By Ryan McSparran
Anglers who are willing to fish during the winter months enjoy a number of great opportunities. Tailwaters that are typically crowded during the summer months can provide solitude and consistently good fishing throughout the winter. Good things come to those who are willing to brave the elements.
Fishing through the winter is about staying comfortable and having fun, even on the coldest days. Sure, you could stay inside and tie flies. Better yet, you could book a trip to Florida for some tarpon fishing. But there’s really no need to wait. Get out there and go fishing this week!
Here are a few easy tips to get out on the water this winter:
1. Begin with Good Layers
It might seem obvious that a cold day on the water requires dressing appropriately. But take a few moments to think about how you’re layering.
Start by ditching the cotton. From your top to your socks, wear base layers that are made from merino wool or synthetics, and designed for outdoor use. Those Gore-Tex waders won’t do a bit of good if you’re wearing cotton underneath. Cotton traps moisture and it doesn’t dry. Wearing cotton can make it feel like there’s a leak in your waders.
After your base layer, consider insulating layers that use down or synthetics like Primaloft. These materials retain a great deal of heat without very much weight. Synthetics are a great option for fly fishing, because they retain their insulative qualities, even when they get wet. However, many manufacturers now also make down products that are treated for water repellency.
Finally, consider your outerwear. A breathable, waterproof jacket and waders are essential. Breathable membranes like Gore-Tex not only keep moisture out. They also block wind, and they allow your body’s natural moisture to evaporate and escape.
A cold winter wind can cause rapid convective heat loss. And in a non-breathable rain shell, you’d quickly freeze from evaporative heat loss. A shell that blocks wind and allows vapor to escape will keep you warm and dry from the inside out.
2. Don’t Skimp on Accessories
Proper layering might seem obvious when heading outdoors in cold conditions. But be careful not to overlook the little things. Covering your head, neck and hands is just as important if you’re going to stay comfortable out there on the water.
Consider packing two sets of gloves. If one gets wet, nothing will save the day like being able to reach into your pocket, and grab a warm, dry pair. In order to save your hands, practice releasing trout directly from your net. If you have your pliers in an easy to reach place, you can pop hook and let the fish swim from your net without ever submerging your hands.
Likewise, you may want to bring two different hats. Bring a lightweight hat in addition to a very warm one. Sweat is an enemy anytime you’re outside in cold conditions. If you feel yourself getting too warm, put on a lighter hat before your head gets sweaty.
Don’t forget the Buff or neck gaiter. It’s amazing how much heat you’ll retain with something warm on your neck.
3. Pack Your Thermos
If you’re properly dressed and you’ve got your fly rods and reels rigged up, there’s only one more thing you’ll need. And that’s a thermos full of something hot and delicious!
It might be coffee or hot chocolate. Perhaps even chicken soup or chili. Whatever it is, bring something that’ll put a smile on your face. There’s nothing quite like sitting beside the river in peaceful winter silence, with your fly rod beside you, enjoying a hot drink and watching the river go by.
Why wait for spring? Get out there and enjoy it!
Recommended Fly Rods:
We'd highly recommend taking a look at our flagship M-Series fly rods in the 10' 3" 3-weight, 4 weight and 5 weight. These are our most popular rods for general-purpose nymphing and euro nymphing, as well as swinging soft hackles and streamers on winter tailwaters.
Ryan McSparran is an outdoor writer, and a fly fishing and hunting professional based in Colorado.