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> > How to stop guides from freezing constantly while fishing up north???

HateSnagsJanuary 5th, 2016, 8:00 pm
Chagrin Falls, OH

Posts: 1
Hello everyone. I recently moved to Ohio for work and have taken up the awesome task of steelhead fishing. I fish mainly in the Rocky River as well South Chagrin Reservoir. I cannot seem to find a reasonable way to keep my guides from freezing, average temp fishing lately has been around 20 degrees. Any tips would be greatly appreciated. Also, maybe a dumb question but should I be using a Strike Indicator while fishing streamers? I'm a bit of a newbie so bare with me. Thanks
WbranchJanuary 5th, 2016, 10:04 pm
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2676
Yes, when the daily temperatures are around 20 degrees you can prevent the guides from icing up by sitting in front of the fly tying vise while tying a couple of dozen sucker spawn while sipping a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows.

There are no dumb questions only dumb answers. While most fly fishermen might fish streamers without an indicator for trout I have often, over the last few years, fished small streamers under a float for steelhead. Small emerald shiners are very common in the streams and creeks entering Lake Erie. I have seen large pods of shiners in the creeks and know the steelhead do target them as they are an easy food source. I have caught more steelhead dead drifting an emerald shiner under an indicator than I have casting and strip retrieving a small streamer.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
MartinlfJanuary 6th, 2016, 12:12 am
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3084
I've heard that putting Burt's Bees lip balm on the guides can help. Google "prevent rod guides from freezing" or similar phrases for other home remedies.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
PaulRobertsJanuary 6th, 2016, 9:52 am

Posts: 1776
I've heard of using petroleum jelly but thought that sounded messy and don't know whether it might be corrosive to lines.

I wrote an article on winter trout fishing a while back stating that below 27F ice formed hard enough that it became a real nuisance on fly lines. The heavy-handed editor changed that value, among other things, to 32F!

20F? I like Wbranch's advice. Or, better yet, go to straight mono. I did plenty of that, and down into the single digits. I would have to strip beaded ice off the line every few casts and even pop my flies, and egg-sacks too, into my mouth to thaw them.
Feathers5January 6th, 2016, 10:28 am
Posts: 287Truthfully, I haven't found anything that works. When my guides begin to freeze up I go home or I don't go at all.
Jmd123January 6th, 2016, 3:45 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2493
20F? It's ice fishing time!! Of course, I am still waiting for safe (or any) ice right now, but we went down to almost zero F the other night so I'm expecting to be out there in a week or so, at least on the smaller lakes.

I managed to push my fly fishing season later than usual this past year, catching a nice mess of fish on 16 November and ending with a 2-hour casting season (no catching) on Christmas Day when it was 45 F. The fly rods are now getting a well-deserved rest for a few months...

No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
EntomanJanuary 7th, 2016, 1:01 am
Northern CA & ID

Posts: 2604
Welcome Hatesnags!

I hate them too!:)

Freezing guides? Forget the grease... The only thing that works is to dip your rod in the water up to the stripping guide for a few seconds just prior to casting. If ice builds up so quickly that this doesn't work - what the hell are you doing outside? LOL
"It's not that I find fishing so important, it's just that I find all other endeavors of Man equally unimportant... And not nearly as much fun!" Robert Traver, Anatomy of a Fisherman
PaulRobertsJanuary 7th, 2016, 10:57 am

Posts: 1776
:) I can just picture that method in single digit weather. Hiking out with a 3lb club of a fishing rod. I did once have a reel come loose and drop into the drink on such a day. I had to stuff it under my clothes against my body to thaw it out. Another time a buddy showed up on-river with a big spin-cast reel, thinking it would be a good simple steelhead plugging reel. It froze solid inside the closed face on his first fish which promptly broke off, taking my friend's favorite plug with it.
RogueratJanuary 7th, 2016, 11:31 am
Posts: 461
Loon Products has something called Stanley's Ice-off paste, website says it's for line-guides in freezing conditions. I've never used it and simply 'flick' an iced-up guide like I'd flick a fly (the real thing this time) and hope for the best. My worst icing experience was four hours of wading the Rogue under 16-degree air temps, frigid water and constant guide ice-up...and a 16" steelhead for the effort. My neoprene's and long-johns kept me in comfort, no complaints there- just that the fish weren't where they were supposed to be!


