Ice flies are versatile and suitable for targeting many species, but sometimes fish stop biting the tried and true presentation. When the bite slows down, mix up your method to see more hard water success.

ice flies

When it comes to fishing I personally believe in crossing lines and methods. For instance, if one is using a conventional rod but has a fly tied on a float bubble are they flyfishing? Conversely, if one is using a Spey rod but swinging a small spoon, are you gear fishing? I personally don’t care what label one puts on it, if the line is wet and you’re smiling, then you are doing it right!

Fish Develop Apprehension Toward Repetitive Bait

ice flies

It’s with this crossover perception that I believe one can find more success when the line is wet. Especially when it comes to hard water fishing in lakes, and more so in the popular lakes in the Anchorage and Mat-Su areas, as well as high traffic ice fishing lakes outside Alaska.

Most of the hard water season one can find great success employing traditional methods such as bait and plastics. But as anglers who have spent time on these bodies of water know, fish grow skeptical of  these standard methods as the winter progresses, ice gets thicker, and angling pressure increases.

Throw in Summertime Flies

My recommendation is to cross lines and take a page out of another’s playbook. Employ traditional flies on an ice setup. I have had great success on stubborn fish that have seen and smelled every bait and plastic under the ice by utilizing my summertime stillwater fly box. Utilizing smaller traditional flies that imitate aquatic insects, as well as something they haven’t seen a million times, can be the difference between a slow day and hot day. In addition to being effective, fishing flies on an ultra-light ice rod is super fun! Bringing up your offering slowly through the water column, effectively imitating these bugs, and then seeing your mark followed and then attacked as others are seeing their bait soaking with no interest at the bottom, will bring a smile to any hard water angler!

Ice Flies With Movement & Color

Some of my favorite ice flies are those that incorporate a little bit of bling, but aren’t too flashy or unnatural. Good go-to’s are natural patterns such as a Pheasant Tail Nymph or Hare’s Ear that have a bead head and some flash. The natural fibers on the flies have good movement and color for being fished under the ice and the little bit of bling/sparkle from the bead and flash can entice those more stubborn fish. When rigging these setups I like to use a micro swivel and lighter, more delicate fluorocarbon leader to help these flies move a little more in the water column than with traditional mono.

Think outside norms and go fish!

Story and photos by Adam Cuthriel

Looking for more ice flies and hard water reading? Check out Fish Alaska’s Ice Fishing Blog