It's been cold in the hills lately! Snow, ice, cold feet and hands...burrr! For us, this is one of the great parts about South Dakota. Not only does the cold still offer some great days of fishing in our neck of the woods, it also offers us a chance to catch up on some tying for 2020! If you tie your own flies, and want to fill your box with better bugs for next year, these are 10 patterns you MUST put some time into when the cold is just too much to bear.
- Clouser Minnow/Kreelex: Pretty much anything that swims will eat this fly. Always have some sparsely tied in your box. My favorite colors are chartreuse/white, and blue/white/red. For the kreelex, chartreuse/silver, gold/silver will not go wrong. Great pattern all year round (especially in winter, spring, and fall).
- San Juan Worm: Pink and Red, Orange and red, or solid red. Invert the hook with dumbbell eyes for summertime carp and catfish (red). Many anglers call it a cheat fly because it works so well.
- Hot Spot Pheasant Tail: Mayfly nymphs are present in our streams throughout the year. Did you know they can live in their nymphal stage for 2 years? That's a long time to be underwater, and a lot of opportunities for trout to find you. A bright orange hot spot in place of the peacock herl of a PT has worked wonders for us. Pink also works well. Remember, KISS (Keep it simple and sparse)
- Hare's Ear: Amazing all year round. Try a hare's ear wet on a jig-style hook to mix it up a bit. A very simple tie and one that will be very effective for you in the Black Hills.
- Wooly Bugger: Touted as the most versatile fly ever tied. It's also one of the easiest to tie (if you're into that). Will catch anything that swims all year round. We tie ours in black, brown, olive (thin mint), and a combination of those colors.
- Murdich Minnow: Don't you guys fish for trout? Why is a murdich minnow on this list? This is in my box because of where I live. Not only do we have access to big, hungry trout, but big northers, lakers, largemouth bass, smallies, and white bass. If you want to have a good time throwing big stuff, a murdich minnow needs to be in your box.
- Adams: An adams imitates a number of South Dakota's adult mayflies, and will often catch fish when other flies fail. Tie them tiny for those dancing tricos, or big for a good searching pattern. A must have for the hills.
- Soft Hackles: Yvon Chianard famously fishing a soft-hackle fly all over the world for an entire year. Tie them in a number of colors, sizes, and styles. Black body/grizzly hackle is my favorite for spring with hare's ear/PT and partridge is a favorite for summer/fall.
- Elk Hair Caddis: This might be my favorite all-around dry fly. Floats high, easy to tie, and catching BIG South Dakota trout. But don't get too fancy with it. All you need is some CDC and Elk hair. Wrap 3 or 4 CDC feathers down at the back (with a small 1/8th inch puff tail) and tie the remaining cdc to the hook with wide wraps to the eye. Add a stack of hair on top like Gallop does and you are good to go!
- Midges (all stages of life cycle): I'm cheating a bit here by calling this one pattern, but they are vital for catching trout throughout the year. Midges are actively hatching throughout the year, so they are always an option for hungry trout. Larva, pupae, stuck in the shuck and dry patters should all hold a place in your box. My favorites include zebra midge, skinny nelson, palomino midges, smoke jumpers and griffiths gnats.
Of course if you don't tie, feel free to come into the shop and fill your box with these, and other great South Dakota patterns. We'll take good care of you. Tight lines!