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How Cold is Too Cold for Fly Fishing?

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November 25, 2013

How Cold is Too Cold for Fly Fishing?

By Kirk Deeter

Everyone has their limits. It appears that Romano's and mine might be a little less aggressive than most when it comes to fly fishing in cold weather. Like many of you, I have a nice vacation this week, and yesterday, I thought I'd get out and go fishing. But this is what I saw when I woke up. It took me about 3.5 seconds to call the game. Maybe it's because I have logged enough river hours in sideways snowstorms to know better. Maybe I'm not tough enough.

The other day, I asked Romano if he had a good winter fishing photograph that I could use. He replied: "Winter fishing is for (I'd rather not say)." If you think about all the images you've seen from the guy over the years, here on Fly Talk and elsewhere, it's pretty telling that you don't see many snowflakes.

I had a guy ask me the other day about what I do to keep ice from forming in the guides of my fly rod. In fact, I think we've talked about that here now and then. For the record, I squirt my guides with Pam cooking spray before I fish, and that helps for about an hour, depending on how cold it is. But the real cure for not having ice form in your guides? DON'T FISH when it's below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Of course, you find those special situations when you feel like you must be out there. But people layer up and duck hunt or deer hunt in cold, snowy windy weather, because that's when those animals are on the move. There are short, defined seasons. Trout are happy year-round.

Ask me what the best fishing gloves are, and I will tell you that gloves and fishing do not mix at all. Triple layers under waders? A face mask? Hand warmers? You must be joking. Wrong sport.

I'll pick and choose my bluebird days. I'll admit to being a "fair-weather" angler. Does that make me a wimp?

I will say I do have a trout trip planned in early December, and I'm going to forge ahead on that one, no matter what.

Of course, it's in Argentina...

Comments (15)

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from buckhunter wrote 20 weeks 3 days ago

I'm too old for the frigid cold anymore. Depending on the wind I'll fish down to 25 degrees or so. Have fished in the teen's but will admit I did not enjoy it.

When I was Romano's age I paid no attention the thermometer, wind, clock, or wife.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 20 weeks 2 days ago

I remember the day when I was told the weather was too bad for Dad to fish....I was floored for a few seconds, but my quick thinking got me a ride out to the lake where Dad dropped me off to miss out on one of the best days I had up there despite the weather. How much of a difference does 3 years make Deet?

www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/hunting/2010/12/are-you-wuss

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 20 weeks 2 days ago

It is much more than just the temp on your thermometer, it is a lot about HUMIDITY, and the temp. In my dry desert climate, I can take temps far below what they were on the humid West Coast. And it also involves wind. When the Wild Turkey doesn't warm the body anymore it is called "bar water" outside..off to happy hour. I've caught more trout on the stool at the end of the bar than any other place anyway. Frozen guides create "bar water" as well.

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from Eric Eff wrote 20 weeks 2 days ago

I went on a fork of the Powder River in Wyoming on a day when the high was 12.the sun never hit the bottom of the canyon, we hiked in and out in the dark, and spent most of the day using a modified tenkara-icecicle cast. Although I caught many fish and good times were had, that was Too cold!

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from rjw wrote 20 weeks 2 days ago

It has too be an age thing, although it is easier for me to take the cold than the heat, neither one is as pleasant as it used too be. Humidity doesn't help either.

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from treelimit wrote 20 weeks 2 days ago

Presumably, the redacted portion of Romano's comment is "...Great Lakes trib anglers."

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from Gtbigsky wrote 20 weeks 2 days ago

I fish until i have to continuously fight ice in the guides... Once that happens the fly rod and waders go away, the skis come out and fun times are had by all. I have at least two hobbies for each season, because as anyone that has seen The Shinning knows, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from LostLure wrote 20 weeks 2 days ago

On several occasions while I was living in Colorado I would ice fish the lake in the morning and in the afternoon fish the river that fed into the lake. Call me crazy, but that is the best of both worlds if you ask me.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 20 weeks 2 days ago

LostLure has it right, ice the morning, fly fish the afternoon!

