Chasing Winter Rainbows

Pulling lures or streamers can be an effective approach that an angler can take to catching winter rainbows, writes fly fishing expert, Peter Driver of Piscari-Fly.

Blowing off the cobwebs with winter rainbow fishing. Pics:

The choice of flies that you can choose for this method is a very extensive list. It includes Minkies, Damsels, Leeches, Cat Whiskers, large wet flies, and a host of flies, beaded or not, with Marabou or Zonkers tails in every colour under the sun.

However, for the purpose of this post we will focus on fry-imitating Minkies. In the majority of ponds around the country, small fry and minnow make up a fair proportion of the fishes’ diet. Correctly fished this method can be devastating, but there are some key points to note when choosing to pull fry patterns.

Movement in the Fly

One of the most important aspects to good a good fry pattern is it must have movement. Not just how you move the fly through the water with your retrieve but also it must wiggle or pulse because of long loose tails or fibres that make up the fly.

Wiggle or pulse movement is vital

For this reason the most popular materials used to dress these flies is rabbit zonker strips. The soft long hair fibres when wet will move and pulse through the water as you retrieve it, giving it the look of natural bait making its way along.

This movement also acts as a trigger for the fish and may entice an attack when it is following the fly. The soft skin that holds the fibres together is also strong enough so that when the fish pluck at the end of the fly it will last for more than one attack.

Speed, Depth & Location

Once again, finding the fishes depth is crucial and the speed of retrieve will also be the difference between catching and perhaps not. So to begin start at a chosen point or depth and work from there till you find the right speed and movement. Mixing up your retrieve will not only get the speed right but it will also affect the movement of your fly.

Once you feel you have discovered the right depth and speed, fan out your casts to cover all the areas of the lake in from of you, starting by the bank to your left or right.

This location is popular for roaming fish looking for this type of food and stripping along the margins can be very successful. Remember to remain low and out of sight sometimes the fish will follow the fly right in to you position and if you are standing up you will spoke them before they have the chance to attack.

Another good feature to watch out for is shelves under the surface on the bed of the lake, where it drops off to deeper water. This location is again a good spot for roaming and feeding fish and a well presented minkie can have good results here also.

Snake Design

There is however a constant issue some anglers have with fishing minkies and that is, tail bites. This is when the fish follow the fly in and nip at the long fibres of the tail not resulting in a hook up when the angler strikes.

To remedy this problem, we see the introduction of what is now known as the snake design, this is a long minkie pattern with initially two hooks in the tying. The two hooks are connected with either fine braid or strong monofilament, the tier’s choice.

The long zonker strip is then attached to both hooks and the hook nearest the head of the fly has its bend and point cut off. So now when stripping in the long minkie and the fish tail bites the second hook is right at the rear of the fly and this will result in more hook ups for the angler.

Unfortunately in a lot of competitions this fly is not allowed, so when fishing long minkies you must remember to keep retrieving when you are getting tail plucks and only lift into the fish when you feel the weight of the fish solidly on the line. Sometimes I can get 3 to 4 plucks on one cast before hooking the fish, but I never strike I keep retrieving at either the same pace or faster waiting till the fish chasing it has had enough and decides to attack.

Result from a minkie

When tying your fry patterns it is a good tip also to use bright cheeks or glo brite heads as this shifts the attack point of the fish to higher up the body of the fly and will result in more hook ups. We also have variations of the standard style of minkie that is worth a try.

Bunny leaches are of the same concept but have a bright plastic floating bead threaded up on the zonker strip in the tail to give a different movement to the tail of the fly as it swims through the water. Also you can add in double tail side by side to creates even greater disturbances in the water. Again you can add bead heads, twin eyes and booby eyes to the head of the fly which in turn will give different effects to how the fly will fish.

Like any discipline in fly fishing you must find what you are confident in using and doing, once you have that, your flies will always have a chance of a fish.

But remember when you find yourself wading through boxes of colours, fritzs, marabou, zonkers strips, nymphs, lures, boobys and gods know what in all of our fly boxes looking for the answer to catching a fish, always choose what you have confidence in and you will never be too far off.

More articles and tips from Peter Driver can be read at his blog and if you are interested in Dohiku hooks, top quality tungsten beads, or Syndicate competition fly rods visit