'less is more...'

Ludwig Mies Vande Rohe
MartinlfJanuary 9th, 2016, 12:31 am
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3084
Thanks to all who responded. A buddy tempted me out today in what was predicted to be above freezing weather. It wasn't. Kurt's dip the rod method worked just fine for me, and helped me land 7 fish, the biggest, an 18" bow. Great to be out, though it took a while before my fingers stopped hurting once I was in the truck thawing out with the hot air vents.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
FlyTieJanuary 9th, 2016, 7:59 pm
Parker, CO

Posts: 1
The Loons product work ok. You will still have to de-ice but not as often. It does make the ice come off of the guides easier with liberal application. I have been out several times in the last few weeks in 10-30 weather. I think I've had my fill of the cold weather fishing and will tie some until its over 30. Good luck!

PaulRobertsJanuary 12th, 2016, 10:09 am

Posts: 1776
Air temperature is key. Ice builds faster and get's harder as it gets colder. IME, above 27F maintenance is easy. Below that you must clear ice more frequently and spend more time each time as the ice becomes harder. Possibly some de-icing products may buy you a few degrees F. I haven't tried any. I switched to straight mono at that point. Tailwaters can be a diff story.
WbranchJanuary 12th, 2016, 12:17 pm
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2676
One way to help beat the icing of small snake guide is to build your own fly rod either with oversize snake guides, or what I prefer, build the rod with a ceramic ring guide. Fuji makes all grades of ceramic ring guides. I like the high frame SIC style but the Alconite guide is very good too and much less expensive.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
EntomanJanuary 13th, 2016, 2:26 pm
Northern CA & ID

Posts: 2604
A big factor is water temps as well. If water temps are near freezing with air temps below 25, you can forget about it. The problem is exacerbated with lighter tackle. Heavier lines blow through iced guides better. waters with a lot of spring influence that keeps water temps at least above 40 degrees regardless of air temps are your best bet. I've tried almost every kind of de-icing product from Vicks Vapo-rub to the loon product mentioned earlier. They hamper ice formation and make flicking the guides clean easier - for a few minutes... The stuff wears off very quickly. Too much trouble.

Two recent ice stories:

Fishing a local spring Creek a few weeks ago I experienced a few funny things. The air temps were hovering at or below 20 degrees. There were a few baetids hatching! Most of the activity were midges though and the fish were really active. The rise forms were the slowest I've ever seen. The proposing rise forms were so slow that the fish seemed suspended in slow motion. This made setting up on them with size twenty hooks very difficult. All you could do was set up as quickly as possible and hope to snag the jawbone of what were probably still open mouths. Waiting for them to turn down didn't work as the fly just slowly slid away. Seeing 20" plus fish suspended on the dense water barely moving their tales was quite unnerving! The air was so cold that a cast into the slightest breeze with that little 4 wt was virtually impossible. The line tip and leader butt would freeze into a candy cane and not open.... There was also some weird hook behavior and the leader looked weird on the water too.

Steelheading a few days after Christmas, I had an interesting thing happen. A nice fish took me on several runs very deep into my backing. By the time I landed that fish, a lot of line had gone back and forth. Anyway, by the time I was ready to fish again, the reel was totally locked up. The runs sprayed water off the wet line everywhere inside but friction kept it liquid. Once the reel sat for a few minutes... I had to take the gear down and put the reel inside my waders. Once it thawed I took it apart, dried it out as best I could with blowing on it and swabbing with a kerchief. That made it usable. Needless to say I wrestled with it the rest of the day.:(

"It's not that I find fishing so important, it's just that I find all other endeavors of Man equally unimportant... And not nearly as much fun!" Robert Traver, Anatomy of a Fisherman
PaulRobertsJanuary 14th, 2016, 10:09 am

