Written by: Tyler Befus
Winter can be one of the most challenging times of the year to fish. Whether they live in a spring creek in the Upper Midwest or one of the countless Colorado tailwaters, trout become very slow and stubborn in their feeding habits. In order to fool these picky fish, it is sometimes necessary to fish a pattern that is out of the ordinary and a bit different than everything else the fish have been seeing.
Midges are by far the most common winter patterns due to the fish’s tendency to rely more heavily on midges during the cold months. Over the past few years, I have fished my standard midge patterns and done well, but when I tie on a pattern like the Tungsten Surveyor, my catch rate almost doubles. The bright collar, or “hot spot,” is the main reason for this pattern’s success. The UV rays from the sun hit the hot spot and illuminate the fly. The nymph becomes much more visible to the trout, and since it is something out of their normal feeding pattern, they are quick to strike.
When fishing the Tungsten Surveyor, I have found it to be even more effective in larger sizes—such as 12, 14, and 16—which are often not typical for a winter nymph. The combination of the larger size, hot spot, and all-around buggy look result in more hook ups and better fishing throughout the winter. Let’s take a look at tying this deadly pattern.
Hook: Standard scud hook, sizes 12 through 18.
Bead: Silver tungsten bead to match the size of the hook.
Thread: Red or fluorescent orange, 8/0 or 70-denier.
Ribbing: 5X monofilament.
Back: Black Accent Flash.
Dubbing: Rainbow Ice Dub.
Step 1: Thread the bead on the hook, and put the hook in the vise. Start the thread on the hook, and lay down a small base of thread. Be sure to take your thread back to the bead at the front of the hook.
Step 2: Tie in the monofilament and wrap over it to the bend of the hook. I prefer a longer, more curved body on my fly, so I will wrap a little way down the bend of the hook bend, as well.
Step 3: Wrap the thread back to the bead and tie in the Accent Flash. Wrap over this to the bend of the hook. Make one more pass with the thread to the bead and then back to the bend to build up a little more bulk for the body.
Step 4: Take a pinch of the Rainbow dub and dub your thread.
Step 5: Wrap the dubbing toward the front of the hook, making sure to create a clean and gradual taper to the body.
Step 6: Pull the Accent Flash over the back of the fly, tie it down behind the bead, and trim off the excess.
Step 7: Rib the body with the monofilament.Tie off the material behind the bead. Once you have done that, trim off the excess material.
Step 8: If there is not already a substantial band of thread at the head of the fly, build one with a few extra wraps of thread or as you whip finish the fly. This is the “hot spot” on the fly and a trigger point for the fish when it is in the water.
Step 9: Taking a dubbing brush or needle, pick out the dubbing along the body for a truly buggy effect.
This fly is one of my “go to” patterns during all months of the year, but especially in the winter, when fish are not feeding as actively. A little variety in their meal options will make a huge difference in your catch rate. Tie a few of these up and give them a whirl the next time you fish your favorite trout stream this winter. Tight lines!
Tyler Befus is an accomplished young man, who has already been in the fly fishing world for almost fifteen years. He has published two books on fly fishing and fly tying, holds two IGFA world records, is a signature fly tier with Umpqua Feather Merchants, and is a member of the USA Youth Fly Fishing Team.