Fishing in the cold months takes dedication – especially in Colorado. So, to keep you inspired with some tips and tricks, we connected with Postfly & Wade Rod Co. Ambassador, Shyanne Orvis, to get her take on winter fly fishing, the gear to take along and some other words of wisdom.
Winter fly fishing – why do you do it and what keeps you going? (Because if we’re cut from a similar cloth, it’s the stoke of the chase…and hot toddies)
Fly fishing during the winter months is absolutely magical. It’s a great time to fish rivers that are typically very crowded in the summer months, but yet during the winter you might only find a few other anglers out there braving the colder temps. Fishing during this time of year is my favorite for this reason. Aside from the beauty of the snow-covered banks and the stunning views it provides, it’s the quiet & calmness about winter fishing that brings me back to the river each time.
What’s your favorite fish to chase this time of year? Can you tell us your go-to fly for ‘em?
My favorite fish to chase this time of year would depend on my location. If I’m around home, you’ll find me on my local tailwater river targeting brown trout. A few of my go-to flies during the winter months are the Massacre Midge & Mighty Midge – patterns tied by my friend Matt McCannel but if I get the opportunity to travel south, my favorite fish to chase would be Permit & Tarpon!
What are your must-have, go-to pieces of gear to keep you on the water in the cold months?
The right gear is essential if you want to have a successful day on the river during the winter months. A few of my must-haves are, first and foremost.
- The right layering. I personally wear Stio Apparel. It’s important to have technical clothing that allows you to stay warm but is also breathable. Stay away from cotton this time of year and opt for pieces that incorporate more technical fabrics like bamboo, wool & fleece. Less is more. Wearing the right layers is more effective than wearing a ton of layers. Grab a fleece face mask and a warm hat, too.
- Hand warmers & gloves are a must! I usually put two in my boots and then a few in my gloves. I wear the FRDM free fit glove because they are windproof and water resistant (but be sure to take your gloves off if you’re handling the fish).
- Other tips that are essential: I typically use chapstick on my guides & eyelets to help prevent them from icing over so quickly. It’s inevitable, but it should help. Another tool that I won’t go fishing without is the Ketchum Release, a tool that allows you to unhook your fly quickly without having to handle the fish. Allowing you to keep your hands dry and warm, so you can stay out on the river longer.
What has your coldest day on the water been? Did you land any fish? Was it worth it?
Truthfully, I’m not exactly sure what the coldest day on the water has been. Last year however, it had snowed all night and through the day. While most people went skiing, I headed to the river. To my knowledge, I was the only person out on the river fishing through the snow storm and quite frankly, it was so cold I only lasted maybe 4 hours. However, it was one of my best and most memorable fishing days. Sometimes, the worse the weather, the better the fishing. Or maybe I just got lucky. Regardless, any day on the river is worth it.
At what point do you stop fishing? Too much ice? Too much snow?
It’s all conditions and weather dependent. There isn’t a specific answer as to ‘when’ to stop fishing, per say, but it is important however, to make good judgement. Assess the area you’re fishing and determine whether it’s safe to continue fishing or not. Your local fly shop can help you determine this as well. Things to take into consideration: Ice thickness, have the temperatures recently fluctuated (could cause ice breakage), and water depth. Winter fishing can be very beautiful and a rewarding time to fish, but it can quickly become dangerous if you’re not aware of your surroundings.
Ready for the rapid fire round?
Ice shelf: risk it or walk around? Always walk around. It’s never worth it.
Breakfast burrito topping: green, red or Christmas? Breakfast burritos are the best, but a lox bagel is my go to.
Favorite beverage? A hot White Russian
Any words of wisdom for other anglers trying to stay on the water this season?
It’s just fly fishing. Have fun and enjoy being out on the river, whether it’s all day or only a few hours. Take in the scenery, bring a delicious hot beverage and trick a few fish into eating your fly. It’s all an adventure.
Based in southern Colorado, Ryan is a photographer, outdoorswoman, fish chaser, and proud mama to two wild Outdoors-loving kiddos. When not wrangling little ones or cattle dogs, you’ll find her on the water, on a trail or on the road looking for the next piece of water and (hopefully) high country trout.