With much of the country still well in the midst of what is beginning to seem like an interminable winter, cabin fever has sent many of us out to the stream on days which would typically keep us indoors in the warmth and comfort of home. Fishing on those frigid days can be frustrating at times. You're cold. The fish are lethargic. Conditions are tough. And your rod guides and tip keep icing up, causing you to have to break from fishing to clear the ice. Patience can wear thin.
Although there's nothing you can do to improve the cold temperatures, sluggish fish and lousy conditions, you can put a dent in the frustrations that come from iced up tips and guides by experimenting with one or more of the remedies below.
Stanley's Ice Off Paste
This is the only remedy of the few listed here that is actually made for the topic at hand. A Loon Outdoors product, Stanley's Ice Off Paste is designed for the sole purpose of keeping ice off fly rod guides. According to Loon, it is the only product designed with this goal in mind. As such, it is a specialty product, and thus comes at a premium price. You'll pay $7.50 for a small container of paste which you smear on to your guides before hitting the water and as needed while the day goes on. Although the price isn't exactly wallet bursting, it is significantly pricier than the other available remedies. For that price jump, however, you'll get a product that is designed for, tested on and declared safe for your rod and fly lines by a company that makes nothing but fly fishing products.
Chap-stick lip balm and other similar products are a favorite homemade remedy of many fishermen for preventing, or at least delaying, icy buildup on rod guides. Similar in consistency to Stanley's Ice Off Paste, Chap-stick will significantly cut down on the amount of ice that builds up on your guides. While there's no evidence regarding how the ingredients in lip balms will affect the resins on your rod and the coatings on your fly line over time, the reality is that gear won't likely see enough exposure to those ingredients -- unless you're very frequently out fishing in icy conditions -- to make a difference. Some anglers have voiced concerns about the potential fish-chasing effects of lip balm scents/odors disseminated into the water, but we're betting these worries are likely overblown as well.
PAM Cooking Spray
A noted favorite of steelheaders, many of which claim it to be the ultimate rod de-icer, PAM cooking spray has been shown to help slow the build up of ice. And, as you likely guessed, there's no reason to go name brand here. Grab the cheap store brand stuff. Spray it on before hitting the water, and if you're so inclined, carry it along for reapplications throughout the day. When re-applying on the stream, you'll want to be sure that your guides are clear of ice as dry as you can conveniently make them, to help the spray adhere.
One Other Thing
If you're clearing icy buildup from your rod guides or rod tip by snapping or plucking it off with your fingers, please stop. This is no more than a recipe for a broken guide, not to mention a tedious waste of time. Instead, simply dip the rod into the water, which is warmer than the air and allow it to melt the ice away.