By: Asher Koles
Part II: Layering: The key to enjoying cold weather fly-fishing opportunities.
We are fortunate to live in Utah, but during certain times of the year fly-fishing in the cold of winter can be a challenge when it comes to being comfortable. If you dress properly there are some great opportunities to be had during the cooler months of the year, especially fishing our prolific winter midge hatches.
Saying it’s too cold to fish when the season’s change is a cop-out. We live in Utah and seven out of twelve months of the year it is cold and there is good fishing to be had. To cope with the weather and enjoy winter fly-fishing opportunities you need to prepare for sub-32 degree temperatures, which sometimes we are faced with. Not catching fish can be a drag. Being cold and not catching fish can make you want to quit altogether. There are simple ways to stay comfortable so you can remain focused on that big brown pac-manning late fall or early spring Blue Wings, or sipping winters midges.
The most important part about a layering system is to have an open circuit. If you layer with fabrics that wick then sandwich a piece of cotton in with them you will have nullified all your efforts to dispel moisture. Although layering is key, cotton is not one of those layers you’re going to reap any benefits from.
In cold weather any moisture will take your body temperature down, in fact 30 times faster when it’s damp. To combat moisture and stay comfortable on the worst of days we prefer Patagonia’s Capilene 1 and 3 as our next-to-skin layers. Coupled with a denser layering piece like the Patagonia Insulator Pant under your waders you will go a long way towards staying warm and dry. Wearing layered clothing that is designed to wick moisture from your body sets up the whole moisture management system to work efficiently. All of us at the shop almost always start with a silkweight layer similar to Patagonia Capilene 1, close to the skin. Through the winter and the remainder of the year it’s our most utilized piece of clothing. When it’s quite cold out add a layer of Capliene 2 or 3. Finish your layers with a synthetic like the Cap 4 Expedition Weight Hoody, Nano Puff, or Down Sweater. All these unique pieces will preserve body heat on the coldest of days. Combining them will give you the versatility to be comfortable in most situations.
To finish out your layers you want a hard shell that repels both water and wind. The lightweight Patagonia SST and Salt River Jackets are great fishing specific pieces with enough room for all your “go to gear”. The Simms Guide Jacket and the G3 Guide jacket are great options as well. These fishing specific piece will go a long way too keeping you comfortable when its cold and especially cold and wet.
Everyone has a different opinion on waders. Truth is that both Patagonia’s H2No and Simms Gore-Tex materials are great options. These fabrics work well together with your layered insulation to keep you warm in cold weather. When it comes to a winter specific waders we lean towards the 5 layer Gore-Tex G4Pro’s. The 5 layer Gore-Tex in the Simms wader tends to insulate better than the 3 layer H2no that Patagonia prefers. The Rio Gallegos is a much more versatile wader in that respect. For an all around warm season and cold season waders the Patagonia Rio Gallegos is quite versatile. Both Simms and Patagonia are revamping their waders for 2013. We think their improvements will lead to some of the best wader systems we’ve seen yet.
We look at our insulation and coats as part of our equipment; they are vital in helping us get the most out of our time on the water. Similar to our rods and reels they need to perform and perform under a variety of fly-fishing situations and conditions. If you’re going to enjoy the cold months of the year you need to approach how you dress much differently. Layer up properly and you’ll reap the rewards of the cold season. Check out our web-site, give us a call, or stop in and let us help you design a layering system that works for you. Coffee is On!
Part I: Changes in Season, means a Change to your Equipment
The market is flooded with fast-action rods that excel at throwing long lines, big flies and fish warm season hatches well. Dialing in your fall and winter rod is different. Since most of your fishing will be on 6x and lighter tippets and size 20-30 flies, having a rod and a line that compliments the techniques used in cold weather is very important.
Slower action fly rods and rods with softer tips protect light tippets and small flies better than quick rods. When fly-casting, anglers have much more confidence when they are able to feel the rod load and unload. The loading and unloading of a fly rod happens when you start and end your back and forward cast. If you can feel the rod load and how it reacts to the amount of line outside the rod tip you will have more control in putting that fly where you want it to go. Most anglers overestimate how much fly line they need to fish effectively. In winter fishing your casts need to be short and accurate. A faster action fly rod needs more line outside of the rod tip to make it load, where a slower rod loads with a minimal amount of energy and line outside the rod tip, which is transferred into the anglers palm. Slower action rods allow the angler to feel the way the rod reacts within the fishable distance of 10-30 feet. In this distance range most fast-action rods don't load well, making it difficult for any angler to feel the rod in that fishable range. Contrary to what many people think, todays softer-action rods have lots of power and the ability to put a fly accurately wherever the angler wants it to go. The shop has a number of favorite rods that fall into this category and one of our new favorites is the 489 and 589 Sage Circa.
