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Winter Fly Fishing – Tips For A Better Experience

Winter fly fishing isn’t for everyone. It can be cold, slow, and downright miserable. However, it can also produce some of the biggest trout of the year. Sight fishing can be extremely productive when the rivers are low and clear. Trout are easy to spot, and they are often catchable with an array of midge patterns.

If you decide to give winter fly fishing a try, there are definitely some techniques that will keep you more comfortable on the water. It is better to come to the river prepared, so you can stay warm and catch some trout.

This article will go over my best tips for winter fly fishing. Hopefully they will help you on your next outing.

Proper Layering In The Winter

Synthetic base layers are essential for winter fly fishing. Leave the cotton garments at home! I like thick wool socks, long underwear, and a good synthetic top. Merino wool is one of the best picks for long underwear and your top layer – it will keep you warm but it is thin and breathable.

On top of this, I like a thin jacket such as the Patagonia Nano Puff. It is fully synthetic but very warm. If you do get wet, it will still give you time to get back to the car. In addition to this, a down jacket is a must have item. It will be the final layer of warmth for those cold winter days.

If it is snowing or sleeting, a good fishing jacket is a great item to have. Simms makes some great models such as the G3 guide jacket, but they are quite pricey. If you don’t want to invest in a fishing jacket, a good rain jacket will suffice. I will put this layer over my down jacket.

Good Gloves For The Winter

We have already gone over this previously, but a good pair of gloves is essential for winter fly fishing. I like to use foldover mittens because they allow for more dexterity. When you fold the mitten back, you can use your fingers to tie knots or untangle your rig.

It can be tough to get used to fishing with gloves, but it isn’t too hard. Most of the time, you don’t need lots of dexterity – since you are just holding your fly rod and doing some line management.

Some hardcore anglers will never fish with gloves. This can be an ok choice as long as it’s not too cold. Once the temperature drops into the teens or single digits, gloves become a necessity. Without them, frostbite can set in pretty quickly.

Quality Waders

Having leaky waders in the summer can be annoying, but leaky waders in the winter can be dangerous. If there’s any leaks whatsoever, you will get cold super quickly.

Before you head out for a winter outing, make sure your waders are free of leaks. They need to be in good shape to protect you from the freezing water. If you find any leaks in your waders, make sure to patch them properly before you head out to the river. There really is nothing worse than a leaky pair of waders in the winter.

Quality waders can be expensive, but they are very valuable when it comes to winter fishing. If you plan on fishing in the winter a lot, consider getting a good pair of Simms – preferably the Gore-Tex models like the G3 or G4. Gore-Tex is much more abrasion resistant, and will last for more seasons than a traditional pair of waders. It is also more puncture resistant, so leaks are less likely to happen.

A Hand Towel

This is a very useful item to have, but it is often overlooked. When you release a fish or touch a fish, your hands will get wet. This, combined with cold air – can make your hands freeze up pretty fast. Keeping a small hand towel in your wader pocket will allow you to dry your hands immediately. This will prevent them from getting too cold.

Any towel will do, just make sure it’s completely dry to begin with. Also, only use it when you need it. A wet hand towel is pretty useless, so I try to limit the amount of times I use it. If possible, I will land the trout and release them without ever getting my hands wet. Just remove the fly, and dip the net back in the water – the trout will swim away when it’s ready. However, if you want a photo then you’ll obviously have to touch the trout.

Change Of Clothes

Hopefully you never fall in the river, but if you do – it’s best to be prepared. I like to carry a change of clothes in the car in case I take a spill. This will allow me to get dry and get home fast. To prevent this from happening, I always wade very carefully in the winter months. Walk slowly and keep your balance! There is nothing worse than falling in the river when it’s cold out.

With this being said, sometimes the worst does happen. We all fall in the river sometimes, and it happens when we least expect it. Having a change of clothes will make this situation much easier.

Conclusion

Winter fishing may not be your thing, but I encourage everyone to give it a try. It allows anglers to get some solitude after the busy season ends. There is nothing better than having a whole stretch of river to yourself – you can work through your favorite runs without bumping into other anglers.

Some of my best trout have come during winter outings. It is truly a special moment when you catch a big trout in the dead of winter. Make sure to have a good selection of midge patterns, and don’t be afraid to throw a streamer!