12/02/10 – November was mild for Maine. As a result we had a lot of people who didn’t put their fly rods away – instead they kept right on fishing. For some the extended portion of the season held some surprises. The root cause those surprises is the simple fact
that in November it’s cold. It may warm up during the day but if you leave your wet waders in the truck overnight they are as apt to be frozen as not come morning.
So there’s the first tip – take your gear inside overnight and you won’t have to worry about thawing it in the morning. If you look at the picture of my gear you’ll see (from front to back) two pair of fleece socks, my waders (inside out so any condensation that formed inside my waders during the day can dry) my hat, fleece pants folded and laid in the chair on the left and my boots on the floor to the right. All of it will be warm and dry by morning and I’ll start the day a lot more comfortably.
Starting with warm dry gear is a great first step and the next thing is to stay dry while gearing up. One thing that will help with that is a good, waterproof mat to stand on in your stocking feet. I’ve used pieces of carpet, plastic trash bags and truck floor mats but the best thing I’ve found for a mat is a 3′ X 3′ piece of neoprene about a quarter of an inch thick.
There are two things that really make the neoprene mat a good one. The first is the neoprene is waterproof. The second is that neoprene is a good insulator and it helps when you’re in stocking feet to have something waterproof with insulation value between your feet and the snow.Invariably some snow gets onto the mat but if you’re careful about how you move around you can get geared up with dry feet. I always shake the mat off after I gear up and carefully brush any snow or ice off before I storing the mat away. When I put the mat into the truck I drape it over the headrest on my seat. That way if any snow got onto it and melted that snow can evaporate while I’m fishing and the mat is handy for use when I return the the truck.
Footgear is big thing to pay attention to when the weather turns cold. There is no hard answer to the question of felt soled boots vs. rubber soled boots during the summer months. But anyone who has waded in the winter will tell you felt is quick to ice up when that wet felt hits the snow. In fact ice has formed so thick on the bottom of my boots that I could stand an honest 6′ tall even though I’m only 5′ 10″. Let me tell you walking on a two inch thick ice block is not safe. Give me STUDDED rubber soles in winter. Actually, after a full summer of wading with my present set of rubber soled boots you can give me STUDDED rubber soles anytime.
You can see in this picture of my boot print in the snow that when I picked my foot up and moved it a couple of inches to the right half the snow stayed in place on the ground and the rest moved with my boot. But unlike a felt sole the rubber sole will shed the rest of that snow on my next step while felt would hold onto the snow and start building up a layer of ice. Another nice thing about STUDDED rubber soles is that surface ice and anchor ice don’t present any particular problem. The studs in today’s boot are so aggressive that biting into ice just isn’t a problem. /p>
Those aggressive studs were a big problem for me but I think that problem is solved with the introduction of an oversized “croc” style protective slipper called – are your ready for this – “Over Boot Stud Covers” – what a name huh? Anyway, they are a slip on cover for you boots and should keep the studs from damaging boats and other equipment.
Another thing to consider is the line you choose to use. I know when I check the water temperature and get 37 degrees for a reading that I’m not going to see much of a hatch. So my plan is to fish sub-surface. I do that with a 5′ sink-tip line. Orvis calls theirs the “Streamer Stripper” and it’s a great line. I like it because I can nymph, swing streamers or wets and work varying depths of water – all without moving a strike indicator or fumbling with split-shot.
Now I know split-shot and strike indicators are the norm today and sometimes I fish with them but not often. I like the versatility of a sink-tip line and will go the Jim Teeny route and make my own if Orvis, Rio and Scientific Angler ever stop making them. I just can’t find a better way to fish water that varies from shallow to 10′ deep or better without having to make any adjustment other than my angle of cast and high-sticking.
So there are a few of the adjustments I make when winter wading. Along with these I bulk up with layers, wear synthetics or wool and wade conservatively. I also carry hand warmers and keep a change of clothes and a hot thermos of coffee in the truck. Good luck with your winter fishing and stay safe.