Friday Fly Day - How To Choose Winter Flies

Chris Dore Fly Fishing Guide

Hey, we get it. We have a huge selection of patterns in our Manic Fly Collection and there are many reasons for that. Sometimes choosing the right fly can be daunting, but we are more than happy to help. Personally, I consider the water and conditions I’m going to be fishing and buy a broad, but targeted range of streamer patterns. What happens on the day and on the water can be a little more focused, and broken down into four main considerations. Check this...

Don’t go too big, too soon. I determine fly size from a number of factors, but water clarity and flow are the big players. With such clear water we don’t need to overdo it on size. On a clear, bright day a fish may notice a swinging fly from 20m away or more. In heavier water or discoloured/clearing conditions I’ll often go larger, simply to ensure I’m getting noticed. Remember, trout can pick a size 18 caddis out in some of the fastest water. They can see your fly.


This is generally determined by water clarity and weather conditions. Bright flies, bright day, darker flies, darker day is a mantra many go by yet there are more considerations in play for me. How fresh are the fish? If they have just moved into the river or if I’m fishing lower down the system then purple, orange, or hot coloured accents can be killer. If they have been in the river a few days, or I am fishing further upstream then I’m generally looking to more natural coloured flies, black beads etc.


Consider your sink tip. Light flies with heavier tips are great for not hanging up as you swing through softer water, whereas to really get deep, a heavy fly on a longer leader is called for. Lighter flies on a longer leader will move more freely amongst the currents, yet in winter you need to get down to where the fish are holding. I try to use the lightest fly I can get away with for the water in front of me and use a range of mends and presentations to compensate for weight.


The materials incorporated into the fly are a major consideration for me. If I’m after a subtle, slim profile then marabou or hair/fur slims right down in the water and offers the action I’m after. Similarly, if I’m after bulk then a magnum rabbit strip provides that, along with movement for days. I generally focus more on longer, softer material offering super movement when fishing in softer water, and stiffer, more solid profile flies when swinging the fast stuff. Loop knots and the rod tip can be used to give all flies a more fishy action.

Flies? It’s hard to go past these top three for most NZ winter situations.

Mrs Simpson

Gold Beadhead Olive Woolly Bugger

Belinda’s Bitchslap Black/Red

Build your collection around a few tried and tested stalwarts then play with size, colourway and accents. It’s good to have options, even for your own sanity.