggar

Hooks: Sizes 2 or 4 Kamasan B175.
Tail: White Marabou with Pearl Crystal Flash.
Body: White Chenille with an overwrap of white hackle Palmer style.
Rib: Silver Tinsel.
Throat: Pearl Crystal Flash.

New Zealand Fishing Flies