For me, winter time fishing is a time of solitude. There are fewer fishermen pressuring the trout, but the trout are still there and still feeding. As I get older, this is the time of year I look forward to most. I can hit well known rivers with no one in sight instead of having to hike to the remote higher elevations that are harder to access.
If you are in a state with year round fisheries, but do not take advantage of them, I would suggest you going out and experiencing winter fishing a few times to see if you like it or not. I promise you the fish are there and they are still feeding. Here are a few tips on making it an enjoyable experience.
Wearing the appropriate clothing can make or break a fishing experience. If you do not dress appropriately for the conditions you are fishing, you will end up cold, wet or hot – and definitely miserable.
One of the most important items of clothing for winter fishing are socks. Once you lose feeling in your feet, your time on the river will be nearing its end. Wool socks are ideal; they provide warmth but also dry quickly. You might even consider doubling up on your socks, depending on how cold it is and if you upsized your boots accordingly. Depending on the climate in your area, you might consider heated insoles. I just bought a pair for my wife. It’s not been cold enough yet for her to try them out, so I can’t report on them quite yet.
I prefer layering versus wearing a single heavy jacket. Typically, the temperature will increase as the day goes on. Layers allow me to adjust as the temperature changes throughout the day. I will typically wear a base layer with another shirt and jacket. Performance fabrics are helpful when they wick moisture from your skin. You don’t need “fishing” apparel for this: consider running apparel or other fitness apparel – especially for your base layers. Consider a jacket with wind stopping properties for your top layer if you expect breezy conditions.
There are many types of gloves on the market today. There’s no single right or wrong answer. You have to determine what’s right for you: traditional gloves, fingerless gloves, convertible gloves / mittens. The one thing that is universal is that I recommend you bring 2 pairs. When your first pair gets wet, it’s nice to have a dry pair to put on. Also, consider throwing a pair of hand warmers into your waders. You can always take a break to warm up.
Some days you can get away with a ball cap or billed hat, but on really frigid days you will want some sort of skull cap or beanie to keep your head and ears warm. Even if my jacket has a built in hat I will carry a skull cap for a just in case.
Getting wet isn’t fun. Getting cold and wet is miserable. If there is a chance of rain, bring a rain jacket. Many companies market rain jackets for fly fishing; however, you do not need to pay big bucks for a “fishing” rain jacket. My preference is Gore Tex since it’s both waterproof and breathable. I have a Marmot Gore Tex rain jacket; the breathable fabric makes my days much more enjoyable. Even if a Gore Tex jacket is out of your price range, make sure you’re at least packing an inexpensive rain jacket if there’s some rain in the forecast. My wife and I have enjoyed many days fishing in the rain. However, absent rain gear, I’m not sure we could have categorized those trips as “enjoyed”.
I hope some of these tips will help you get out and enjoy the year round fisheries in your area.
Joe with Monthly Fly