On the fly: Winter fishing wisdom
Ryan Summerlin December 20, 2011
BASALT – There are several fishing guide tricks that winter anglers can employ at this time of year to make their day on the water more successful.
I often find that during cold weather, the key is often just staying warm. Believe it or not, you’ll be warmer in the river than out of the river. Keep in mind that the water temperature on the Fryingpan River hovers around 40 degrees on a year-round basis. Even on the Roaring Fork River, water temperatures will still be around the mid-30s. This is often warmer than the air temperature. We often say that fly fishing in the winter is still warmer than sitting on ski lift or sitting on top of Aspen Mountain.
Dressing in multiple layers under your waders will allow you to regulate your body’s internal thermostat. I like to start with a heavy polyester or merino base layer followed by a mid-weight fleece layer. I will then add a synthetic or down jacket to provide additional insulation. Heavy wool socks, often labeled as mountaineering socks, are best. Small, disposable charcoal activated toe and hand warmers add to the warmth and keep your digits toasty. I find that placing these little guys on top of my socks and over my toes works better than under my toes. Windproof fleece flip-mittens or fingerless gloves along with a stocking cap will help keep your extremities boiling.
All fishing guides carry a small hand towel in the winter to dry their hands after releasing fish. I’ve found a golf towel with a carabineer clip to be the best. Dry hands equates to warm hands. Be diligent enough to take your gloves off when landing and releasing fish. This should be common practice and is better on the fish, so as to not remove their protective coat of slime. Additionally, this will also keep your all-important gloves dry.
The biggest frustration for most winter anglers is keeping their rod, reel and line free of ice. The easiest way to combat your guides from freezing is to fish with a fixed amount of line. Stop by your local fly shop and pick up some ice-off paste to apply to your rod’s line guides. This will help shed water and will keep you in the game longer. Be conscious to not allow your reel to dip into the water to prevent freezing. Nothing is worse than hooking a big fish only to break it off from having a locked-up reel.
Some of our best fishing in the valley occurs during the winter, so don’t be left out in the cold this holiday.