Staying Warm during Winter Fishing

Staying Warm during Winter Fishing

Pere Marquette fishing reportStaying Warm during Winter Fishing

Steelhead are cold-water critters.  Steelhead anglers need to learn how to Stay Warm during the Winter while chasing them. Steelhead can be caught all winter long in water temperatures as low as 33 degrees.  Steelhead will feed all winter long, fight extremely hard when hooked and don’t seem to give a damn how cold it is!

As cold bloodied animals, steelhead have that advantage over warm blooded humans. To be a successful steelheader you need to learn to deal with and be comfortable in the cold.  Steelhead season lasts almost 6 months, and some of the best fishing is during the dead of winter.

Base Layer

In pursuit of warmth start with base layers. It’s hard to beat capilene or Patagonia’s capaline Air which is half merino wool and half capaline. I wear one or two of the thinner long sleeve crew and long johns versus thicker singles. It seems to keep me as warm as the thicker versions but is less bulky, more comfortable.

Feet

On my feet I use a thinner wool baselayer sock followed by a thicker wool sock. About your feet, if you are fishing from the boat, which is what we do most of the time, waders and wading boots aren’t your friend. Bigger, insulated boots are the best. We wear calf high Boggs or Muck boots that are heavily insulated.  Snow pack boots will also work well.

If you are wading, boot foot waders are warmer than stocking foot waders and wading boots because they aren’t as tight and allow better blood circulation to your feet.  You actually want blood and air to circulate around your feet. It helps keep them warm. Also when wading don’t wear felt soles. Snow builds up on the bottom of your boot into a big ball. Wear the rubber soles to avoid this.

A great option for non-felt wading boots is Patagonia’s Tractor Boots featuring aluminum bars on the soles for traction on rocks and in muck. I wear these boots on the Garden River, they are fantastic.

Core

My next layer on the bottoms depends on temperature. If it’s below freezing I wear Patagonia’s Nano Puff pants or the Patagonia Snap T Fleece pants ,a very warm option as well. If it’s warmer I’ll wear just an average pair of wool or capilene pants. On the upper half of my body, after the baselayer, I move to all wool, usually a medium weight wool zip front crew, followed by a wool hoody and finally a Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody. If it’s really cold I have a light weight wool hoody that I’ll add into the layers.

Wool and down are natures greatest insulators. Wool will keep you warm even when wet. The latest and greatest wool is Merino wool. It isn’t itchy when next to your skin, it’s very soft and comfortable. I buy almost anything that I need in wool if available.

One of Jon Ray’s new favorite items for those extremely cold days is the New Extreme Core Tops by Simms , the built in Ergonomic hood and integrated neck gaiter really keeps your upper body warm in the coldest of days.  I do not recommend this item if your going to do alot of winter walking though. It’s too warm of an item, great for long days in the boat only.  But if your breaking trail you will over heat.

Shell

The exterior layer has to protect me from two things, wind and rain/snow. There are a variety of bib/jacket combos that Hawkins Guides have tried through the years. Orvis, Simms and Patagonia all make a variety of insulated outfits that work. Personally, for the last five years I’ve been wearing Gill sailing bibs and my Simms heavier rain coat. I look at the exterior layer for wind rain protection not insulation, I’ve covered that underneath.

If you are wade fishing your waders and a good quality rain jacket will protect you from the elements.

Either way black clothing is best in a cold weather situation. It absorbs more heat and is less visible to fish than bright clothes.

On Top

On my head I wear a wool or synthetic beanie type hat on top of a normal billed hat so that my eyes have sun shield and my ears and head are kept warm. Then I can pull the aforementioned hoodys up over the beanie for additional warmth.

A Buff or some type of warm gator around your neck between your shirt and chin is very comfortable when its’ cold. It should be capable of being pulled up over you nose, nice when the wind blows!

Gloves

Finally, and the most difficult for me, is hands. Years ago, guiding an elk hunter I got very close to frost bite on

Staying Warm during Winter Fishing

Hand warms are a must have on Winter Trips.

my hands. Since then they are more difficult to keep warm and pain free. I’ve tried every glove and glove combination I’ve seen for years and have come to the following solution. I were the best quality fingerless gloves I

can find, currently Simms Wool Gloves are my personal choice. Inside that glove I have a heater pack in each hand. In addition I have another heater pack in each coat pocket that I can hold in my hand when possible. Also a heater pack in your boots is a warm, comfortable thing on colder days.

I also carry a small towel to dry my hands that get wet from handling the line while fishing.

Side note, the fingerless gloves with the pocket flap are not good. You will lose fish when line warps around that flap. Finally a pair of thick mittens, I use ice fishing ones, can be put on when we are running from spot to spot to take the edge off when not fishing. The mittens are also good to have when wading. You can put them on during a break to help warm your hands.

Conclusion

Steelhead are a fantastic gamefish, beautiful, strong and a prize worth pursuing. You’ll enjoy the pursuit more if you are comfortable in a steelhead’s favorite weather, cold, wet, and miserable. With today’s modern materials there is no reason to be cold. Be prepared, you’ll be happy you are!

Capt Chuck Hawkins

 

 

 

 

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SA Frequency Magnum Glow Line

SA Frequency Magnum Glow Line – Product Review

SA Frequency Magnum Glow Line

SA Frequency Magnum Glow Line

SA Frequency Magnum Glow Line

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Better Dead Drifts

The SA Frequency Magnum Glow Line main goal is to help anglers achieve a better dead drift.  One of the secrets to hooking big brown trout is having a perfect drift.  Big browns are big for one reason, they are wary.  One of the most difficult things about fishing in the dark, is knowing what your fly is doing.  The SA Frequency Magnum Glow Line is charged with a headlamp or small UV light. You  actually see what your line is doing. This works even in some of the darkest corners where the big trout live. Read more

Double Fly Rig

Learn how to tie up double dry fly rigs

Double Fly Rig

There are times when trout are rising that you are unable to determine what fly they are eating. There are also times that trout aren’t rising much or at all that you would still like to catch fish. There is a tactic that we use to combat both of these situations. It’s the double fly rig.

Many or most of you have used or heard of the “hopper-dropper rig”. That is attaching a bead head nymph to a hopper pattern and using the hopper as your strike indicator. It can be very effective at times. It works because you are presenting two different food sources at the same time.

Two Dry Flies

We use the same method with two dry flies. This can be the same fly with two different life stages, two completely different flies or the same fly times two! It is deadly effective during a hatch, especially a light one. By presenting an emerger and a dun you are covering both bases. The emerger attracts lots of attention because mayflies are vulnerable at that stage.

Complex Hatches

This method is also valuable during complex hatches. That’s when there are several different bugs on the water at the same time and trout are eating but you are unable to determine which bug they are eating. This can be common in June when there are several different mayflies possible during the evening. Sulphurs spinning along with bat flies doing the same, Isonychias hatching and/or spinning and maybe Brown Drakes. All of this occurring at dark. It can be tough to figure out which morsel the fish are eating!

To present two dry flies at once tie a piece of tippet to the bend of the hook using an improved clinch knot. Make sure you moisten the monofilament prior to cinching it down to maintain maximum strength. See the video that explains how to tie this below.

Tippet

The size of the tippet should be either be the same size as the tippet being used on the first fly or one size smaller. I make the decision on size based on two things. If I’m worried about losing two flies I use the smaller monofilament so if I hook the bottom fly on something and need to break it off I have a chance of saving the top fly. If I’m casting to or searching for big fish I will put both flies at risk so that I have stronger tippet.

Try this method, you’ll find it works!

Captain Chuck