Cold Water Advice from The Gear Pimp
Blog by: Jim McFarland , Colorado 10/28/2019
This is absolutely my favorite time of year to fish! While I probably should have written this sooner, today is cold, snowy and slick outside so thereís a little time to write. Speaking of which, the high country has already turned cold, the water temperatures have plummeted and as usual South Park is windy. In the same breath, the big fish bite has turned on. It truly is the best time for you to get into some quality trout. Letís cover a little bit about everything. Rods, reels, line, lures and being prepared in general.
For me, itís GLoomis time! While the St Croix series of rods are my favorite, there is something extremely important to consider. THE GUIDES! Along with St Croix rods I prefer micro guides. However, if you use micro guides you could be in for some major disappointment on the water. Take this past weekend. It was 19 degrees upon arriving at the lake and the water temp was 38. Do you know what happens when you combine those temperatures with micro guides? Yeah, frozen line and frozen guides equal epic birds nests, wind knots and even broken line. This why itís GLoomis time, my GLoomis rods have large eyes and even those freeze up so itís important to pay attention to every aspect of your fishing during this time. Getting broke off because of frozen guides SUCKS. By broken off, that can happen with a fish on or on the cast. Nothing more fun than making a cast and watching your favorite lure continue sailing into the depths after your line snaps.
Itís probably also a good time to set your bait cast reel aside. With the way it spools it seems to me the water settles into the spool more and freezes more. This past weekend I look down and see a strand of line standing straight up from my spool. Pretty positive the line froze and on cast the line rubbed and broke. Was lucky for me my lure wasnít lost but it left me down to one rod instead of two to use for the day. Since weíre talking about line. Leave your braid at home. It absorbs a little water so it is going to freeze faster and be more problematic. Now is a good time for a thin good quality monofilament line. Although, being stubborn, I tend to stick with flouroclear.
What about lure selection? Pay attention to the lures youíre using.. READ the specifications of your favorite lure. Especially jerk baits. Did you know that many lures, especially balsa and plastic lures perform differently in extreme water temperatures? Many if not most jerk baits do not like water under 40 degrees. The water temperature affects their buoyancy and could potentially damage your lure. In other words your suspending, sinking, floating jerk bait may not suspend, sink or float like they should or perform like youíre used to. With that in mind, I love to use three lures in particular during this time. 1) Jerk Baits! Lol they are highly effective all year and even more so right now. The risk is worth the reward. 2) Big spoons. The trick to these is to not simply do a straight retrieve. Work them sort of like a jerk bait or better yet like a tube jig youíre bouncing. They always get crushed on the flutter. So itís good to have a fast action rod and a fast reel when doing this style of fishing with a spoon. 3) Mannís Baby 1-minus. Theyíre fat, theyíre loud and they have some serious wobble. Iím sure any number of other shallow running cranks will work too but these are by far my favorite. Itís pretty much impossible to beat this lure that costs less than $6 and actually has decent hooks right out of the box.
Lastly, lets talk about being prepared. DRESS IN LAYERS.. again DRESS IN LAYERS. Our weather here in Colorado is nuts and trying to explain it to someone from out of state is almost impossible. Again, let me refer to this past weekend. At 19 degrees all I was wearing was a long sleeve shirt and a thin hoodie. With the sun up high and almost zero wind I actually took the hoodie off for a while. But as the temperature rose, so did the wind. By the time I left the water it was 57 and the hoodie was back on and it was COLD. Something about the wind blowing 38 degree water on to me (humidity right?) made it downright chilly. Good socks, thermal underwear and 3 to 4 layers of clothing is the way to go. Look at it this way. Itís much better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. You can always take layers off but you canít put on what you donít have.
Matt, CO 10/28/2019 2:29:13 PM
Good stuff Jim!
bron, CO 10/28/2019 3:46:49 PM
Great read Jim! Only thing I'd add is what I preach to Blake--Don't get wet! You lose a lot of body heat with wet clothing in the cold.
panfishin, CO 10/28/2019 4:49:36 PM
X2 Bron...and always have a spare set of clothes just in case! it never fails me when hiking and fishing high country lakes that one foot will slip off of the rock or log that i'm standing on and take a quick dip.
SGM, CO 10/28/2019 5:42:15 PM
Good read, love this time of year for big trout.
Matt, CO 10/28/2019 6:14:12 PM
Extra set of clothes. I second and third that. I learned early on that a complete extra set of clothes in the car can be quite the trip saver. I got wet once breaking through shallow shoreline ice, and did not have any backup pants or anything. Luckily it was a sunny windless warm winter day and I was comfortable enough to stay out a few hours. Now I always bring a small duffel with backup pants, thermals, and socks - and leave it in the car. Just in case!
bron, CO 10/28/2019 7:12:07 PM
The backseat in my truck is one big survival kit. I have clothes, blankets, first aid kit, actual survival kit, rainsuits, etc.
Jim McFarland (anglerwannabe), CO 10/28/2019 8:49:43 PM
thanks guys and great points! I always wear waders this time of year with really thick socks, so while I don't usually get out of the water wet, my feet and even the socks get super cold from being in the water for a few hours. Warm dry socks when I get to the truck are a must.
fishthumpre, CO 10/28/2019 9:22:33 PM
Great advice Jim. I really do need to switch from Nanofil to a good mono for the winter. Several of us from Loveland Fishing Club had planned North Park trip this Tuesday and Wednesday and got scared off by the weather. I'm not sure what my minimum temperature is for open water fishing, but I found out this spring that it was something above 10...
ass bass or cash, CO 10/29/2019 9:59:43 AM
Good stuff. I know you do alot of fishing from a tube I'm new to float tubing but increased my catch percentage 5 fold since getting off the banks so I'm already looking forward to next Spring, but am I missing out fishing this time of year or too late now? Will you fish up until ice or is there a threshold where the water is just too cold regardless of your gear? I appreciate any info or advice!
Jim McFarland (anglerwannabe), CO 10/29/2019 10:56:15 AM
Hi guys, I added a pic from when I fished 11 Mile with fargingicehole last November and the outside temp was 8. I'll post another when I get home, also from 11 Mile, where I'm on the tube and not the toon and you can see the ice weirdos fihsing behind me. fishthumpre, what I have found is wind is the primary problem, not outside temps. If it's sunny and not windy I can stay on the water. Ass Bass or Cash.. I am fishing now! If you loook at my mann's 1 minus thread, that was a couple weeks ago.. I fished this past Saturday.. and I will be going again this weekend fif the weather predictions are close to correct. It is a GREAT time for trout. Also something to think about.. it's not the water that gets too cold. If you're able to float, that means the water is above 32 degrees. Often the water is much warmer than the outside temps. I ordered some electric heated socks.. I should have them next week. If they work well, I'll write a blog on them