I keep reminding my fly fishing friends that the coming of colder weather here in Colorado is not any reason to cool down their passion for fly fishing. In fact, I find that winter months provide exciting fishing opportunities for those brave enough to deal with the elements. For me, there is nothing more soothing than floating through a serenely silent white landscape, searching for the trophy trout I know are just waiting for me.
Of course, there are some inherent cold weather risks to be aware of when do some winter float fly fishing. Your common sense will take care of most of them. My personal safety plan always starts with a resolve to follow all boating suggestions and instructions given to me by my Minturn Anglers fishing guide. After all, he’s using this equipment and traveling these waters almost every day, and is my expert guide in both keeping me safe and ensuring I have a successful fishing experience.
Hypothermia is the biggest danger when fishing in the winter. You expect this problem if somebody falls into frigid waters, but remember a person can also become hypothermic just from prolonged exposure to the cold. He might not even recognize the symptoms. It is important that you and your fishing partners recognize symptoms so they can take remedial action. Watch for:
- Lack of coordination and clumsiness
- Difficulty speaking
- Confused thinking
- Bad decision making, like removing warm clothing
- Sleepiness and apathy
- A slow pulse and shallow breathing
Extra clothing on board or a foil emergency blanket can help recover body heat until you are able to get back to land for help.
My Minturn Anglers guide also plans ahead for a safe fishing expedition by:
- Leaving a float plan with staff at the shop just in case we don’t return by the scheduled time
- Providing lifejackets and ensuring that they are worn
- Bringing an appropriate communication and GPS device
- Ensuring we dress for the water instead of just the air temperature, to be prepared for any worst case scenario
- Maintaining a careful eye on the weather and surrounding conditions to avoid potentially dangerous conditions
- Ensuring there is always a designated boater, and even better that there are no intoxicants on board
For the most part, my main task is to enjoy the float and the passing scenery, as I search for my next trophy catch.