A curious question
Hope the climate in Oz is keeping you happy. As usual it's getting cold over here which leads me to the following question.
In your experience - Is winter fly fishing in UK a "lures only affair" or is it possible to have success with an imitative approach during cold weather?
The honest answer
Thanks for this; it's an interesting question. Since I started avoiding winters nine years ago the rules have changed. For a start there was a close season on all the large reservoirs I fished (there still is, but it's self imposed and most of them are now open until the end of December).
My season always finished at the end of October, and I didn't even take that month seriously since it wasn't included in the season ticket. And then, when I started skipping winters I made October my month of fun in the sun, which is how I got to know Noosa, Australia.
Now things have changed and, as you know, you can combine fishing and snowman building - now there's a thought.
I seem to recall fishing boxing day 1988 on a very small pond at Ardleigh. I didn't catch anything, but I did get very cold and haven't repeated the experience since.
I explain all this to give you some perspective and so now you can virtually ignore the rest of the advice :-)
Just because it's winter and the water temperature is cold doesn't mean that the trout are not feeding. Often they are. Fry do appear to be quite an important part of the menu. Of course that is lure fishing, but imitative lure fishing and therefore quite acceptable to all but the most hardened purists.
Good methods are double leaded lure method, intermediate line and leaded rabbit or HiD and floating fry. On calm days I'd fish the first, and during gales or really cold crunches the last. I'm talking from the perspecive of how I'd treat April here, obviously this hasn't come from my one and only Boxing Day experience.
Fortunately there are also insects around. We are mainly talking buzzer (chironomid) here, and most days will even see a bit of a hatch. You may get to fish dries, but probably not.
My advice would be to treat the winter like September until the first frost and from them on like April, or to skip it altogether; pack all your belongings in one small backpack, buy a plane ticket and follow the sun.