Winter fly fishing can be extremely productive for both steelhead and trout in our local waters. Keeping warm and safe is by far the most important part of your fishing day. Here are a few things to keep in mind to stay safe and warm on your next winter excursion.
When choosing cold weather clothing, remember mama’s advice and layer up! I think of my attire in three different layers:
Base Layer: This is by far the most important, and easiest to ignore. Your base layer needs to be made up of wicking underwear and socks. These substrates are designed to take moisture away from your body on the off chance that you start to sweat. The quickest way to get cold quick is to sweat in cold weather. These fabrics feel great against your skin and will keep you comfortable all day. Personally, I wear wicking socks, long johns, and a long sleeve tee. Mine are all Patagonia, but all the major companies are making them (Simms, Cabelas, Under Armor, Etc.) and they are readily available at your favorite fly shop.
Warmth Layer: This might as well be called the “fleece” layer. Depending on the weather forecast, one may choose a micro fleece, polar fleece, or for extreme cold, you may choose a wind proof / water proof fleece such as Simms Wind Stopper®. Be careful, don’t over do it. You don’t want to sweat, or even be “toasty”... just comfortable. I like fleece pants with stirrups, especially designed for waders. Stay away from jeans, they tend to get clammy and will cause excessive wear on your waders. I wear a thick pair of wool socks to finish things off.
Protection Layer: This layer protects you from the elements. Now may be a good time to pull out the Wind Stopper®, but I prefer the new soft shell jackets. They are waterproof and windproof, as well as being breathable and they stretch! Once again, all the companies are selling these jackets, and they are worth the money! If freezing rain is in the forecast, I will throw my rain jacket over everything, just for a little insurance. Fingerless fleece gloves are bothpractical and functional. Wearing full finger gloves or mittens over your fingerless gloves is also a good idea in between fishing stops. Depending on the weather, choose our hat wisely. Keeping your head warm, without sweating is essential. I usually carry a couple of different options with me consisting of everything from a headband to a sock hat to a Wind Stopper® fleece cap. Changing your hat can often keep your comfort level where you need it for hours.
Quick Tips for Winter Fishing:
1. Stay Dry
Sounds simple, right? Fact is, if you fall in, your day is done. Slime on rocks can be slick, imagine ice!
2. The Buddy System
Fish with a friend. Find someone crazy enough to wade in freezing water and go fish!
3. Stay out of the Water
Whenever possible, fish and walk on shore. This does not give you permission to trespass, but maybe there is snow was covering the sign!
4. Pack like you plan on falling in.
Always keep a change of clothes, towelsand blankets in your vehicle.
5. Choose your days wisely.
There are no extra points for fishing in sub-zero temperatures. Look for those winter days when the mercury climbs into the upper thirties and forties. Fish the third day of a three day warm up and expect to catch some fish.
6. Know when to quit.
When you can no longer feel your feet and your shivering so profusely you can’t get a decent drift, it’s time to call it a day.
Keeping some of these ideas in mind can make your winter fishing adventures much more enjoyable. Or, you could head south and chase permit and bonefish around... A boy can dream, can’t he?