Snow falling on a river

Quick Tips for Winter Camping and Fishing

The following article is taken from Colter Backcountry's blogColter Backcountry makes premium gear for backcountry anglers. Read on for the best winter fishing tips.

Just because it's cold and dark doesn't mean you can't still get out there. Here are some quick tips to improve your experience in camp and on the water when the mercury drops. 

  1. Keep your sleeping bag and sleep clothes dry. You can mentally handle some brutal weather if you know that at the end of the day your bag and sleep clothes will be warm and cozy. 

  2. Get a good sleeping pad. A poor pad will make you cold even if your sleeping bag is adequate. Look for an R-value of at least 4. 

  3. Forget the alarm clock. You can skip the early wakeup call during the dark months. Fish will be most active between 9am and 5pm. Focus your efforts in these hours and hone in on any afternoon sun. 

  4. Remember - fish are cold, too. They’re trying to conserve energy, and they aren’t going to swim far for a meal. Thoroughly cover all fishing lanes before moving on to the next spot. 

  5. Bring backup batteries. There’s gonna be a lot of headlight time at camp. Don’t be the guy forced to use his phone light to cook dinner. 

  6. Eat a lot. Nothing burns calories like standing in cold water all day. Pack some extra snacks.

  7. Pack corn chips. Worried about getting a blaze going in damp weather? Pack some extra Fritos along. Corn chips are soaked in oil and will hold a small flame for a decent time. Plus, they double as a great snack. 

  8. Make friends with gloves. Fishing gloves and camp gloves are both essential. Fishing gloves will get wet, so bring a dry pair for camp. 

  9. Throw in some hand warmers. After repeated exposure to cold water and cold air, your hands might want a little pick-me-up when you get back to camp. Pack some handwarmers to throw in your camp gloves while you prep dinner. 

  10. Double check those waders. If you escaped a full summer season with no holes in your waders, you’d be the first. Take a minute to patch your gear before heading out in the cold. 

  11. Fresh socks before bed. The socks you wore all day? Soaked in sweat. Don’t wear them in your bag unless you want your feet to freeze. 

  12. Take time to build a morning fire. It’s a great way to get some warmth for the day and doubles as a tool for thawing your frozen boots. 

  13. Pack the tarp. When dealing with a lot of clothing layers, it can be nice to have somewhere other than your tent to change and organize gear. Set up a basic overhang in camp. It can double as a kitchen if the weather acts up. 

  14. Carry ChapStick. Cover the guides on your rod with ChapStick to help prevent freezing. Use liberally on yourself to prevent serious windburn on your lips. 

  15. Sleeping bag calisthenics. Worried about being cold at night? After zipping yourself in, do a full minute of exercises (situps, flutter kicks, push ups, etc.). You’ll generate a ton of heat that your sleeping bag will retain. 

  16. Invest in a cold weather sleeping bag. The degree rating on a bag is for survival, not comfort. Try to use a bag that’s rated 10-15 degrees cooler than the expected low temperature. 

  17. Be bold, go cold. When first starting to hike, you should be pretty chilly. You’ll quickly warm up, especially if you have a pack on. If you overdress at the beginning, you’ll get soaked in sweat, which will then turn into hours of discomfort as you stand in a freezing river. 

  18. Bring whiskey and a deck of cards. The nights are cold and long this time of year. Bring some entertainment or your crew will be in bed by 7:30. 

  19. Keep your eyes peeled. A light layer of snow on the ground will give up any signs of animal activity. Keep an eye out of signs of mammals that are hard to come by, like cats. 

  20. Downsize your flies. If fish are being picky, try downsizing your fly selection. If you’re fishing subsurface, make sure nymphs have enough weight to float along the bottom. 

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