Winter Fly Fishing Tips: How to Deal with Ice in your Guides

Few things in fly fishing compare to the experience of slowly roll casting your way up a run, reveling in the beauty and serenity of the river in which you stand, only to have your best roll cast of the day fall short, splashing unceremoniously and spooking all the trout within sight.

Upon closer inspection you see that the reason your cast didn’t make it – thick beads of ice have your fly line stuck into place.

This is a common plague for those of us who love fly fishing in the winter, or any of the year’s cooler months. Ice in the guides is a giant pain in the ass, but luckily, there are a few things you can do to either mitigate it or avoid it completely.




I was skeptical when I heard this tip, too. But after giving it a shot for a few days it turned out to be effective.

Just rub the chapstick across your line guides before getting on the water and you’ll see a noticeable difference in how quickly ice forms in your guides. This tip won’t completely eliminate ice buildup, but if you just need to keep the ice at bay for the first cold hours of the morning, this will do the trick.

Cooking Spray

I’ve never tried this one myself, but enough of my steelheading buddies swear by it that I have to acknowledge it here. Steelheaders are the leading experts in fishing in horrible weather, so questioning this method seems futile.

Just make sure your guides are as dry as possible before applying the cooking spray, and you should see less ice forming on your guides throughout the day. Again, cooking spray won’t eliminate ice buildup. From everything I’ve heard, though, it works much better than chapstick.

Dunk the Rod

I spend a lot of time throwing streamers from a drift boat on the Green River in Utah. It just so happens that this time of year is some of the best streamer fishing you’ll ever see on the Green (and in the country, for that matter). Some days the temps barely break 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

On those days you only get a cast or two in before the ice builds up. At that point, simply dunking your rod in the water and letting the water (which is warmer than the air) melt the ice is a great, pain-free way to go in getting rid of ice.

Leave the Guides Alone

There’s a difference between drying rod guides before applying more chapstick or cooking spray, and breaking ice out of the guides.

Now, I’m guilty of this as much as the next guy. It’s quick, easy, and you don’t have to try and remember what pocket you put the chapstick in.

The problem is that ripping ice out of your guides by hand a) makes your hands colder that much quicker and b) really does a number on your guides. Broken guides don’t spell the end of a fly rod like they used to, but they’ll put a quick end to an otherwise good day on the water.

Lastly, remember this – there’s really only one way to avoid ice buildup on your guides: Don’t go fishing in the winter 😉

For flies and gear to take you all the way through the winter visit

Spencer Durrant is a fly fishing writer, outdoors columnist, and novelist from Utah. His work has appeared in Field & Stream, Hatch Magazine, and Sporting Classics, in addition to other national publications. Connect with him on Twitter/Instagram, @Spencer_Durrant.

2 thoughts on “Winter Fly Fishing Tips: How to Deal with Ice in your Guides

  1. Wikivela December 26, 2018 / 4:24 pm

    True fishing in winter is very hard and thank you for this experience.

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