by Steven Neely


Continuing to fly fish through the winter months can be very rewarding. The cold water turbo charges the fish, and they seem far more willing to take in the cooler conditions. Then there’s the fight; wow, they fight so much harder. If you follow social media, winter on stillwaters is all about pulling big lures on heavy, fast-sunk lines. It’s not, don’t believe everything you read. For me and many others, the floater is often the best and most effective line of attack, but whatever density lines you choose, there can be issues when temperatures start to plummet. We’ve already seen temperatures down to -8 this year; typical fly line coatings perform best between 4 and 20 degrees. Below that range, they get harder, stiffer, and more brittle. Memory becomes an issue, and even worse, ordinary fly line coatings are more likely to crack with use.

The new RIO Premier Glacial Gold fly line solves these problems thanks to its new ‘PolarFlex’ coating. The technology used in its manufacture ensures that this floating line stays supple and soft and lands arrow straight in sub-zero conditions. It has all the key attributes of RIO’s best-selling ‘Gold’ fly line and is an ideal choice for the majority of stillwater applications. It’s this floating line’s versatility through winter that makes fishing it so enjoyable. The movement I can impart to my lures makes them far more effective and enticing to the fish than pulling them on intermediate or sinking line. With the line riding high on the surface, each pull draws my weighted lure up in the water column, fluttering attractively back down as I pause. These changes in speed and direction are key triggers for both rainbow and brown trout and something that few anglers consider. Trout react to movement, and when you’re fishing lures (trying to induce a reaction), the more dramatic the movement, the better.

Sinking lines tend to bring the flies back on a level plane; there’s nothing to really instigate a take. Compare this to the ducking and diving motion of a weighted lure fished on a floating line and long leader, and there’s no contest. I can use a long leader of 18 to 20ft and still get my fly to where the fish are on the coldest days. The floating line allows me to bring the lure, rising and falling back along the lakebed, impossible with any other line. On the other hand, the sinking line is constantly dropping, so inevitably, unless the fly is constantly on the move, it will get stuck on the bottom. Even the Glacial Gold’s colour is an advantage. The line’s ice-white head stands out so well on those dark winter days , I can see the slightest movement as I fish my flies back towards me. Neat little welded loops at either end makes tippet changes easy and hassle-free; this really is an exceptional floating line that allows me to fish through the winter in what I think is a far more effective way than reaching for a sinker. 

Another form of fishing that anglers seem to dismiss as soon as winter arrives is nymphing. All nymph fishing is about the presentation, especially in clear, cold-water conditions, and there’s no better line for that than RIO’s Glacial Gold. Its performance is second to none, giving you complete control to fish your flies exactly as you wish.I prefer to fish a team of three, very simple patterns. On the point is a Bloodworm tied on a heavy, size 8 hook. A couple of Hare’s Ears go on the droppers, size 14 on the top and size 12 in the middle. I use a fluorocarbon leader of around 16ft in length, with the first dropper at 7ft. The other flies are then spaced evenly apart. I cast the flies across the wind, letting them drift around static in an enticing arc, watching the curve of the line, especially the tip, for any sign of a take. If I’m fishing this method on the lee shore, I may shorten the tippet length to the first dropper to avoid fouling the lakebed as it drifts towards the bank. Fishing in this manner without a bung offers a far more natural fly presentation. When targeting calmer water, I’ll add movement to my flies, as with the weighted lure. With each draw of my figure-of-eight retrieve, I introduce a quick flick and twist of the wrist. This jerks the patterns into life, catching any fish’s attention and can prove brutally effective on clear water venues.

Finally, of course, there’s the dry fly. No matter how cold it gets, you’ll often see trout sipping at the surface at some point during the day. It’s a guarantee that any hatch, no matter how sparse, will see the trout quickly take advantage of the feeding opportunity. I’ve had instances where I could only manage a handful of takes to my usual methods, then, as if someone flicked a switch, the trout come up. A quick change to a small, single dry fly, well presented on this exceptional floating line and some light tippet, has resulted in some hectic sport. Yes, the feeding window may be all too short, but in this brief spell of activity, you can often put more fish in the net than in the rest of the day.

So, not only can we get away with fishing a floating line through the winter, it can be a positive advantage. The variety of options and methods we can employ makes it our first choice line, and no matter how cold it gets, the new RIO Premier Glacial Gold will keep you fishing efficiently, effectively and hassle-free, putting far more fish in your net. 

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