The following information first appeared in the January 2002 issue of the TWFF newsletter.

When fly fishing Texas rivers in winter, be aware of the following.

  • Know the flow before you go. (The flow rate must be 300 cfs or less.)
    River flow rates are measured in cubic feet per second (cfs). That rate can be obtained for many Texas rivers from the USGS Web site and other Web sites; however, some knowledge of the river is needed to interpret those numbers correctly. It is always good to check with a local fly shop or canoe livery located on or near the river you plan to fish. They will know whether the river level is safe and can inform you of any special hazards you need to be aware of. Rivers are ever-changing systems.
  • Fly fish with a friend nearby.
  • Notify someone of your location and departure and return time.
  • Stay warm and dry.

Fishing in cold water in cold weather increases the possibility of hypothermia. When pursuing any kind of outdoor winter activity, it is important to know how to avoid, recognize, and treat hypothermia. The condition happens quite easily often during prolonged exposure to temperatures that one might consider quite safe.

Avoid hypothermia by dressing in layers of noncotton clothing. Cotton is a negative insulator. When wet, it will draw heat from your body. Synthetics, silk, and wool are better choices. Layering is recommended by the American Red Cross:

  • An inner layer—should be made of synthetic fabric that does not retain moisture (Capilene®, polypropylene, etc.)
  • An insulating layer—a quick-drying fabric that insulates even while it’s wet (Qualofill™, pile, wool, etc.)
  • A shell layer—will provide a windproof, and preferably waterproof, barrier (ripstop nylon, Gore-Tex®, Supplex®, etc.)
  • A hat is vital to staying warm; gloves, insulating socks, neck “gaiters,” and headbands all protect you from the cold. Wool pants are a better choice than jeans or corduroys.
  • Drink large amounts of nonalcoholic and decaffeinated fluids.
  • If your group is exposed to WIND, COLD, OR WET, think hypothermia! Watch yourself and others for the symptoms:
    • Uncontrollable fits of shivering
    • Vague, slow, slurred speech
    • Memory lapses or incoherence
    • Immobile, fumbling hands, frequent stumbling
    • Drowsiness (to sleep is to die)
    • Apparent exhaustion, inability to get up after a rest

Hypothermia radically affects both one’s judgment and response time. Be alert to early symptoms to prevent a potentially life-threatening situation. Be sure to visit and read, “Hypothermia, Prevention, Recognition and Treatment.”

  • Take a waterproof flashlight on the river with you in case your return is delayed past sundown.
  • Pack a change of clothing and a space blanket or even a couple of large plastic trash bags, some hand-warmer packs,
  • Carry Power bars or other high-energy snacks and some fire starter and waterproof matches.


Safety Pointers for All Fishing Trips

  • Study maps of the area; take them with you and know how long it will take to drive to your destination.
  • Drive the section of river you plan to fish. Check it out for yourself before you get out of your car.
  • Get to know the locals at grocery stores, gas stations, etc.
  • Take a rain jacket, change of clothes and shoes plus a warm sweater to have in your vehicle in case the weather turns foul.
  • Carry a flashlight and “Fix-A- Flat” for instant flat tire repair. Make sure your spare is in good shape.
  • Know where the closest town with a garage is located.
  • Keep extra stuff (towels, food bars or snacks, water and a blanket) stored in dry containers
  • Use a wading staff if you are going into fast water.
  • Carry a river whistle and knife. A river whistle is much louder (ear-shatteringly loud) than an ordinary whistle. If you are fly fishing from a canoe or kayak, be sure to have your personal flotation device (life jacket).
  • Take a First Aid kit. Antibiotic ointment is a must (a few hook wounds) and aspirin or ibuprofen. (Check with your doctor, first.) One more very important medicine to have on hand is Benedryl for plant and insect stings.
  • Wear the proper wading boots for saltwater fly fishing to avoid sting rays and to give you sure footing when walking over slippery river rocks.
  • Take along plenty of water.

(Tip: In warm weather, carrying frozen water bottles will ensure you of a day-long supply of cold water. Freeze bottles partially full depending on how much ice you want. Just fill to the top with fresh water before you pack!)