A great blog post on Winter Lures and Tactics from Fulling Mill Ambassador, Simon Robinson.
As we move into the depth of winter natural food items in our fisheries become less available to the fish. If conditions are good there may be hatch of small midge or even a few olives hatching, but it is seldom enough to feed a large stillwater trout at this time of year.
It is at this time of year that lures and attractor patterns become the best plan of attack on most lakes, particular in poor conditions.
When fishing during the colder months the fish tend to be less willing to chase fast moving flies, more than likely with them becoming lethargic as the water temperatures plummet. Whilst fish can still be caught with faster retrieves such as a roly-poly or fast strip, it is slow retrieves which tend to be the best method during the winter.
When fishing slowly it is important to select the best flies for the job, I like to choose flies have lots of movement even if they are being fished almost static. For this reason I prefer flies with long marabou tails such as the Fulling Mill Yellow Dancer or flies tied with rabbit fur such as Fulling Mill’s Hot Head Olive Zonker.
If you’re using a slow I like to use the slowest sinking line I can get away with, this allows me to keep the fly in the taking zone for as long as possible, often at range. Using a faster sinking line often pulls the fly too deep, too quickly. So unless the fish are deep stick with intermediate fly lines. You can use a floater with a long leader or even suspend a lure under an indicator, however I only find this is best in flat calm conditions or if the wind is directly behind you, as any cross wind tends to pull the fly around too quickly resulting with a bow in the fly line that can mean missed takes if the fish are being gentle.
To help combat soft takes on slow retrieves it is important to use flies tied on high quality, sharp, barbless hooks to maximise hook-ups and recently I have been using the Fulling Mill Heavyweight Champ Barbless in size 10 with some exceptional results.
Another factor when fishing lures in the winter is the colour choice, I like to keep things simple. If the water is clear stick with white, black or olive, if the water is coloured, as it can be after heavy rain, use black with a bright trigger such as Fulling Mill Flexi Hot Head Lure, the flexible rubber legs tend to grab the attention of the fish in dirty water too.
Another factor linked to water clarity is leader diameter, I generally use Fulling Mill fluorocarbon in 5lb, 6lb and 7lb. I use 6lb for most of my fishing but will drop to 5lb if the water is clear as I feel it is less visible and the fly will move better. I will also up the breaking strain to 7lb if the water is coloured or I am using a large lure such as Fulling Mill Snake as I feel the leader diameter is far less important and I can only benefit from the extra strength if I hook a large fish!
Other lures worth trying are the various apps worms these are best fished with a jerky stop/start retrieve, they can work wonders on some days and I always make sure I have some in my box, particularly if the water is clear. These are best fished as a single fly on a long leader.
Another thing to remember in winter is the fish often shoal tightly in cold water, keep on the move it is important to find the fish as they will not come to you in the cold water. A move of a few yards, even on a relatively small water can make a massive difference. When you find the fish ring the changes with depth and fly colour, pink can be a very good colour in cold clear water but don’t persist with it, as it tends to either work wonders or be ignored in my experience.
Finally when fishing during winter try to pick your day, nobody likes fishing in freezing cold or windy conditions check the weather forecast and if you can try to pick the best day you have available, you will almost certainly enjoy the day more and you might even be able to get a few fish on buzzers during the warmest part of the day!