Thursday, January 21, 2016

Dressing For The Cold

Fishing in the winter can be great if you can tolerate the cold. Dressing properly can go a long ways to making your day comfortable.

Starting with your feet. First cotton socks will not adequately protect your feet. Merino wool is good but your best option is a possum/merino blend. These are the warmest socks that I have been able to find. Unfortunately for whatever reason I have been unable to find them in the states. Google will bring up plenty of suppliers in New Zealand that will ship them to you. Warm feet are worth the price you will pay for these socks. Possum fur is hollow and will trap air and retain heat. Polar bears, wolves and many other arctic species have hollow hair follicles if you doubt the effectiveness of the insulating factor it provides. For added warmth I will wear a second pair of 100% merino wool socks. Next you'll want to make sure your boots now fit properly with a pair or two of thick socks. A couple pairs of socks, stocking foot waders and its easy for you to now need a boot 2 or 3 sizes larger. The last thing you want is a boot that is really tight, retaining heat is all about creating air pockets, tightness around your feet will also slow blood circulations and will result in your feet getting cold quickly. Again don't over tighten your boots when lacing them up, get them snug but not tight.

Pants you'll want to layer accordingly. I like to layer with the heaviest weight stuff I can find. I found some Polartec Thermal Pro's from Cabelas that I really like. First Lite also makes some good 100% merino base layers that I use for the second layer. There is a balance of how much you can layer in relation to mobility. Once you start hitting 3 layers your mobility really starts taking a hit. Personally I like to stay around 2 layers under my waders. First layer being a skin tight layer like the Polartec Thermal Pros, Under Armour also makes a similar base layer. The second layer I like to be a bit looser, again creating air pockets that will trap and hold warmth.

For your upper body I do pretty much the same. First layer is a Polartex Thermal Pro. Next I like a heavy wool vest like the First Lite Springer vest. The reason I like a vest over another long sleeve top is to increase my range of motion so my casting stroke doesn't start getting restricted. Also I haven't had much of a problem with my arms getting cold. The vest does a good job of keeping your core warm. For extreme cold I will put on either a heavy weight hoodie sweetshirt. Under armor makes one that is waterproof and has an infrared liner to reflect and retain heat. This is a good option if you will be wearing a quality wading jacket that will block the wind. If not you will want to replace the hoodie with a high quality fleece wind blocker. Nothing robs the warmth from you like wind cutting through your layers.

Gloves, wish I could tell you of a pair that will keep your hands warm and dry and still maintain feel of the fly line but there isn't a pair that I am away of. Avery makes these neoprene decoy gloves that come up to your upper forearms. I take these gloves and cut the fingers and thumbs off and have been happy with them. Your fingers aren't going to be warm but you should be able to manage. For extreme cold take some hand warmers and use medical tape to secure the hand warmers to the top of your hand and then slip the gloves on. Some of the toe warmers already have a built in adhesive. Take a look at the top of your hand, you'll notice how thin the skin is and how many veins are exposed. The added heat from the hand warmers will aid in keeping the blood flowing in and out of your fingers and hands warmer. I read an article once about how the veins that supply blood to a ducks feet are inter-webbed with many other veins to maximize the warmth of the blood flowing in and out of the ducks legs so they resist frost bite while in extreme cold and wet conditions.

For your head and face a beanie's will retain heat 10x what a hat will. If you still need a hat to cut down on glare, make sure to have a hat large enough to be warn over the beanie. A neck gator will also help retain a lot of heat. Last for your face Avery makes a good neoprene face mask. I really like that the mouth area is really vented so when you breathe your glasses don't get fogged up.

Hopefully you can take a few of these tips and use them on your next trip this winter.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Winter Wonderland: Recap

Well on day 4 my luck ran out. The weather turned cold and ice started forming in the river. If you've never seen it; it kinda looks like bubbles at first but its clumps of ice. The ice clumps will vary in size from a golf ball to a grapefruit. They will flow through the whole river and are concentrated enough to were you will be unable to fish as your flies will get hung up in them. Today was only going to be a half day as I had a flight to catch later in the afternoon. So I spent a few minutes just watching the river and reflecting on the blessings of the last few days.

I've been using the New Zealand Strike Indicator for a year or so now. I really like it and am happy to say its one of the few products that live up to its advertisement. For small flies like midges it is super sensitive and will detect even the slightest of strikes. Definitely a product worth checking out.

The Tacky Day Tripper box also works great for small flies. I little pricey but very happy with the box. I'll be picking a few more of these up.

