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Keeping warm in an icy winter river while fly fishing

Kirk Webb / Special to the Post Independent
Staff Photo |

Tying flies often fills in the gap for fly fishers going through winter fishing withdrawals.

It allows us to daydream about warmer days, rising fish, and heavy insect hatches.

Despite having sub-zero temperatures this past week, I just had to get out of house, off of the tying bench, and into the river.



There are several fishing guide tricks that winter anglers can employ at this time of year to make your day on the water more successful.

I often find that during cold weather the biggest key is often just staying warm.



Believe it or not, you’ll be warmer in the river than out of the river.

Keep in mind that the water temperature on the Fryingpan River hovers around 40 degrees Fahrenheit on a year-round basis.

This is more often than not warmer than the air temperature.

We like to say that fly fishing in the winter is still warmer than sitting on a ski lift or racing down Ajax.

Dressing in multiple layers under your waders will allow you to regulate your body’s internal thermostat.

I like to start with a heavy polyester or merino base layer followed by a mid-weight fleece layer.

I will then add a synthetic or down jacket to provide additional insulation. Heavy wool socks, often labeled as mountaineering socks are best.

Small, disposable charcoal activated toe and hand warmers add to the warmth to keep your digits toasty.

I find that placing these little guys on top of my socks and over my toes works better than under my toes.

Windproof fleece flip-mittens or fingerless gloves along with a stocking cap will help keep your extremities boiling.

All fishing guides in the winter carry a small hand towel to dry their hands after releasing fish.

I’ve found that a golf towel with a carabineer clip to be the best.

Dry hands equates to warm hands.

Be diligent enough to take your gloves off when landing and releasing fish.

This should be common practice and is better on the fish so as to not remove their protective coat of slime.

Additionally, this will also keep your all important gloves dry.

Having back-up gloves in the event that your main pair gets wet is also a smart idea.

The biggest frustration for most winter anglers is keeping their rod, reel and line free of ice.

The easiest way to combat your rod’s line guides from freezing is to fish with a fixed amount of line.

Stop by your local fly shop and pick up some ice-off paste to apply to your guides.

This will help shed water and will keep you in the game longer.

Be conscious to not allow your reel to dip into the water to prevent freezing.

Nothing is worse than hooking a big fish only to break it off from having a locked up reel.

Some of our best fishing in the valley occurs during the winter so don’t be left out in the cold this holiday.

— This column is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at (970) 927-4374 or taylorcreek.com.


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