Written by: Kati Rouse, Rouse Fly Fishing
Here in the Ozarks, our winters are pretty mild. Unless we are in the middle of a cold snap, our lows stay around freezing and our highs are in the upper forties, and sometimes warmer. Luckily, all of our big fisheries are tailwaters, which keeps water temperatures fairly constant—in the low 50s–throughout winter. We usually have some rainfall, which, combined with the need for hydroelectric power, yields higher flows. The higher flows and water flowing out of the creeks brings us to our first couple flies, patterns that mimic what is getting washed off the banks or out of feeder streams:
1. San Juan Worm (sizes 10-14)
In fleshy pink to fluorescent pink, these worms work all winter.
2. Pat’s Rubber Legs (size 8)
In coffee, this is a killer searching pattern.
3. Egg Patterns(sizes 12-16)
All the rivers see brown trout spawning in the fall, and the trout continue to key in on the dirty eggs throughout the wintertime. Apricot color works best.
Another cool phenomenon of the season is the “shad kill,” which takes place in the reservoirs where shad come through the dams into the rivers. Streamer patterns in threadfin-shad color combinations can be deadly. You can dead-drift or strip these flies, depending on the day. Some favorites in this category are:
4. Classic Zonker (sizes 4-8)
White is a popular color choice.
5. Marabou Jig (sizes 1/64-1/00)
Although it sounds like a summer treat, this is one of guide Ryan Furtak’s winter favorites. “Midges are one of the primary food sources for trout during the cold months. I like this pattern because it simply works, and the fish love it even more.”
6. Rouse’s Poodle (size 4)
In white, this and other midsize articulated streamers imitate threadfin
shad. Smaller Game Changers work great, as well.
As we approach early spring, in late February, we start to see some of the slow-water drakes, especially March browns. Large, beadhead Soft Hackles work really well:
7. Hare’s Ear Soft Hackle (sizes 8-12)
8. Pheasant Tail Soft Hackle (sizes 8-12)
Throughout the season, when there aren’t a lot of other bugs hatching, sow bugs and scuds are good staple patterns. They are always present in our rivers:
9. J Dub Sowbug (sizes 10-16)
10. Scud (gray, sizes 10-16)