And a short video I put together from the trip. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Winter Wonderland: Day 3

Day 3 started off fishing a new location on the Fork. A steep snowed covered trail leading down to the river made for some excitement, good thing for studded wading boots. The fishing started off slow, but the sun was out and it was a beautiful morning to be on the river. Generally speaking it is best to fish shadows as that is were the fish will be lying. In cold weather and water fish will normally move up into the sunny shallows to get some warmth from the sun. I rolled 2 really good rainbows that quickly shook the hook. Was able to land one nice brown. I think this spot will be really good in the summer and fall. With the deep water and long runs it should hold some really nice fish. After mid morning I changed locations. Just a few drifts at the new location I hooked and landed a really nice 19-20" rainbow. The fish on the Fork are some of the prettiest rainbows I've seen. For the rest of the afternoon a steadily picked up fish. Most taking a peach egg over the dropper midge. The fishing was regularly interrupted by a flock of geese, mallards or goldeneye's flying over head.

Lots of geese, mallards and goldeneye's 
on the river.

Pretty blue cheek'd brown.

 Midge's hatching on the river but the fish seemed 
to key in more on the egg. 

Best fish of the trip. 

One of many solid bows landed.

When you need a net
you need a net.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Winter Wonderland; Day 2

Friday morning started off extremely cold on the Pan. Air temps at 6 degrees and a fairly swift wind had the wind chill in the negatives. It was beyond cold, I sprayed the rod guides with some pam cooking spray to help minimize water freezing up in the guides. It didn't help much, at those temps everything freezes instantly. I fished the flats and it was loaded with fish. A lot of spawning fish to avoid but plenty of fish staging behind them eating eggs and small jujubee midges. The fish kept the blood warm for a little bit but after a few hours the hands just got to cold. Your typical vampire movie shows scenes of vampires being killed and turning to stone and then just crumbling to pieces. That's how my hands and fingers felt, like solid pieces of glass just waiting to be shattered with the slightest bump. I remember setting the hook on one fish just for the rod to fly out of hand as I had no feeling or touch to keep control. Lucky the rod fell into the crease of my elbow and not in the water and I was still able to land the fish. A nice 18" cuttbow with beautiful colors from feeding on mysis shrimp. I had plans to spend all day up there. I looked at the toilet bowl but fishing an area the size of your average swimming pool with 4 other guys didn't really appeal to me. Eventually the cold and frozen guides got to me and I decided to call it a day early. It was around 11 am and still 17 degrees. I decided to head back to the valley of the Fork were the temps were warmer and the fishing just as good. I finished the day up there, the fishing was slower than the day before but 30 degree temps were a whole lot more manageable.

Some horses out in the snow. 

Nice Cuttbow with great colors. 

Looking up stream from the flats. 

Ice would form on the fish within moments
of taking them out of the water.

Can't beat the scenery.

Pretty bow on a rojo midge. 

6 degrees

Monday, January 11, 2016

Winter Wonderland; Day 1

You don't hear much about fly fishing in Colorado during the winter months. But it can be pretty good, even on some of the freestone rivers during warmer periods. This trip started off with plans to primarily fish the Frying Pan below Ruedi. A quick trip by the local flyshop to get my license, some last minute flies and a quick rapport with the shop manager on how the fishing has been. Plans quickly changed when I heard how good the Fork has been fishing. I decided to go ahead and check out the Fork as I only had half a day to fish. I was glad to be on the water and even happier to be on the Fork after just a few drifts I was already hooked up with a feisty brown. The rest of the afternoon found steady action with the fish taking either an egg or the small dropper. For the dropper I mixed it up between small 20-22 pheasant tails, rojo midges, and foam wing emergers. Even though it was snowing fairly heavily the fish didn't mind. Anywhere you found slack water you could count on some fish being there. The sky started getting dark fast and the day ended to quickly, but it was a good way to start the trip.  

 Hooked up in a heavy snow fall. 
 Average size bow. 

Pretty bow.

Several feisty browns.

Lots of snow coming down.

Even the white fish got 
into the action.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Lethargic Striper

Decent day today, the fish were a little lethargic as they become in the winter time as a result of the cold water temperatures. The fish really only hit the fly on the fall during long pauses between strips. Even then a lot of them just kinda pecked at it and never really ate and held on. The fish are fat and happy going into the brunt of winter. The highlight of the day was watching a bald eagle swoop down and pick up a fish off the water. Definitely not a bad way to start the year off.

First fish of the morning.

Best fish of the morning.