Winter re-appeared here in Western North Carolina and hopefully for the last time. As crazy as it seems now, with temperatures struggling to break the freezing mark, just over a week ago I had clients out on the water with high temps in the 60s. Though I am currently cursing old man winter for showing his ugly old head the fact remains, we do live in the mountains, and it is still winter months. I’m grateful for what unseasonably warm days we’ve had this winter and take comfort in the knowledge that surely spring is just around the corner. I am also a firm believer that rarely, if ever here in WNC, is it too cold to fish. About six weeks ago I fished the Taylor River near Crested Butte, Colorado on a day with highs in the single digits and a steady breeze chilling me to the bone. Those conditions, even to the most hardcore or totally insane, were absolutely brutal. Here are a couple tips for getting out on even the coldest of days.
First of all, resist the urge to wake up at the break of dawn and rush to find the best spot on the stream. You likely won’t have a lot of competition out there and the fish most actively feed during the warmest hours of the day. I recommend wearing several layers and having some additional warm dry clothes ready in the truck. I have found the most useful piece of equipment is a good pair of gloves because your hands will take the biggest beating from the cold. Synthetic or fleece fingerless gloves are the way to go for keeping those hands warm and working. Bring a thermos with a hot beverage and don’t neglect cranking the heat in the truck for a few minutes from time to time to keep that core temperature up. Also, fish water that you know to be productive. I’ve noticed that I am generally impervious to any outside conditions whether it is rain, cold, or even hunger, if the fishing is good. Take extra caution while wading, i.e.… don’t fall in! If you do take a spill and take on some water, it may be best to call it a day. There’s no sense in fooling around with hypothermia just trying to catch a few fish. Lastly, don’t push it too hard. Like I said, the fishing will be best and you will be most comfortable during the warmest hours of the day. There’s no need to pull off a hero-style marathon in the midst of winter. Get out for a couple hours and if you’re having fun, great. If not, there’s no shame in heading home early when it comes to standing in a freezing cold river in the middle of winter in the mountains. I promise you will feel better just for having gotten out there.
For those of you who refuse to attempt to fly fish when temperatures are below freezing, I commend you. It takes a twisted individual to do such a thing and if I had my head on half as straight as yours I’d be working a “real job,” with a “salary” and “benefits” instead of chasing animals around with brains no bigger than a pea and feeling accomplished if I outsmart them. The good news for you, my higher thinking friends, is that with any luck, spring is just around the corner. March is here, and March without a doubt offers some of the best fishing of the year. Hang in there, your time will come. As for the rest of you, bundle up and we’ll see you on the water.