Here's how to determine if it's too cold for fly fishing.
It's a fact of life for fishing enthusiasts: we wish that fly fishing could be a year-round sport, but every year, when late fall or early winter rolls around, we wonder just how long we can go on before fishing becomes too cold and miserable to be fun.
Quite simply, fishing just isn't a year-round activity. Ice fishing is a nice way to extend our catches and days out on the lake into the winter months, but the cold temperatures aren't for everyone. It stands to reason that drilling a hole in the ice and sitting out in the cold may not be everyone's idea of a good time.
Those who are less fond of ice fishing, however, often feel more passionate about holding on to the fly fishing season for as long as possible. These anglers get up every morning late into November and sometimes even in December. They put on layers upon layers of thermal shirts and jacket, of hats and gloves and face masks, and then they head out the door - snow or no snow - to experience some of the season's last good fishing.
No, these people are not impervious to cold. On the contrary, they feel the whip of the wind and the stab of the ice and snow the same as anyone else. The difference between these unbeatable die-hards and the rest of us is that they just have a different idea of when it is too cold for fly fishing.
So when is it too cold for fly fishing? In most areas, fish will be biting all year round, which some anglers take as an indication that there is no such thing as "too cold" for fly fishing. However, if your lines are stiffening and ice is forming on your fishing rods, or if your fingers are so cold that you can't pick out the right baits from your tackle box, then you can fairly assume that you have descended into the territory of "too cold."
Of course, it's no good realizing that you've chosen a useless fishing day when you are already set up on the lake. If you need a way of determining whether or not it is too cold before you leave your house - and if you can't count on your own instincts to tell you how cold it is when you first stick your nose out the door - then just choose a temperature and make it your mantra to never go fishing once the temperature has fallen below a certain point.
This "make or break" thermometer reading can fluctuate for different anglers in different parts of the country, but as a general rule, if you wake up in the morning and your thermometer reads 32 degrees Fahrenheit or fewer, fishing may not be in the forecast. When temperatures are below freezing, trying to fish, and trying to keep your gear (and yourself!) from freezing, it is just more trouble than it is worth.
The fish will be waiting for your return come spring, and your gear will thank you for deciding to take some time off.
Keep in mind that some states and species have specific angling seasons in which they can and cannot be caught. Be sure to check with the state Natural Resources Department or Fish and Wildlife offices to make sure you're within the right seasonal time period.