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B.C. Boat and Sportsmen's Show
Early Season Fly Strategies
By Phil Rowley

It’s always darkest before the dawn, at least that’s the way it seems as a new stillwater season approaches. Anxious fly fishers scour the web, local tackle shops, close and distant friends for any signs of ice off. The gossip this frenzy creates rivals that of Hollywood at times, or so it appears. This year the anxiety seems a little worse than most.

Mother Nature is refusing to release her winter grip and reports of sizeable snowfalls and dense ice abound, Tunkwa Lake for instance at the time of writing still had over twenty inches of ice. Myself, I have been fortunate to get onto one interior lake already and feel the charge of the first Rainbow of the season. We still had to contend with ice but the effort was well worth it. Five pound fish hooked in less than five feet of water are excitable and tough to manage. I yearn for these types of problems!

Immediately after ice off the water temperature hovers in the low forties and is generally too cold to instigate any hatches. Trapped by winter stratification trout are prisoners of the shallows making them an ideal quarry for the fly fisher. Often sluggish from their winter sojourn pre turnover trout often need to be shaken into biting. It is during these times anglers should prey upon a trout’s naturally aggressive disposition. Patterns should be a bit on the glitzy side and animated through material choice and presentation.

Two of the primary food sources available to trout at this time are leeches and water boatman. Leeches are year round food source most fly fishers are familiar with but water boatman are not always considered an early spring option. Water boatman are one of the few active food sources and coupled with their air breathing lifestyle are prisoners of
the shallows too. A combination pre turnover trout find hard to resist. Early season water boatman are in the latter stages of their one-year life cycle. Mating in the previous fall the females have laid their eggs and will soon be replaced by their prodigy.

When it comes to material selection for water boatmen and leeches the focus should be on the brighter side of the dial. Crystal Chenille is an excellent material for both. Maroon, peacock, brown and olive are great colors for leech and boatman designs. Try twisting different colors together to create further distinctive looks. Peacock and maroon is a great leech combination while a blend of silver and pearlescent simulates the trapped air bubble water boatman carry around on their sub surface jaunts.

Another interesting option is the use of Krystal Flash dubbing loops. A body created through a combination of Krystal Flash and dubbing appears to have an inner glow offering a subtle but attractive appeal. The trick to this method is controlling the Krystal Flash while creating the dubbing loop. Use the left hand (for right handed tyers) to separate the strands, typically two of differing colors, until the loop is formed and a dubbing hook or twister is inserted. At the risk of self-promotion take a look at my new book, Fly Patterns for Stillwaters for further explanation. My version of the popular Dazzle Leech and Krystal Boatman utilize this tying technique.

Other materials worthy of consideration include Super Floss, rubber hackle and Sili Legs. These materials have a life of their own and provide a saucy wiggle to many flies including dragon nymphs, water boatman, generic nymphs and yes, even leeches. Large Girdle Bugs, Yuk Bugs and other rubber legged river offerings have often worked wonders on early season trout.

Don’t forget the value of gold, silver and copper beads either. The flash and action they provide to flies year round pays big dividends and practically no leech pattern should be without them. Natural materials to include in this synthetic concoction include soft hackles such as pheasant rump, grouse and guinea along with everyone’s stillwater favorite, marabou. Rabbit and fox aren’t bad choices either. Try sprinkling a touch of Angel Hair in the tail for further attractive shimmer.

The pre turnover season is brief, typically less than 2 weeks. Once the ice has left the lake the waters soon warm to the same level and turnover occurs. Chironomids and other emergences begin with somewhat predictable regularity. The loud and obnoxious patterns take a back seat to more suggestive and subtle designs. But by planning for this brief intro to a new season we can maximize the beginning we have all been yearning for.

Flyfishing All Categories
  Article Topics Date
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2. Fly Lake Rainbow Merlin Flyfishing, Flys Feb 2011
3. Fly Rainbow Trout (brown back) Flyfishing, Flys Feb 2011
4. Fly Babine Dusk Flyfishing, Flys Feb 2011
5. Fly B.C. Herring Flyfishing, Flys Feb 2011
6. Fly Cooked Prawn Flyfishing, Flys Feb 2011
7. Fly Sliver Hilton Flyfishing, Flys Feb 2011
8. Fly Serendipity Flyfishing, Flys Feb 2011
9. Fly Dubbed Eyed Egg Flyfishing, Flys Feb 2011
10. Fly Dream Squid Flyfishing, Flys Feb 2011
11. Fly Blue Thunder Flyfishing, Flys Feb 2011
12. Fly Cisco Flyfishing, Flys Feb 2011
13. Fly Kermit Poppers Flyfishing, Flys Feb 2011
14. Fly Gummy Roe Flyfishing, Flys Feb 2011
15. Fly Spaced Out Flyfishing, Flys Feb 2011
16. Fly Kitimat Red Flyfishing Feb 2011
17. Fly Casting Flyfishing, Technique Jan 2011
18. Fly The Popsicle Flyfishing Jan 2011
19. Fly The Steelhead Nightmare Flyfishing, Flys Jan 2011
20. Fly Koenig's Alevin Flyfishing Jan 2011
21. Fly The Pink Worm Flyfishing, Flys Jan 2011
22. Fly Black Egg-sukin' Conehead Leech Flyfishing, Flys Jan 2011
23. Tied Down Minnow Flyfishing Mar 2009
24. Fly Fishing for Salmon Jul 2008
25. Gravelwalker Flyfishing, Salmon, Steelhead, Tackle, Trout Jun 2008
26. Black Spey Salmon, Steelhead Jan 2008
27. Tying the Green Butt Skunk Flyfishing, Steelhead May 2007
28. Don't Forget the Little Guys Flyfishing Apr 2007
29. Six Important Fly Patterns for B.C. Success Flyfishing, Tackle Apr 2007
30. Large Central Interior Lake Rainbows on the Fly Flyfishing, Trout Apr 2007
31. Bug Eyes Apr 2007
32. Early Season Fly Patterns Flyfishing Apr 2007
33. Early Season Fly Strategies Flyfishing Apr 2007
34. Chironomid - Fly of Choice Flyfishing Apr 2007
35. Flyfishing Destinations of British Columbia Flyfishing, Salmon Apr 2007
36. The Hemoglobin Emerger Flyfishing Apr 2007
37. Early Season Stillwater Success Flyfishing, Tackle Apr 2007
38. How to tie Bug Eyes Flyfishing Apr 2007
39. Searching for Coho on the fly Flyfishing, Salmon Apr 2007
40. Tying the Chaunigan Carey of Pheasant Flyfishing Apr 2007
41. Fly Fishing Steelhead a “Spring Primer” Flyfishing, Steelhead Apr 2007
42. Tying the Purple Austrian Flyfishing Apr 2007
43. Tying a variation of the Kitimat Kombo Flyfishing, Steelhead Apr 2007
44. Tying the Green Chum and Pink Flies Flyfishing Apr 2007
45. Tying the Egg Sucking Leech Flyfishing Apr 2007
46. Tying the Christmas Tree Fly Flyfishing Apr 2007
47. Tying the Kitimat Kombo Flyfishing Apr 2007
48. Tying Manny’s Minnow Flyfishing Apr 2007
49. The Pink Solution Flyfishing Apr 2007
50. Knot Tying Flyfishing Apr 2007
51. Trolling a Fly with your Spinning Rod and Reel Flyfishing, Tackle, Trolling, Trout Feb 1999
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