Written by Colton Orbaker – Twig ‘N’ Timber Outdoors

The lakes are locked up, and your line freezes every cast. This time of year, most anglers find refuge in cozy ice huts surrounding drilled ice holes jigging for panfish. Not me. This time of year can be extremely productive especially when utilizing the right tips and tricks to allow standing waist deep in freezing stream water not only tolerable, but enjoyable!


Sub-zero temperatures are no joking matter. Layering appropriately with wool and new-age materials is not only beneficial, but required when air temperatures are well below freezing. In addition, keeping spare clothes in the car is highly suggested for a few key reasons. If you get wet anywhere the waders and jacket don’t protect you, CHANGE! Cold and wet clothing can become dangerous in certain circumstances, and it is best to change into dry clothing, or to stop fishing.

2. Bring a Means to Clear Your Line

If fly fishing, using two smooth stones to squish the ice off of your fly line works well, and keeping as much line out of the water is extremely beneficial. Bringing additional nylon lines for any type of cold water fishing should be a priority in case you compromise the integrity of your line with ice. There are many sprays that claim to prevent the guides of your rod from icing over, but there are many home remedies that seem to work as well.

3. Fish Small and Know Your Stream.

The only insects that will always be hatching in cold weather and water are midges. These chironomids are small. Stream fishermen and fly anglers know these as the tiny bugs that fly around you nearing dusk but don’t bite. They are small mosquito-looking insects that hatch from the bottom of the stream all year, and can be imitated by flies tied on tiny hooks (sizes 18-32). Stringing as many of these together (as many as your state regulations allow) with small tippet or line is the BEST way to fish cold water salmonids that are accessible in the winter!

4. Not All Wading Boots are Created Equal

When I guide clients, I always recommend they wear a pair of aluminum cleats or studs in their boots. This time of year, wading can become dangerous. Rocks become iced over, and slick, causing potentially dangerous falls. A cheap pair of slip-on cleats over your wading boots may be the difference between a fun day out, and taking a spill. If you cannot find cleats or studs for your boots, a good wading staff or tall ski pole will act as a brace for stability as well as a way to test the potential ice in your path.

5. Bring Warm Drinks and Snacks

In the cold, our bodies burn more fuel, and to maintain your wits and sanity on a long trip, your fishing buddy may appreciate you having yourself a snack. Taking short warm-up and snack breaks also helps keep your spirits up in potentially difficult fishing conditions. It is also a great time to clear any ice from your lines or guides.

In the frigid cold, safety and enjoyment are the name of the game! Follow these tips, and plan properly to fully enjoy your winter outings. Bundle up and get out there, because you may be the only one out catching fish!

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