Yesterday it was around 50 degrees in Bozeman. Now, it's 16 degrees and snowing. I guess winter has finally arrived. Soon I'll be out on the river with frozen eyelets and chilly toes, but before I am, I'd like to pass along a few little tips when fly fishing in subfreezing temps.
Avoid the Freeze
Frozen eyelets are a complete drag. Two years ago I fished below Ennis Dam in 3 degrees and could only manage about 3 casts before my eyelets were locked down tight. We were fishing pretty small water and I found that the less line I had sliding through the eyelets, the more fishing I got to do without a freeze up. I roll cast nymphs with no slack in my line anywhere. I didn't bother holding a loop in my free hand, and found that fishing this way kept the line from sliding through the eyelets much, hence, less water, and less ice. Nice little tenkara type roll casts got the job done and when a fish was on the line I could let it run without worrying about frozen gear.
Join the Pack
I got a pair of alpaca wool socks for Christmas last year. While they are bulky, they are the warmest sock I've ever had on. If you're feet get cold this time of year, go get some alpaca... Trust me.
If you're like me you can't stand a pair of leaky waders. Patch them up and keep dry and warm. I have found the the easiest way to do this is to turn your waders inside out and spray them with rubbing alcohol. (No need to fill them up with water) If there are pin holes in your waders they should show up as a small brown speck after spraying with the alcohol. Then, mark the spot with a small marker. Dry the area with the hole and simply place a dab of aquaseal where the hole is... No patches necessary for very small holes. For the big holes use a patch, or just send them to the manufacturer for repair. I think Simms charges $15 to repair and they get ALL the holes.
Stuff a hand towel in your fly bag or in the front of your waders. Keeping your hands dry is imperative to keeping them warm. Wipe your hands off every time they get wet, which hopefully, will be a lot from holding fish for the camera.
Hopefully this helps. If you've got any cold weather tips pass them along this way!