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from Dangle wrote 20 weeks 1 day ago

Lostlure...Is that a Wolverine helmet? Take that darn thing down! They must be ranked 89th, and no higher playing Ohio State this Sat.? YIIKES! I'm a Wolverine fan most years, but not this year, and surely not this SAT!! Time to hide!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hornd wrote 20 weeks 1 day ago

Too cold for fly fishing means its time for steel head or hard water fishing. Nothing like watching a perch dance a bobber around a hole, not to mention ice burgers, good friends and a flask. A true sportsman embraces all weather IE if it's raining hunt in blind or chase ducks. I like to never have to sit home, and if I do I'm tending to equipment or tying flies. Driving in the garbage is another story. I get more conservative every year as I get older. Maybe that is wisdom.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Micropterus24 wrote 20 weeks 1 day ago

While I prefer the other seasons, I'm good for a few cold weather outings each year. I do some winter camping and as long as you have enough whiskey its not bad. I'm more concerned about safety than cold, I don't like wading when ice sheets are floating around.

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from Dangle wrote 19 weeks 6 days ago

I have but two dogs, so a two dog nite is as low as I can go. Well, maybe a little lower, I do have a bird.

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from Charlie Woodman wrote 19 weeks 6 hours ago

As much as I love fishing I find that in the winter when the weather is cold, the water is cold. The colder the water , the less fight a fish seems to have. When I caught my first December fish here in Maine it was almost like pulling in a codfish, almost nothing but the weight of the fish and a few hapless tugs. No runs, no jumps, and no fight. Even in march I found the same unless I go to extreme southern Maine. Even tail water fishing below a dam where the water is a little warmer made little difference. I decided that it just wasn't worth it. I also wonder if a fish has a harder time recovering in the cold water. No--Yes?? Anyway I finally decided that if I need a fishing fix in the winter, I go out for casting practice. I work on my abominable form and I even throw dry flies some time. Here's the thing. I cut the hook tip off the fly after the bend. If I do get a strike I may feel the first hit , I might see the fish, but I am not going to catch em. In truth winter is for tying flies as I see it. I would encourage any fly fishing enthusiast to learn to tie. For me, each fly is like a hopeful dream. Where will I use this fly? What kind of fish am I going after? What new place am I going to try and what might work there. This year it was a mouse. I saw some vids from Canada with huge brookies feeding on mice. Had to try em. Tied 6 over the winter. Didn't expect much. WRONG! Biggest brookie of the year, biggest Brown of the year, biggest bass of the year all on the mice. Not the most , but the biggest. I'm already tying for next year and it's snowing right now. Happy Holidays

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 18 weeks 6 days ago

Good to see a commonsense post. Tyin, and dreamin is where it is at. I came from Western, steelhead country, and we had 3 distinct runs...Summer-run hatchery steelhead that entered in say June, then Winter hatchery fish that came in around Thanksgiving time, and native steelhead in late Feb-April. The word was always those summer-runs fight a lot harder than the Winter runs. It was all about the water temp, and little to do about the type of steelhead. And I caught many, many summer-run steelhead "on the waking fly" surface fishing a wet fly, or a water waking hair fly like a muddler fishing them on a dryline, and presenting them on the wet fly swing.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report

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from Dangle wrote 18 weeks 6 days ago

Good to see a commonsense post. Tyin, and dreamin is where it is at. I came from Western, steelhead country, and we had 3 distinct runs...Summer-run hatchery steelhead that entered in say June, then Winter hatchery fish that came in around Thanksgiving time, and native steelhead in late Feb-April. The word was always those summer-runs fight a lot harder than the Winter runs. It was all about the water temp, and little to do about the type of steelhead. And I caught many, many summer-run steelhead "on the waking fly" surface fishing a wet fly, or a water waking hair fly like a muddler fishing them on a dryline, and presenting them on the wet fly swing.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 20 weeks 2 days ago

I remember the day when I was told the weather was too bad for Dad to fish....I was floored for a few seconds, but my quick thinking got me a ride out to the lake where Dad dropped me off to miss out on one of the best days I had up there despite the weather. How much of a difference does 3 years make Deet?

www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/hunting/2010/12/are-you-wuss

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from LostLure wrote 20 weeks 2 days ago

On several occasions while I was living in Colorado I would ice fish the lake in the morning and in the afternoon fish the river that fed into the lake. Call me crazy, but that is the best of both worlds if you ask me.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Charlie Woodman wrote 19 weeks 6 hours ago

