Fly fishers are not like golfers or skiers, who put their equipment away when the season ends. For many of us, “the season” lasts 12 months through the heat of summer and the worst winter can bring. We might switch species as the seasons change, but winter doesn’t slow us down. In fact, winter is the best time in many places to catch steelhead, giant Great Lakes brown trout, or tailwater trout. Here’s the best new outerwear on the market especially designed to help you stay out there longer in extreme weather, and be happier doing it. Best New Winterized Outerwear
Redington Subzero Wader
Step back to a time before breathable waders. Yes, neoprene was terrible in the summer, but in the winter it kept you warm and also made you buoyant in the event you slipped and fell into icy water. Redington’s SubZero Wader ($300, redington.com) has 5 mm neoprene booties, and 3 mm neoprene on the seat and legs to shield against the cold of an icy river. Not only does the neoprene serve to keep you warm, it adds extra durability to high-wear areas. From the crotch up through the chest, the wader has 4-layer breathable fabric, with 100 grams of insulation in the fleece-lined handwarmer pocket. These are waders built to deal with the most adverse winter conditions, but they also have creature comforts like a zippered outside pocket, flip-out tool pocket, forceps dock, and hypalon retractor dock.
In the winter, you never know what you’re going to find at the river—bare rocks, ice, deep snow. The Korkers Guide Boot (KGB) lets you meet changing conditions with the OmniTrax interchangeable sole system. The KGB ($229, korkers.com) comes with both Vibram IdroGrip & Studded IdroGrip soles. You never want to use felt in the winter, as snow sticks to the bottoms and can have you walking on platform shoes very quickly. The Vibram IdroGrip soles are great for all-around winter use and will help you tractor through mud and snow. For especially icy conditions, switch to the studded IdroGrip soles to help you bite into the hard stuff. If you want to upgrade to serious ice soles, look at Korkers IceTrac ($30) or IceTrac Extreme ($40) soles shown here.
Patagonia 3-in-1 River Salt Jacket
Patagonia has a long history of keeping mountaineers, snowboarders, and now fly fishers warm in the worst weather. The new 3-in-1 River Salt jacket ($549, patagonia.com) can be worn three ways: as a waterproof breathable shell, as a light jacket, or you can snap the two together for winter snow, sleet, and cold rain. The inside jacket is Patagonia’s Nano Puff Shirt, with inside and outside fabric produced from 100% recycled polyester, and 60 grams of PrimaLoft ONE insulation (which is also 70% recycled). Making a warm jacket isn’t enough, it must also adhere to the ethic of “reduce, repair, reuse, recycle, reimagine.” The exterior shell is Patagonia’s River Salt Jacket, made from the same 4-layer H2No breathable fabric as Patagonia waders, with a Nanosphere durable water repellent finish which unlike most other DWRs, does not contain perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). PFOAs are bioaccumulative persistent chemicals that do not break down, and studies have shown levels of PFOAs are on the rise in humans, fish, and the environment. The shell has three TPU-coated, water-repellent front zip pockets sized for fly boxes, a waterproof RiRi Aquazip front zipper, and watertight adjustable cuffs. The vented, adjustable hood is built to stay in place at high boat speeds.
Patagonia R 1 Gloves
Here’s all you need to know about Patagonia’s neoprene fishing gloves. You can tie a #18 Parachute Adams to 5X tippet while wearing them. You can also pinch and strip fly line, and the waterproof gloves not only keep you warm, they keep you dry. While some other gloves have more insulation and keep you warmer in Arctic conditions, the R-1 gloves ($40, patagonia.com) have the tactile functionality you need while fishing. One more advantage: with wool fingerless gloves, flies constantly and annoyingly catch on the fibers. This doesn’t happen with the R-1 gloves due to the smooth, skinlike exterior. The interior is polypropylene that dries quickly when you turn the gloves inside out.
Simms Bulkley Jacket
Three powerful outerwear brands teamed up to create this incredibly warm fishing parka. The Bulkley ($280, simmsfishing.com) has waterproof GORE-TEX fabric on the outside, PrimaLoft ONE insulation on the inside, and is constructed by Simms with exterior fly-box-size pockets, and a Velcro-loop drying patch for flies. Rain and snow can’t penetrate the GORE-TEX face fabric, but if you fall in, or if rain leaks up into the sleeve while you’re casting, here’s the good news: PrimaLoft ONE is the warmest wet or dry insulation on the market. While down goes flat when wet and loses its insulation value, PrimaLoft ONE keeps its loft—that’s why you see it in sleeping bags on Mt. Everest, and in the jackets of people who climb partially frozen waterfalls. Get this stuff wet, and you still stay warm. It’s perfect for winter steelheading in Pulaski, winter midge hatches at Lees Ferry, or chasing October browns on the Madison.
Simms Coldweather Shirt
A “technical” fishing shirt shouldn’t always make you look a geeked-out futuristic fisherman. Simms proves with its new ColdWeather Shirt ($100, simmsfish ing.com) that you can have highly functional clothes that look and feel casual. The exterior is a brushed flannel in two colors any lumberjack would be proud of: redwood plaid, or black-olive plaid. Inside, the shirt is lined with synthetic micro- fleece. You can wear this shirt as a layer in truly cold conditions, and on those warmer, sunny winter afternoons, wear it by itself. The two large front pockets are perfect for stashing fly boxes and a tippet spool or two.