The Cold Winter Fly Fishing (2/3) How to deal with the cold
This is the second article in a miniseries on my blog, it’s about how to fly fish during the cold months. During January, three Sundays in a row you can read about my tips and tricks on how to be efficient and catch fish during winter. This chapter is going to be about both tricks and special gear that can really help you in both staying warm, dry and catching more fish.
This series is especially thought to help you get better results when fishing on the coast but you may find most of these things in the whole series interesting if you are for example fishing sea trout in rivers. I will later wright about what expectations you can have and what tactics that works. This time it is al about dealing with the cold.
I have been testing putting myself through some severe cold, both my thumbs have frostbite since long and are extra sensitive when it comes to cold after that. I have for example gone through the ice several times. I can tell you it is a huge difference going through the ice during spring when fly fishing along the edges of the ice, that is just a fun laugh, but as young going through the ice while ice fishing is less fun or the worst time was during practice going through the ice when it was -20 degrees Celsius in the air. Everything is frozen when you get up, zippers are out of function and nether your fingers or good manners are functioning either
One curtain thing I can tell you is to keep wading deeper than to your knees to a minimum. If you wade to deep you will not only scare the fish. You will subject a larger part of your body to the cold water. When a person is in a state of severe hypothermia they recommend heating up the inner thighs because the largest veins goes very shallow there and that will help the body temperature up the fastest. The same thing applies to when you are wading too deep your whole body will be cold much quicker.
It also is a safety matter because if you stay on the shallows far from the edge to deeper water, them you are in no risk of ending up swimming around in open water. Especially this time of the year that can have a deadly outcome.
Another very important thing is to already be warm when stepping into the water. Walk to where you start fishing and leave the car parked where you plan to end the fishing. Generate some heat in your body before you go down in the water and you can stay in the water so much longer! When you have fished the stretch, you will thank yourself the car is so close.
Remember that the wind is going to play a major role in how cold your body will get. It’s not only about what the thermometer will show you, try to fish with the wind and avoid wind in your face and on your hands as much as possible.
Cold fingers and toes:
For me the biggest problem is my fingers. I don't like thick gloves so its important that my hands stay as dry as possible. The most water comes with the line so make draining holes in the linebasket and you can keep your hands away from the cold water. I have found that putting the rod in the armpit and retrieve slowly with both hands works the best for keeping my hands warm. Work on using your fingers al the time and don't just hold them static.
A Rod Clip is not only a great tool to hold your rod while tying on a new fly, it’s particularly handy during winter to just put your rod in the clip and warm your hands for a while.
Heat pad hand warmers, put them on top of your hand inside your glove or underneath your feet inside the waders and they will say warm for hours.
Plier for easy release of fish in the water is not only good for the fish, it will keep your fingers dry.
If your fingers get frozen it is important not to heat them up too quickly. It will damage them if you poor warm water on them or put them against something too hot. I recommend to bring a thermos with hot water, take a plastic bottle and fill it with water and put a sock or something over the bottle before you hold it. Another good method which is very uncomfortable but can save your fingers if they get severely cold. Place them in your armpits, that is the place on your body that will always stay warm!
With feet it is more difficult because they are very hard to reach at the bottom of your waders. Again, use the warm water you brought although this time you can poor it directly on your wader boots! This will make you toes warm again very quickly. I do it often and have never experienced it damaging the waders or shoes.
We use to say it is possible to fly fish in temperatures down to minus 7 degrees Celsius, colder than that and everything will be frozen. You must make sure to keep your reel out of the water, especially when not all reels have waterproof brakes. The biggest problem though use to be ice stocking up in the rodguides. I recommend you to only use rods with large two-legged snakeguides during winter, in doing that it takes much longer before it fills up with too much ice.
When the line finally gets stuck with ice I just slam the whole rod against the water surface making almost all ice go away instantly. If it is several degrees below zero, it can create a layer of ice covering the rod blank. I have broken one rod by doing this when it was really cold and a lot of ice but it only happened once and it was an older weaker rod then the tough kust-rods are today! It cant usually bild up enough with ice on the rod itself to disturb the fishing to much but when I get back to the car I use to spray the whole rod whit something that is called Ice-off spray. It is made for car windows but works just as good for this purpose. It is a great tool for avoiding the ice from getting stuck in your rodguides. Pray over the whole rod before fishing in minus Celsius.
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