This time of year, it’s important to stay warm and dry while on the river. Layers are everything. Here is what we believe to be a good system of clothing to wear on your next cold weather fly fishing adventure.
The sole purpose of the base layer is to help wick moisture away from your body. Thankfully, you don’t have to wear the same old, itchy long underwear your grandfather wore in the trenches of the great war. Today, there are many different options to choose from: synthetics, silk and merino wool. Synthetic is nice because of its ability to keep the wearer super dry and is durable, but it’s not the most comfortable to wear all day. Silk has moderate wicking capability and although it is smooth against your skin, it may slide down and has a short lifespan. I opt for merino wool because it keeps your skin dry, is breathable, doesn’t stink, and it’s super comfortable. I have owned a set of the WoolX mid-weight base layer for a couple of years and I’m very happy with their performance. Don’t forget your buff and a nice pair of Smart Wool socks!
Your body is a source of heat, much like the furnace in your cozy home, it needs insulation to retain that heat. The two items I suggest everyone should have to help them stay insulated are a polyester fleece and an insulated jacket.
Polyester is great because it dries extremely fast, it breathes well, and will continue to insulate even when damp. There are many different designs and brands available. I like mine to have thumb holes, so I can keep my hands warm and still tie knots. I also prefer a hood because I may not always remember a hat to keep my ears warm.
Insulated jackets come in both synthetic and down options. While a nice down jacket may be lighter and can provide outstanding insulation, I opt for a synthetic jacket. A classic down jacket can be expensive and loses its ability to insulate well when it becomes wet. There is down material that is engineered to be waterproof, so if you decide to buy down, make sure it will hold up to a little fall in the river. Synthetic jackets continue to provide good insulation even when they are wet and are the economical choice. As they get packed down, the synthetic material can lose insulation, so hang it next to your sleeping bags as soon as you get home! Companies such as North Face, Patagonia, and Marmot all have their own version of this jacket.
Your final layer is meant to keep you dry in the rain and snow and help block the wind. The options available for rain jackets are endless but since the focus of this article is fishing in the winter, you should have something a little more than substantial than the jacket you may use in the summer. I wear a Simms GOR-TEX jacket. Another great option besides GOR-TEX is the H2No by Patagonia, their River Salt Jacket is great. Look for a jacket which has plenty of room for your other layers underneath it and will not constrict your movements. You’ll also want a jacket with neoprene cuffs or Velcro straps to keep water from running down your arms when you get that fish.
Just like having the right flies with you, having the proper clothes can make or break your trip. Layer up!
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