Friday, December 26, 2014


Winter steelheading goes hand in hand with cold feet.  One of the the things discussed often this time of year is how to keep your feet warm in this cold weather.  Luckily, of all the things I like to discuss about fishing…how to keep your feet warm and healthy is something of which I just happen to be an expert.  And, that expertise is not just from my experience over the years.  I just happen to have an earned doctorate dealing specifically with the medical and surgical care of FEET :-)

You really just need a little understanding and then to keep in mind a couple of simple rules to keep your feet comfortable in cold water.

You have to start with a little understanding of the circulation to the feet.  The feet are the farthest structure in the body from the heart in reference to strong circulation and perfusion.  That is the 1st important thing you have to understand.

When the body starts to get cold, it is going to maintain it’s primary focus on maintaining core temperature before it concerns itself with increasing any blood flow to the feet to keep them warm.  If your core is cold, your brain will actually cause vasoconstriction, or slight slowing of the circulation to the feet and hands to make sure the vital organs stay warm and function properly.  So, the 1st thing you want to do to keep your feet warm is to layer your core correctly to keep it warm so that the body itself does not want to restrict any of that warming blood flow to the feet.

If you understand that basic piece of human physiology, you are off to a good start.  Now that we have the body on our side, we have to take a couple of measures to help the feet stay warm.

First, you have to properly layer the right types of stockings on your feet to keep them warm.  The most important thing you have to lose is COTTON SOCKS.  This type of sock has poor insulation value and holds any moisture from perspiration or leaky waders right against the skin…resulting in heat loss.  So, dump the cotton socks.

The 1st layer of sock I recommend directly against the skin is a knee high stocking made of a microfiber blend that will wick any moisture away from the skin.  I recommend this layer being knee high because you want that sock to wick any moisture up and away from the feet.  A short sock to the level of the ankle cannot get that moisture past the boot, and since all waders leak and your feet will likely sweat some, you want that layer against the skin to be able to wick any moisture up and away.

Now that you have the correct 1st layer, you want to add a bulky insulating 2nd layer that will create insulation value and also be able to wick any moisture as well.  BULKY is the key here.  This layer creates a layer with some air in it to increase the insulation value.  Wool is really optimal here.  I like wool from sheep, but alpaca wool is even better because is seems to be a little stronger and compresses less from walking and boot pressure.  There are also a number of bulky stockings out there now that are blends of wool and microfiber that are viable options.

I also add a 3rd layer.  Several companies out there have thin neoprene stockings.  Now, if you make the neoprene the layer against your skin, it will hold any moisture right there and just result in heat loss…ultimately making your feet cold when fishing in cold water.  BUT, if you make the thin neoprene stocking your outer most layer it will act as an excellent insulator and help keep the warmth you have from escaping so rapidly.  And, if you are using a breathable wader with neoprene stocking feet you are now really helping to increase that insulation value.  

If you have ever been involved in scuba diving in moderately cold water, and you couldn’t use a dry suit, you probably used a farmer John neoprene dive suit.  The value of that type of suit is that it doubles the layers of the neoprene over your core to help keep that body heat you’re generating in around your core.  The same principle can be employed here if you layer correctly.

The second thing you have to consider after layering correctly is NOT compressing or squeezing the foot so tightly with those layers and your wading boot that it actually inhibits the proper circulation to your feet.  So, if you layer correctly, but your wading boots become so tight that it is squeezing the circulation right out of your feet…you have accomplished nothing in keeping your feet warm.  Remember, we layer the core correctly so that the body does not restrict blood flow to the feet, don’t make the layers so tight on the feet that you then restrict blood flow to the feet.

I actually have Winter wading boots that are a size larger than what I wear when I don’t need to layer so much.  If you are going to wade in the icy cold waters during the Winter months, this is something you need to consider.

The last thing to consider is to keep moving throughout the day.  The most important thing anyone can do when they have any kind of circulation issue to the feet is walk and keep the circulation moving.  Now, as a Winter steelheader, you probably know that the fish tend to be in slower pools and you find yourself staying in one spot longer than you might in warmer conditions.  So, make yourself move around some.  Walk to another hole, preferably out of the water to get and keep that circulation moving. 

Keeping your feet warm in the Winter is not as difficult as it may seem if you follow these simple rules.  And keeping your feet warm will keep you on the water longer to enjoy your fishing!

Now that you can keep your feet warm in the cold, let’s take your Winter steelheading to the next level.  Call me.  LET’S GO FISHIN’!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


It's getting cccccold. The main complaint I hear about fly fishing in the cold is icy guides. Sooo, is there a way to cut back on how much ice forms in those guides? Glad you asked!

Certainly use an ice-off paste. Apply it the night before and then reapply as needed through your fishing day.

BUT, is there more to it than that? Remember, your WET line constantly moving through the guides is really what leads to all of that ice. Maybe you could do some things to reduce how much water you pull through those guides to make all of that ice?

You want to maintain good drifts, tight lines, and recast while moving minimal line through the guides. WHAT?

I have several focuses when I'm fishing in the ice box.
1. Do as much roll casting and flipping of your line as you can. By "flipping", I mean water loading your rod at the end of your drift and casting or "flipping" the line back up stream without overhead casting at all.
2. Make good mends to maintain your drifts, BUT instead of pulling line in through the guides to keep "tight" consider managing the line with other methods.
A. High stick, even when indi fishing
B. Take a few steps forward or a few steps backwards to keep from having too much slack line.
3. Keep the rod tip out of the water.

See, you can keep out all of the line you like, make good drifts, cast, and still keep from constantly moving wet line through those guides....until you catch one. But hey, that's worth clearing some ice from the guides at that point!

And last but not least, the less you are running wet line through your guides, the less it is winding on to your reel as well. And that helps prevent that reel from freezing solid and then getting broke off by a trophy fish. Just remember to wind that reel a half rotation or so now and then to make sure it isn't frozen up.

Winter Steelhead trips will refine your game better than any other time of year. As long as the creeks are not frozen...we're fishing. Call me. LET'S GO FISHIN'!