Posts: 1776
Yeah, interesting observations, Kurt. I'm assuming (as you probably are) the reason for the strange behavior of the leader on the water and, in particular, the tippet and fly slowly "sliding away" from the fish's mouths might be due to cold water's viscosity.
MartinlfJanuary 15th, 2016, 11:08 pm
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3084
Kurt, my reel froze a couple of times the day I was out. Not so much I couldn't break it free easily, but I've never had ice freeze a reel before. The other thing that happened was I had a double Davy knot break two separate times in an unusual way. I was fishing two nymphs, with the point fly tied on a 18" piece of tippet knotted to the bend of the upper fly. To walk to the next run I had hooked the point fly in a middle guide and looped the line back over the reel as many do to keep the leader outside the guides. As I freed my looped line from under the reel when I arrived at the new spot by slipping the line loop off and over the curve of the reel, the knot popped at eye of the upper fly when I put a bit of pressure on. This happened twice. I had switched to Trouthunter Fluorocarbon, so I started to wonder if it performed poorly in the cold. But I doubt it. Probably just bad knots tied by numb fingers.
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
EntomanJanuary 16th, 2016, 11:28 am
Northern CA & ID

Posts: 2604

Yep. That and the slow movement of the fish. It was a reminder for me how much we count on the fish to assist in a proper hook set as well.


I doubt the problem was your knot. Fluoro is very unreliable in the cold. Co-polymers are better but still problematic. I don't know a dedicated Steelheader (swinger) that uses either. Good old Maxima is still the material of choice, though there are other nylon formulas that are serviceable. For midging trout in the cold, I use copolymer material normally reserved strictly for dry fly use in milder weather. My advice is to leave the fluoro at home when it's really cold.
"It's not that I find fishing so important, it's just that I find all other endeavors of Man equally unimportant... And not nearly as much fun!" Robert Traver, Anatomy of a Fisherman
MartinlfJanuary 16th, 2016, 1:15 pm
Palmyra PA

Posts: 3084
Kurt, thanks for the info! I was wondering about this, especially the second time the knot failed, but wasn't sure. Glad I didn't lose any fish; I guess the water was sufficiently warmer than the air to reduce the chances of a break off with trout attached. The failure happened both times after a stroll. I was eager to try the new stuff out, but will certainly go with nylon next time I venture out into the big chill. I've been using Stroft GTM in the smaller sizes lately, and like its performance so far. Do you have a favorite co-polymer brand for those midging ice breakers?
"He spread them a yard and a half. 'And every one that got away is this big.'"

--Fred Chappell
EntomanJanuary 17th, 2016, 2:17 am
Northern CA & ID

Posts: 2604
You're most welcome, Louis. No, use what you have on hand. I wouldn't go out and buy any just for this purpose. All the major brands seem about the same in this regard (dealing with cold), and I've used a dozen or more in field tests for shops over the years.

I've probably posted this before, but beware of chasing brands based on tested knot strength. I've found there is a trade off. Now this is a generalization, but the higher the strength, the less durable and more susceptible to scoring the materials seem to be. For me, durability and score resistance are more important as all the high grade co-polymers are pretty dammed strong. An 80% material that will keep its knot strength and straitness through lots of fish is more important to me than one that I have to change the knot or tippet more frequently to maintain integrity. When the trout are in the mood I want to keep fishing! :). All the high end brands are so strong now... Remember we are still limited by hook tech that hasn't improved at near the pace. Steel is steel, and improvements can only go so far with it. The light wire hooks practical a generation ago aren't anymore.
"It's not that I find fishing so important, it's just that I find all other endeavors of Man equally unimportant... And not nearly as much fun!" Robert Traver, Anatomy of a Fisherman
EntomanJanuary 17th, 2016, 12:15 pm
Northern CA & ID

Posts: 2604
Btw Paul, I should point out that the viscosity of the water was an issue for the surface tension only as the water below (being a spring creek) was hovering around 50 degrees. 6X looked like rope from the imprint it made! The water's surface seemed "stickier" somehow. Weird... :)
"It's not that I find fishing so important, it's just that I find all other endeavors of Man equally unimportant... And not nearly as much fun!" Robert Traver, Anatomy of a Fisherman

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