Winter. To some, it’s the worst time of the year. It’s cold, snowy, wet and the sun sets at 4 pm everyday. One may see these as downfalls, unless of course, you’re a fly tyer. In which case these disadvantages create the perfect conditions for long nights at the bench. For fly tyers, winter is something you look forward to– it’s the next best thing to being on the water. These short, cold days provide you with ample time to sit down and restock your fly boxes, in preparation for the next fly fishing season. Now, let’s get to work.
My fly tying season always starts the same way each year: a review of my time on the water, a tactical plan, and of course, a nice glass of single malt scotch whiskey. Reviewing your year on the water can be easy. I find it’s important to keep a journal or logbook to record information you can reflect back on at a later date. Key details such as location, date, weather conditions, water temperature, fly patterns and depth are easy to jot down at the end of the day. However, they can just as easily be forgotten if not written down. We all like to think that we can remember which flies we were using and what was working on specific days, but the fact of the matter is, we can’t. All of the tidbits of information that we document throughout the year can help us on the vice by filling gaps in the fly box and preparing us for ice-off (plus, it’s always fun to have something written down that reminds you that you catch more fish than your fly fishing buddies).
Having a basic understanding of entomology is a crucial part of fly fishing and matching the hatch allows you to hone in on specific colours and sizes of the fly patterns you should be using to increase your chances of success. I like to take note of my insect findings on the water, specifically, what comes out of a stomach pump (or what I like to call, a throat sampler). It is useful for determining which colours or variations might be missing from my fly box and allows me to visually and accurately recreate them when I hit the fly tying bench. This technique is vital, when it comes to creating a plan for the off-season. Which fly patterns do I want to tie, alter or construct? Perhaps there was a Chironomid colour that I missed out on, or an immature Damsel nymph that didn’t look quite right compared to the naturals.
It’s time to take an inventory of where I left off the last time I sat down at the vice. I always make a list of which hooks, beads, threads and other materials I need and then I split the list between local fly shops. I try to advocate “shop local” as much as possible and I thoroughly enjoy visiting each fly shop and saying hello to everyone. Now there’s only one thing left to do, pour that scotch and start tying.
As ice off on our local lakes approaches, it’s never too early to start dreaming about that moment and get yourself set with the crucial patterns that’ll bring you success when that moment comes. Here is a fly pattern that works great for me at ice-off and throughout the year as well. I like to call it the Dirty Martini. It’s simple, yet effective. I hope you enjoy it. Tight lines & FISH ON.
Dirty Martini Balanced Leech
Hook: Daiichi 4647, 60 degree jig hook, with attached pin
Bead: Brass cool bead, 7/64 chartreuse
Tail: Dark olive marabou, with added flashabou
Body: Canadian olive semi seal dubbing