western north carolina fly fishing

First thing to remember is that it is not THAT cold in Western North Carolina in winter.  The average high January temperatures in Brevard are 49 degrees F and the average lows are 24.  It CAN certainly get cold for comparitively brief stretches and anchor ice CAN form in the streams.  However, it is nothing like being stuck on a lift at Wildcat Mt. or waiting for a friend at the highest north-facing point of Carabassett Valley (pretty much anywhere at Sugarloaf).  That said, it is always important to be prepared.

Base layers will be important on both the top and the bottom.  Synthetic long underwear tops and bottoms and synthetic sock liners will retain warmth if you build up moisture either through perspiration, rain, falling in or even leaky waders.  

Insulation layers are a crucial next step to keeping you warm.  Beginning with your feet, insulated synthetic or wool socks are preferable to cotton.  Also, they do not need to be too thick because your best ways to keep your feet warm are by keeping them dry and by maintaining good circulation.  If you have to pack your foot into a wading boot because your socks are too thick, you will quickly lose circulation and your feet will suffer.  As long as you can wiggle your toes, you can withstand -15 to -20 on the Snowfields of Sugarloaf Mt. on a windy day.  And bring an extra set of thick, dry socks just in case!!!

With Stocking Foot Waders, a pair of synthetic pants like fleece will outperform cotton sweat pants or flannel so invest in a pair of basic, lightweight, flexible but warm pants.  On the top, wool or synthetics like fleece are a great option because they will retain their warmth if they get wet as long as you have a wind/rain layer on top.  A lightweight waterproof breathable outer layer is optimal for protection against the rain but an even lighter weight “windshirt” can be appropriate if it is dry but breezy. 

Always bring a brimmed hat both for warmth and for the sun.  Even in winter, the sun will be strong enough to damage your skin plus the glare makes it virtually impossible to track your fly, to manage your drift and to survey your terrain.  A classic Maine look is a blaze-orange wool hat over a ball cap and Elmer Fudd may have perfected a unique look but he was warm so don't be afraid to stand out.

If you have multiple inner layers plus an impervious outer layer from top to bottom, you will be primed for handling the coldest that the Western North Carolina Mountains has to throw at you.  So, be prepared and savor the moment knowing that you are out on the water wetting a line and NOT in New England.

Fly Fishing in winter can seem extreme because, after all, it IS winter.  However, with a little preparation and the right frame of mind, standing in a Western North Carolina river in January is far more pleasant that sitting on a chair lift in virtually any New England ski area.  If you stay dry and protected from the wind and dress like you are about to hit the slopes on a MILD day, you will be pleasantly surprised at how accommodating winter can be when it comes to fly fishing for Trout.

Fishing gloves are another optional tool to bring to the water on a winter day.  Many companies make fingerless gloves with or without a fold-over mitten to protect against the cold and either will work.  Neoprene or wool gloves or mittens are recommended because they will function properly even after they get wet – which is likely to happen if you are fishing.  Materials like fleece are very warm if they are dry and the wind is not blowing but once they get wet – especially on an early morning before the air temps climb above freezing – the water can freeze in the glove and you are effectively protecting your fingers from the elements with.... a layer of ice.

preparing for winter - clothing

layering

Sun

gloves