Published Oct 25. 2017 - 6 years ago
Updated or edited Nov 29. 2023

Baltic flies for cold water

This article in the series on fly patterns for particular coastal water conditions in the Baltic deals with the season upon us: winter.

Icy coast
Icy coast
Martin Joergensen

Once the water starts getting cold, coastal sea trout fishing slows down significantly. The fish use way less energy, eat less and simply move less. That of course influences their hunting behavior. For sheer physical reasons they are slower and fishing for them requires conviction and dedication – some some flies that can scream: "here I am!".
With the winter closing in in the Baltic, this second installment of "Baltic flies for..." concentrates on cold water.

What's cold?

And just to be clear: cold is like really cold, meaning water temperatures below 5-6 deg C or about 41-43 deg F and down to freezing. Even though we might consider 10-12 deg C or about 50 F quite cold, that's actually a very comfortable temperature for trout, and not nearly cold enough to make them docile or "lazy".
The fish are still active in the cold water and want to feed if they can, but the cold water lowers their metabolism and need for energy as well as their willingness to move fast.
Fishing in water this cold typically takes place on "warm" days, mainly in sunny and calm weather, and you will often be fishing fairly shallow water for fish moving slowly. A fly that gets down, but still can be fished in a moderate tempo and has some color and/or flash, is often the key. Since the fish aren't really in an eating mood, some provocation can trigger attacks. The flies selected here are all tied to be flashy and colorful, and are in most cases quite unlike the flies usually used for sea run trout.

When and where

So winter fishing in the Baltic is usually considered best on sunny days. Calm days work, but a breeze isn't bad because it stirs the surface and can move the water. If it's freezing cold, you may opt for a shore with offshore wind. The wind will move out the almost freezing surface water and bring in water from deeper parts, often being significantly warmer than the surface water close to the beach.
In calm conditions, you can concentrate on areas with shallow water and dark bottom. Dark silt, weed or stones will warm up slightly in the sun, and get the smaller animals like shrimps and scuds on the move. Combined with just a bit of warmth in the water, this entices the trout to start feeding.

Fishing the winter coast
Martin Joergensen

Break the rules

Never say never, and don't stay on land because the classic winter conditions aren't met. The sunny conditions are often preferred by the anglers, but not necessarily by the fish. Great winter fish have been caught in turbulent water under a lead gray sky on bitterly cold days, so if you feel like fishing on a winter's day and the water is fishable, please go! Fish over light bottom, fish in onshore wind, fish when it seems impossible to wring a fish out of the water. Fish don't go on shore in the winter! They are still in the water and still need to eat now and then.

Rough water
Rough water
Henning Eskol

Cold water tactics

As mentioned above, slow can be a key. It's not always the case, and you can mostly start fishing as you usually do: a floating or slowly sinking line, fairly light flies fished at normal speeds, and not necessarily the brightest ones in your box.
But if nothing happens and you think that fish might be around, it's time to adjust some factors. I usually change to a bright fly first. Same basic size and shape that I usually fish, but with more flash and color. Patterns such as a Polar Magnus or Disco Frede can trigger some action. Even brighter weapons may need to come out, and Glitter Shrimps, Christmas Trees, Flames or similar constructions may be the key.
A little weight on the fly to get it down may work, or you can consider a sinking line or leader.
Cast out and leave the fly to sink before retrieving it slowly, maybe using figure-of-eight retrieve or simply really slow pulls.
Winter water is often clear and even very calm on the nice days, so make sure to cast with as little splashing as possible, presenting the fly on a nicely stretched leader - and leave it for a bit, letting things calm down before slowly bringing it back.
Takes can be slow and undeceive, and if you feel anything fishy, just halt the retrieve and let the fly hover before stripping again. The fish may come back for a second try.

The Flame
The Flame
The Flame
Martin Hedegaard - Martin Joergensen

The Flame

This is Danish Martin Hedegaaard's variation of the The Christmas Tree, tied with very bright pink flash tubing and a set of heavy eyes. The fly is often tied using a fluorescent flash material, giving it an almost unearthly shine in the water – hence the name.
Using other colors of flash can work: purple, black, orange, olive. The tying method is the same as for the Christmas Tree just adding bead chain eyes.

Pretty cold water fish
Pretty cold water fish
Ken Bonde Larsen
A winter box
Glitter Shrimp
Glitter Shrimps
Martin Joergensen - Henning Eskol

Glitter Shrimp

A very classic Danish shrimp imitation, so colorful and bright, that it doesn't look much like a shrimp at all. Never the less the fish like it, and it has proven its worth in both dirty and cold water. It's usually tied in pink or orange, but sometimes also seen in slightly more subdued colors like tan, gray or pale yellow.
See how to tie the Glitter Shrimp here.

Polar Magnus

The pink or red hackled Magnus is a well known and popular winter sea trout fly. The Magnus is a universal killer for sea trout, and this slightly tuned version has an edge on the purely gray version.

Polar Magnus
Polar Magnus - a good fly during winter.
Polar Magnus
Kasper Mühlbach

A bright fly
Joergen's Demon
Martin Joergensen
Joergen with the Demon
Joergen with the Demon
Martin Joergensen

Joergen's Demon AKA Joergen's Devil

I've had great success with this little fly in cold water. It's visible, lightweight and a great fly to fish slowly. You can vary the shine and color, but I still like the original with the braided tinsel body and orange flash chenille front. It has been mentioned many times on the site and seen in many pictures. I also put it in my book "Favorite Flies for Baltic Sea Trout", but now it gets its own real pattern description with a full step-by-step. It was originally tied many years ago by my good friend Joergen Nielsen AKA "Old Joergen" and was inspired by the Big Hole Demon.

Joergen's Demon
Pattern type: 
Cold saltwater fly
Joergen Nielsen

AKA Jorgen's Devil. A bright fly well suited for winter water.

Straight shank and eye, lightweight streamer hook, size 4 or 6.
Orange 8/0
A small bunch of squirrel tail hair
Silver mylar braid or mylar flash wound on the thread
Orange flash chenille
Orange rooster
Bead chain
Tying thread
Skill level/difficulty: 
Very easy

Tying steps

Step 1 - start thread

Step 2 - pick hair for tail

Step 3 - stack hair

Step 4 - even hair tips

Step 5 - pick out hair

Step 6 - measure tail

Step 7 - cut and tie down

Step 8 - tail butts covered

Step 9 - flash for body

Step 10 - flash tied in

Step 11 - wrap flash

Step 12 - tie down flash

Step 13 - flash chenille

Step 14 - tie in chenille

Step 15 - wrap chenille

Step 16 - tie down chenille

Step 17 - cut chenille

Step 18 - tie in eyes

Step 19 - cut eyes

Step 20 - secure eyes

Step 21 - select hackle

Step 22 - strip and tie in

Step 23 - wrap and tie down

Step 24 - trim and cover base

Step 25 - hackle sweeps back

Step 26 - whip finish

Step 27 - Cut thread

Step 28 - varnish

Step 29 - cover head

Step 30 - underside too

Finished Joergen's Demon
Finished Joergen's Demon
Martin Joergensen
A Demon fish
A Demon fish
Kim Conrad Petersen
The pink box
Flames and Christmas Trees
Baltic winter fly boxes
Martin Joergensen
Pancake ice
Martin Joergensen
Winter coast
Cold but nice
The Baltic winter coast
Kasper Mühlbach

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