With old man winter starting to rear his ugly head around South West Montana, some of the guys here in the shop put together some tips that they use to stay warm and safe while fishing straight through Montanas cold winters.
Probably one of the most important pieces of winter fishing gear would be hand and toe warmers. Not only can you use these in their normal capacity, but you can also use them to regulate core body temperature. The back of your neck is normally one of the more exposed areas on your body; by placing a hand warmer on the back of your neck and holding it in place with a Buff or any neck gaiter for that matter, you can stave off the winter chill that tends to creep down your back. Also if you prefer not to wear gloves while fishing in the winter keeping some hand warmers in your pocket is a good way to warm your hands up quickly in between holes.
If you've spent a winter in Montana before you are probably well versed in the habit of layering your clothing. A warm and breathable base layer is important in keeping you warm and dry. Reddington has come up with a pair of fleece long underwear called the I/0 that are made specifically for fly fishing. These fleece pants have stir-ups so that you don't have any issues with your pant legs riding up and exposing skin to the cold or having your socks and long underwear bunch up creating that uncomftorable pinching around your ankles that can slow circulation and cause your feet to become cold faster.
Your outter layer should be both wind and waterproof. Investing in a solid wading Jacket is very important for the Spring, Fall, and Winter. Patagonia makes a great outter shell jacket called the River Salt Jacket. This jacket is completly water and wind proof. It features a full hood for the snowy or rainy days and adjustable waterproof cuffs. Another great feature are the large fleece lined front pockets for warming your hands up.
One accident that can completely ruin a day of fishing is a pair of ripped waders. Weather you catch them on some barbwire or tear it on a broken branch it can be a day-ender. One way to insure that you won't have to cut your day short is by carrying a bottle of UV Wader Repair. If you happen to rip your waders, slap some of this on their and let it dry in the light. The drying time will vary depending on the cloud cover but it will dry.
Another issue with winter fishing that I'm sure a lot of people have encountered is the issues with your felt soles icing up and becoming extremely slippery when getting into and out of the water. One way to combat this is to use rubber soled wading boots, and even better, studded rubber soles. Think of it like your car, in the winter you have a differnt set of studded tires than your normal summer ones. If you have a pair of rubber soled wading boots you can get a set of studs to \"winterize\" them.
Keeping a small fire starter kit is always a good idea to be safe. If something happens and you take a dunk sometimes having the ability to get a small shore fire going can be the difference between life and death. Also, on the really cold days, sometimes getting a little fire going on the shore can keep you out there fishing just a little longer.
Finally, one of the most important thing to remember when fishing in the winter is hydrating. When it's cold out people often forget to drink liquids. Keeping a small thermos with a bit of Lipton soup in it is a good way to keep you warm, hydrated, and nourished. A small flask of whiskey isn't a bad idea either.
So don't let the cold weather keep you in! Get out there and catch some fish, but don't forget to be safe and prepared!
-Montana Troutfitters Staff
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