J. Stockard Pro Tyer, Son Tao, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Son can be found on Instagram.

As the leaves fall off the trees and the temperatures begin to dip, many fly fishermen hang up their waders and spend more time behind the vise. While trout aren’t as active and the bitter cold can be miserable, you can still have a successful day on the river. Best of all, you’ll most likely have no crowds.

The key to winter fishing is preparation and fly selection. Wearing proper layers ensures you are properly protected from the elements. So what is layering? Dependent upon the temperatures, a base layer, insulating layer and outer shell is critical.

Base layer – this is the layer that touches your skin. You want materials that not only keeps you warm but wicks away moisture. Merino wool and synthetic materials are ideal. Stay away from cotton.

Insulating layer – this is the layer that will help retain the heat! Fleece, merino wool and in very cold temperatures, a down jacket are ideal. Again, stay away from cotton!

Outer shell – winter often means rain or snow. Look at the forecast. If precipitation is possible, you’ll want something to wear overtop the down jacket. Once the fillers in a down jacket gets wet, it does not work nearly as well. There are synthetic down jackets available on the market but the tradeoff is bulk and less warmth. Additionally, synthetic down jackets don’t compress as well. So if you’re doing a lot of moving, there will be more bulk to deal with.

If you do go with a down jacket, a waterproof shell is recommended. The top of the line material is GOR-TEX but the tradeoff is price. A rain shell works but isn’t nearly as breathable as GOR-TEX. Regardless of what you choose, the outer shell has the added benefit of being wind proof.

Similar to the upper body, you’ll want a base layer and insulating layer for your lower body. Check the temperatures and think how much walking you’ll be doing in order to determine whether you want to wear the insulating layer or not. GOR-TEX waders will breathe better but no material will completely release a lot of sweating. Too much sweating will result in a cold, miserable day. Stay away from cotton!

Protect your feet! A common mistake is wearing too many pairs of socks. A combination of a thin synthetic sock liners and thick merino wool socks are enough to keep your feet dry and warm for most fishing days.

Ensure your boots fit properly. You don’t want them to be overly tight. Tight fitting boots do not allow heat to properly circulate. Having a pair of boots one size up is ideal for winter fishing.

Hand warmers will add a bit of comfortable. Once the temperature drops near zero, I typically will have hand warmers in the wader pouch and/or down jacket.

Fly selection – fish aren’t as active in the winter but they still feed. Midges are active all year long. They are a major staple in a trout’s diet. In the winter, the midges will be smaller. I often fish size 24 and 26’s. Bling midges, black beauties, zebra midges and miracle midges are all big staples in my winter midge box.

Leader and tippet selection – ensure you have plenty of 5x and 6x tippet. Fish are down deep and the lighter tippet with small flies will get down much faster. My typical setup is a 9’ 5X leader to my first fly. Then 12-18” of 6X tippet to the first midge (size 22-24). Another 12-18” of 6X tippet to the last midge (size 24-26).

If you live in an area that allows only two flies, use a 9’ 5X leader with 12-18” of 6X tippet attached with your favorite knot to your first fly. Then 15-18” of 6x tippet to the last fly should serve you well.

Winter season is often considered tying season. Many people won’t deal with the cold or have the preconceived notion that fish aren’t biting. However, you can have a really great day on the water with the proper clothing and planning. Give it a try. You might be surprised








The Bling Midge

This fly is a staple in my midge box year round. It’s especially effective in the winter due to the small size. It can easily be tied down to size 26. The Bling Midge works well as a dropper behind another midge or nymph. It’s a very simplistic fly but sometimes simple is what produces.

Hook: Standard dry fly hook size 20-26
Body: Thread color of choice. The smaller the denier, the better. The new Semperfli 20D Nano Silk is especially great for size 26’s.
Ribbing: UTC extra small wire
Flash: Flashabou
UV Resin: Solarez Bone Dry

  1. Start the thread about 1/3 the hook length from the eye.

  1. Tie in the wire to the hook bend. Then bring the thread back to the starting point.

3.Wrap the wire to the start point. Tie off the wire and helicopter off the excess.

4. Tie in the flashabou.

5.Make two wraps with the flashabou and tie off.

  1. Add a touch of clear UV resin and cure with a UV torch.

  1. Go fish!


  1. Excellent post, Son, thank you. The only thing I’d add is to make sure you have a a warm hat and an insulating covering for the neck when fishing in cold conditions. A lot of body heat is lost from the head and neck. You’ve inspired me with your Bling Midge. I’m new to the use of UV resins and this fly seems like an excellent place to start.

  2. Thanks for this post Son! I especially like what you shared about “staying warm” and your recommendations. I to have a Columbia Gore-tex setup that’s well over 35 years old but it’s “bulky”. Maybe I’ll shop for something “new”. Any excuse for new gear is OK with me! Staying warm is key out there and I hope to do some winter adventures this year into the spring… While the vise is nice in the winter, cabin fever is not!

    Again – thanks and have an awesome holiday season!
    All the best – Freddy

    1. Best of luck Freddy! Some of my best days fishing are during the winter. If I see snow in the forecast, I definitely try to make it out. Fish love to gorge themselves right before a big storm.

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