The Circa has a slower action, especially for a rod coming out of the Sage factory. The Circa has a deep flex that reaches down into the butt of the rod, which allows the angler to feel the rod load with a little or a lot of fly line outside the rod tip. We tested the Circa on the Henry’s Fork to ultra selective rainbows with size 22 spinners during our shop trip in July, and it performed beautifully. In fact it was hard to get your hands on it since we all enjoyed fishing it so much. Of all the lines we’ve cast on the Circa, the Scientific Anglers Sharkskin DT and SA Trout Stalker are what we recommend. Both lines are presentation tapers that have long weighted heads drawn out to dissipate energy through the cast. This is very important in order to make sure that little dry fly lands softly.
I'm still mesmerized by rings on the water and the game of casting fur and feather to lure a fish to take your imitation. Another rod series that has a special place in our hearts is the G2 series from Scott Fly Rod Company. Scott’s G2 is one of the best all around dry fly and light nymphing rods that we carry. Almost everyone who works at Western Rivers has one, and it is the first rod out of the quiver in almost any western trout situation. Although they make the standard 904, 905, the 884 and the 844 are some of our favorite models. The G2 fits into the medium-fast category on the rod flex scale. For a dry fly specific line, we recommend either the Trout LT double taper or the weight forward LT. The versatility of the G2 is unmatched. If you want a rod that can fish small bugs, big bugs, in windy or calm weather, the G2 series has you covered.
A newcomer that has been turning a lot of heads in the shop recently has been the DAL series of rods from C.F. Burkheimer. Burkheimer has been cranking out specialized spey rods and single-handed trout rods for many years, and in the process has developed a dedicated cult following. C.F. Burkheimer is a custom rod maker and the Classic DAL series of rods has that custom look and feel. The rods are very light, their corks are built with a custom inlay and the blank is dark green with a hand-finished signature. We will be carrying several of our favorite models in the shop starting December 2012.
Many modern anglers still prefer a fast rod. Stout rods forgive adverse casting strokes better than slow action rods because of their ability to track straight. Slow rods have a tendency to deviate from the casting trajectory according to angler faults. Nonetheless, it comes down to preference. If you prefer a little faster rod that can deliver accurate casts, yet still loads quickly and has the feel of a slower action rod the Burkheimer DAL series of fly rods would be a good choice.
We recently got our hands on the 489 Deep Action Load (DAL) Classic trout series. On first impression, it has the same feel and flex as the Scott G2, but loads up faster throughout the length of the rod. The rod preforms well from a boat where longer casts are essential to the presentation. With a Scientific Anglers Trout Stalker or a Rio Trout LT on either of these rods the angler can feel the rod load better, and present small dry flies and light nymph rigs in the strike zone with ease.
The reality is that any trout rod can be used to catch fish, but there are some that just make it more fun. There are some rods that are easier to cast, some that take a bit more finesse, and some that cover a diverse array of fishing techniques. Fly-casting is an art. The rod and the fly line are the tools, but rods don’t cast themselves. Off-water practice makes your on water time more productive, valuable and redeeming.
We understand that the rods we listed are not the only options out there, but for us, they represent the best of the best when it comes to fishing small flies, and light tippets to picky fish. This is just the tip of iceberg, because unless you are warm and comfortable you are not going to be able to cast worth a damn. That we'll discuss in the next piece.
INTRO: Fly-fishing the off-Season
This two part piece deals with the changes in season and temperature as we move from peak season to Winters short and often cold days. For many these changes affect the gross population of those who fly-fish; opening the gear closet and stowing that rod they’ve been attached to until springs thaw. For the next couple of weeks we will be sending Part I and Part II to this article through newsletters, facebook, and our blog. Stay tuned and we hope you find this helpful.
Warm season hatches bring excitement, big bugs and dreams of “grip and grins”. The summers warmth, prolific hatches, and consistent fishing also brings river traffic, picky fish, and fishing pressure. The juxtaposition between cold season fly-fishing and peak season is all encompassing. Where summer brings crowds, winter offers solitude and rewards unique to the season if you prepare properly.
Weather dictates every action the flyfisher makes. Changes the angler must take into consideration from the months of September to October and into November are drastic and can be daunting. If new variables are not brought to attention, not only will you not catch fish, but you’ll be uncomfortable doing so. If you have never fished through the fall and into the dead of winter you will be surprised at how your riggings, fishing techniques, and timing can bring you closer to your biggest fish of the year, or your best day on your favorite river or stream.
What keeps us coming back to the water are the fluctuations in the conditions brought on by the change of seasons that must be carefully deciphered. In order to hook any trout-be it a high mountain Brooke Trout, or veteran Rainbow that sees hundreds of flies a year you must be prepared and have the right gear to get the job done. The foundation of enjoying late fall, winter, and early spring fishing is your equipment. Your fly rod, fly line, and leader configuration can make or break your chances of hooking fish in cold season conditions. Winter is a season where being prepared: clothing, equipment, fly selection, light tippets and presentation are of utmost importance.