5 Flies for Winter Fly Fishing in Missoula

5 Flies for Winter Fly Fishing in Missoula

5 Flies for Winter Fly Fishing in Missoula

It’s cold, most water is locked up under inches of ice, snow is covering the banks of the river and you’re either stuck inside tying flies or deep in powder up at Snowbowl.  This is usually what Missoula winters are like for most of us.  We are wondering when it will be over and if you’re addicted to fly fishing you’re just hoping for a day above freezing and some open water.  Well, this winter has been completely different.  It’s been mild with most of our rivers having plenty of open water.  We’ve even been out floating every month this winter.  Temps in the upper 30’s and 40’s have us out on the rivers floating and fishing.  If you haven’t gotten out this winter yet, you’re missing out on some great winter fishing.  For those of you that want to get out here are 5 flies for winter fly fishing in Missoula:

 1.  San Juan Worm

Purists hate this fly.  In fact, we get more people in the shop that would rather not fish a San Juan, because to them, frankly it’s not a real5 Flies for Winter Fly Fishing in Missoula fly.  We would absolutely have to disagree.  It’s a fly as much as any of the other flies out there.  It’s material tied on a hook…  And it just plain works!  It might possibly be Montana’s best fly.  At any given time of the year you can catch trout on San Juan’s.  That’s why it’s our #1 winter fly.  In a double nymph rig 10/10 times we will have a pink or red San Juan worm this time of year.  This fly will get them in the winter… and spring and summer and fall!

2.  Pat’s Rubberleg Stonefly

Stoneflies are a huge part of our trout’s diet.  Some stoneflies are in our rivers for up to 3 years before they become adults.  What does that mean?  It means you can fish stoneflies all year long and our trout will eat them.  A sz 8-10 black, coffee/black or tan/brown Pat’s Rubberleg Stonefly is hard to beat all year long, even in the winter.

3.  Lightning Bug

This flashy nymph is a great winter pattern no matter where you go.  They can be tied in a myriad of colors from Purple to Silver and every color in between.  Why does is work so well in the winter months?  Maybe it’s the flash, maybe it’s the profile… who knows.  We just know it works in sz’s 16-18 on all our rivers, including the Missouri.

5 Flies for Winter Fly Fishing in Missoula4.  Pheasant Tail

PT’s might be the best general nymph pattern on the planet.  Anywhere trout live you can be sure that they’ll eat this fly.  It can be a mayfly nymph, stonefly nymph or even a midge.  All you have to do is change sizes to match the hatch.  Our favorite sizes in the winter are sizes 16-18.  If it has a tungsten bead even better.  If it’s a jig hook, even better.

5.  Griffith’s Gnat

One of our favorite things about the Missoula area is that we can catch fish on dries every month of the year.  In the winter the fish don’t rise much, but at the end of an upper 30’s or 40’s day in winter you can find fish eating midges at the tailouts and back eddies.  A good bet for most of these fish eating is a sz 18-22 Griffith’s Gnat.  These fish are pretty picky, but this fly will get them if you have a good drag free drift.


So, there you have it.  You don’t want to go fishing this winter without these flies in your box. There are definitely other flies that work in the winter.  These just happen to be our top 5 favorites.  What are other flies that you like in the winter?  Leave a comment below to let us know.

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