- Winter fly fishing can be quite productive if you are sufficiently dressed to handle the cold. There are many current materials that are great for wicking, layering and blocking wind and rain/snow. Here are a few tips to make your next winter outing a bit warmer.
Start with a wicking layer close to the skin. By wicking I mean a poly or silk type sock, top and bottom that pull moisture away from the skin. These products do not hold moisture and therefore transfer any perspiration away from the skin keeping you from getting clammy and cold.
Next, put on a layer or two of fleece. Fleece is a synthetic fiber that doesn’t hold water. Fleece is generally sold in “series” denominations. 100 series, 200 series and so on. The higher the number the more insulation it provides. In really cold conditions two or three layers of fleece may be necessary. Fleece has several attributes that appeal to a fly fisher. First, it doesn’t hold water so even if soaked you can shake most of the water out of it and it allows perspiration to pass through to maximize the breathability of a quality wader or jacket. Second, it weighs very little and doesn’t have much bulk so you don’t have to look like the Michelin Man when you don a few layers. Third, fleece insulates very well so when teamed with a set of waders and wind/water blocking jacket it adds a lot of warmth.
End with a wind and waterproof shell. Gore-Tex is my favorite product for this purpose. It is very breathable and durable. A set of Gore-Tex waders and a Windstopper or Gore-Tex jacket will keep the wind and moisture from reaching your skin and will maximize the insulating effect of your fleece mid-layers. If Gore-Tex products are not in your budget look for other breathable, windproof shells. There are many brands available in waders and jackets at lower price points. They won’t have the same performance as Gore-Tex but they will leave your wallet a bit thicker.
Head, hands and feet:
Wearing a beanie, balaclava or even a Mad Bomber hat will significantly increase your body temperature. Much of the body’s heat is lost through the head so retaining that heat is crucial. Wool or Windstopper fleece fingerless gloves are best for your hands. Wool insulates even when wet and Windstopper fleece blocks wind and insulates. I like the fingerless versions so I can still tie knots and feel the fly line while fishing. Your feet will be in cold water much of the day so they are tough to keep warm. I find a thin wicking sock teamed with a quality wool sock keep my toes toasty the longest. It is important to leave some room in your boot to allow good circulation. Too many socks will work against you rather than warm you.
Remember that “cotton kills” in the outdoors. Cotton is a very comfortable fiber for wearing around the house or office but it holds water which makes your skin cold and clammy equaling cold head, shoulders, knees and toes… Avoid cotton while fishing. I often harass some of my fishing friends who routinely show up wearing jeans under their $500 waders. Even the best breathable products can’t breathe if you wear moisture holding clothes under them. Make sure you have wicking products and you’ll have a warm, comfortable day on the water.
Stay warm, and keep after the cold weather fish!