Wintertime Dry Fly Fishing - My Go-To Gear and Flies

Posted on 07 January 2020

As the weather begins to dip around freezing and the October caddis hatch is a thing of the past, the only thing on my mind: Midge Season! Most of my fishing buddies have a good laugh when I tell them that, but, for me, winter dry fly fishing provides an incredibly fun challenge.

The beauty about winter fishing is that you get to sleep in. Trout are least active at daybreak and most hatches will occur mid-day when the water temperature warms up. Fish the warmest parts of the day, usually between mid-day and roughly 3:00 pm. The spike in water temperature mid-day will increase bug activity and fish will also be eager to eat. I also look to fish days that are warmer than previous days. A jump in temperature from the previous day typically triggers trout to feed. If the forecast calls for a high temperature in the 40s, after a night in the 30s, you’ll find some midges popping off. 

The Gear

Rod:  R.L. Winston PURE

Winston absolutely hit it out of the park with their PURE series. From the small creek specialist 6’6” 3wt to the versatile 9’ 5wt, the tapers of these rods are something of perfection. The stiff tip and buttery soft mid-section of the rod engages the fly line at all distances and really “cast” the fly line for you. The delicacy of the rod provides soft presentations and impressive tippet protection when fighting fish. If dries are on the menu, this is the first stick I’m grabbing.

Line: SA Amplitude Trout

If there was one line that I would have to pick to fish dries with for the rest of my life, this would be it. This fly line lays down on the water like a feather. With low and clear water conditions, stealth and delicacy are going to be your best friend. This line easily turns over long leaders with small flies, an essential part of wintertime dry fly fishing.



Leader: 12’ 5x or 6x Finesse Leader

The advantage of fishing long leaders in slow, clear water is indisputable. Designed to easily turn over flies, this is my favorite leader to fish all year round. I find that these leaders are a lot easier to keep a drag free drift with, especially when you are presenting a small midge downstream with multiple stack mends.


Tippet: TroutHunter 6x & 7x Fluorocarbon

Fluorocarbon is an amazing innovation in fishing as it provides less stretch, a higher breaking strength, and is less visible than nylon. Overall, a must for fishing low, clear water in the winter.

Floatant: High N Dry Gel Floatant

If you haven’t tried any of the High N Dry products, they are something that you need to test drive. Not only are all of their floatants reliable, but they are also all environmentally friendly. This gel floatant is my favorite on the market, as it not only lasts long, but also is safe for use on CDC feathers.


The Flies

Matching the hatch during these times of the year is pretty simple. Unlike in the Spring and Summer, there will not be numerous species hatching at once. Instead, mainly small midges and the occasional BWO hatch will take place when the water warms up mid-day. These next three patterns are my favorite to fish throughout the colder months.

Quill Body CDC Parachute Midge

Tied on a Klinkhamer style hook, this emerging pattern is my favorite fly to fish during a midge or olive hatch. The quill body gives the fly segmentation throughout the body, plus it just looks plain awesome too!


  • Hook: Daichi 1760 sz. 20
  • Thread: Grey 70 Denier UTC
  • Abdomen: D’s Flies Quill Body Blue Quill or Blue Wing Olive
  • Thorax: Superfine Dubbing Adams Grey
  • Wing: TroutHunter CDC Caddis Dun
  • Parachute Post: Hot Pink Parapost


RS2 Emerger

Simple, but effective. I usually tie this fly on if trout are only paying attention to small midges in the surface film.


  • Hook: Umpqua Tiemco 100 or 501 sz 22
  • Thread: Grey 70 Denier UTC
  • Tail: Whiting CDL Tailing Pack Light Pardo
  • Body: Superfine Dubbing Adams Grey
  • Wing: TroutHunter CDC Caddis Dun


Harrop’s CDC Transitional Midge

Harrop has some pretty stellar patterns that involve CDC, this one in particular I enjoy fishing in the wintertime. Fish it on the dead drift or swing it in a slow pool. This fly is deadly.


  • Hook: Umpqua Tiemco 100 sz 22
  • Thread: Brown 70 Denier UTC
  • Tail: Whiting CDL Tailing Pack Light Pardo (The pattern calls for grizzly hackle for the tail, but I substituted with CDL Light Pardo from a Whiting CDL Tailing Pack)
  • Body: Natural Possum Dubbing
  • Wings and Wing Case: TroutHunter CDC Puff Natural Dun


Hard Work Pays Off:

There’s something awesome about when a perfect drift, a good presentation, and a slow sip all come together on a winter day. It feels so great to put in hard work on the water, bear the elements, and still manage to watch a fish rise and eat your fly. Plus, it provides me with some much-needed practice before the caddis start popping off in April.

If you have never given winter dry fly fishing a try, I highly encourage it! Hopefully this post gives you some tricks up your sleeve to fool those rising trout on a snowy day. Please feel free to email, call, or stop by the shop in State College to talk to me if you have any questions about the gear or flies I listed. I’ll be happy to chat about some dry fly action!


Tight Lines!


Tyler Pensyl

TCO Fly Shop – State College

Phone: (814) 689-3654 x3


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  • Shauna H: January 15, 2020

    Thanks for the info Tyler..gonna have to tie me a few new patterns… love my pro wading jacket by the way 😉 see you possibly up on spring creek in April..

  • jack aurnhammer: January 08, 2020

    love the flatbrook in NJ this time of year, try the smallest color first and see what’s on the menu !!

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