As much as I love fishing I find that in the winter when the weather is cold, the water is cold. The colder the water , the less fight a fish seems to have. When I caught my first December fish here in Maine it was almost like pulling in a codfish, almost nothing but the weight of the fish and a few hapless tugs. No runs, no jumps, and no fight. Even in march I found the same unless I go to extreme southern Maine. Even tail water fishing below a dam where the water is a little warmer made little difference. I decided that it just wasn't worth it. I also wonder if a fish has a harder time recovering in the cold water. No--Yes?? Anyway I finally decided that if I need a fishing fix in the winter, I go out for casting practice. I work on my abominable form and I even throw dry flies some time. Here's the thing. I cut the hook tip off the fly after the bend. If I do get a strike I may feel the first hit , I might see the fish, but I am not going to catch em. In truth winter is for tying flies as I see it. I would encourage any fly fishing enthusiast to learn to tie. For me, each fly is like a hopeful dream. Where will I use this fly? What kind of fish am I going after? What new place am I going to try and what might work there. This year it was a mouse. I saw some vids from Canada with huge brookies feeding on mice. Had to try em. Tied 6 over the winter. Didn't expect much. WRONG! Biggest brookie of the year, biggest Brown of the year, biggest bass of the year all on the mice. Not the most , but the biggest. I'm already tying for next year and it's snowing right now. Happy Holidays

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 20 weeks 3 days ago

I'm too old for the frigid cold anymore. Depending on the wind I'll fish down to 25 degrees or so. Have fished in the teen's but will admit I did not enjoy it.

When I was Romano's age I paid no attention the thermometer, wind, clock, or wife.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 20 weeks 2 days ago

It is much more than just the temp on your thermometer, it is a lot about HUMIDITY, and the temp. In my dry desert climate, I can take temps far below what they were on the humid West Coast. And it also involves wind. When the Wild Turkey doesn't warm the body anymore it is called "bar water" outside..off to happy hour. I've caught more trout on the stool at the end of the bar than any other place anyway. Frozen guides create "bar water" as well.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Eric Eff wrote 20 weeks 2 days ago

I went on a fork of the Powder River in Wyoming on a day when the high was 12.the sun never hit the bottom of the canyon, we hiked in and out in the dark, and spent most of the day using a modified tenkara-icecicle cast. Although I caught many fish and good times were had, that was Too cold!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from rjw wrote 20 weeks 2 days ago

It has too be an age thing, although it is easier for me to take the cold than the heat, neither one is as pleasant as it used too be. Humidity doesn't help either.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from treelimit wrote 20 weeks 2 days ago

Presumably, the redacted portion of Romano's comment is "...Great Lakes trib anglers."

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gtbigsky wrote 20 weeks 2 days ago

I fish until i have to continuously fight ice in the guides... Once that happens the fly rod and waders go away, the skis come out and fun times are had by all. I have at least two hobbies for each season, because as anyone that has seen The Shinning knows, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Koldkut wrote 20 weeks 2 days ago

LostLure has it right, ice the morning, fly fish the afternoon!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 20 weeks 1 day ago

Lostlure...Is that a Wolverine helmet? Take that darn thing down! They must be ranked 89th, and no higher playing Ohio State this Sat.? YIIKES! I'm a Wolverine fan most years, but not this year, and surely not this SAT!! Time to hide!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hornd wrote 20 weeks 1 day ago

Too cold for fly fishing means its time for steel head or hard water fishing. Nothing like watching a perch dance a bobber around a hole, not to mention ice burgers, good friends and a flask. A true sportsman embraces all weather IE if it's raining hunt in blind or chase ducks. I like to never have to sit home, and if I do I'm tending to equipment or tying flies. Driving in the garbage is another story. I get more conservative every year as I get older. Maybe that is wisdom.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Micropterus24 wrote 20 weeks 1 day ago

While I prefer the other seasons, I'm good for a few cold weather outings each year. I do some winter camping and as long as you have enough whiskey its not bad. I'm more concerned about safety than cold, I don't like wading when ice sheets are floating around.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dangle wrote 19 weeks 6 days ago

I have but two dogs, so a two dog nite is as low as I can go. Well, maybe a little lower, I do have a bird.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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