Salomone: Bundle up, baby it’s cold outside
December has arrived and despite the changing climate conditions that appear to be holding our winter off the fishing has been magnificent. True there may be slush ice that forms in the Eagle or Colorado rivers overnight but the majority of the snowcone style ice melts off with the warming sun. Anglers heading out mid-morning are finding an increase in bites as the day warms and high numbers of fish congregate into one area. However, it is the fly fisher who dresses for the occasion that will experience increased success, have a more enjoyable time on the water and a safer overall winter fly fishing experience.
A few words of caution when discussing winter fly fishing are necessary. Wintery air temperatures have an extremely negative effect on the fish we so lovingly adore. A few seconds in a blustery wind can freeze exposed gill filaments. While you may not see the damage you’ve created, frigid air temperatures can freeze eyes as well. Think about freeze drying or freezer burn in your kitchen and you are starting to get the picture.
Luckily this is a completely avoidable situation. “Keep them wet” is a practice that is a necessity rather than a suggestion. Nets aid in holding the fish for hook removal and barbless hooks simply fall out, which is another way of minimizing any type of handling.
Gloves will remove the slime layer trout need to remain healthy. Take off your gloves if you must handle a fish but keep the fish in the water. Yes your hands are going to feel the sting but that’s a welcomed feeling that means success. The time it takes to warm your hands back up is the exact time it takes the hole to calm down and fall back into a natural rhythm.
Breathable waders are the norm for most fly fishing anglers. However, in other locations where there is a lack of movement neoprene waders serve as an asset to keeping warm. The key for any angler is to manage the wader moisture that forms inside the bootie from perspiration. This dampness saturates socks and leaves feet chilled. The best way to mitigate these negative effects is with wool. Wool socks will maintain warmth inside neoprene booties even when damp.
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Some anglers that choose to use the popular disposable toe warmers may experience a drop in performance when stuffed into the bottom of waders. The product needs air to properly work. And this product can exacerbate a taxing situation by increasing the amount of perspiration your feet produce.
Cotton is not your friend in the winter time. A thermal undershirt under a fleece layer is the best way to build your cocoon for warmth. A well thought out base layer will extend your time on the river during the winter months. Ski clothing has perfect crossover appeal as most ski clothing is designed for heavy activity, to mitigate perspiration and maintain warmth.
Thick fleece, a prima-loft layer or a down filled garment would be your next layer of warmth. A wind shearing top coat finishes off the winter weather components. Anglers that have decent rain gear will be able to use their rain jacket to fight off breezes and hold in warmth.
Accessories are a necessity. Buff style neck gaiters really improve your attitude by cutting off the negative effects wind causes on your skin. Simms makes a variety of fly fishing gloves for anglers who venture out into the winter river. And any angler stomping through snow to get to the river without a warm hat is a foolish individual. Always wear a warm hat in the winter.
Bundle up and hit the river. Anglers that feel the itch year-round need to approach the water with intelligence. Dressing properly for a winter angling adventure increases your level of enjoyment, enhances your time on the water and ensures your safety in wintertime conditions.