Finding the motivation to fish during winter can be extremely challenging. With temperatures frequently falling below freezing, the prospect of standing in an icy, cold river can be a daunting proposition to any angler. Fortunately, companies like Simms, Smartwool, and Orvis have taken the guesswork out of how to dress with a wide range of technical apparel for winter conditions. Below, you’ll find information on how to layer correctly, along with a few tips and tricks that we’ve picked up during those frigid days on our local Utah waters. Enjoy our view on Staying Warm On The Water – Winter Layering Spotlight.
Step 1: Baselayer Selection
Your baselayer is the most important piece of apparel to consider when gearing up for winter fishing. The purpose of a quality baselayer is to help wick away sweat during activity in order to keep your body warm and dry. Modern baselayers utilize a variety of materials including polypropylene, merino wool, or other synthetic fabrics. These materials pull moisture away to keep you dry, as opposed to cotton that will retain moisture and freeze. Baselayers are available in a variety of different weights, ranging from lightweight, midweight, or heavyweight. Each different weight will vary in volume and is specific to different weather conditions or activities.
For most winter days on the water, you’ll want to start with a lightweight baselayer like the Simms Lightweight Baselayer Bottom coupled with a midlayer pant like the Simms Thermal Pants. For days that are not so cold, one of these options should suffice when paired with a good pair of socks (more on that later).
The top you choose is a little bit more difficult. You will first want to gauge the outside temperature, as well as the other layers that you will be using on a given day. Our personal favorites are the Simms Heavyweight Baselayer Hoody (for freezing days) or the Simms Lightweight Core Top for those days that aren’t so chilly.
Step 2: Socks (Keep Your Feet Warm & Happy)
Given the fact that you will be standing in a freezing cold river, chances are your feet will be the first part of your body to freeze and potentially cut your day short. Having a good pair of socks can keep your toes warm and your mind focused. For the coldest winter days, we prefer having two pairs of socks. Start with a lightweight, moisture-wicking, calf-length sock and pair that with a heavy-duty sock like the Simms Thermal OTC Sock.
Staff Tip: Have a pair of wading boots a size up from your normal size specifically for winter fishing. This will give your little toes some “wiggle room” and will keep the circulation moving. These boots will also allow you to add additional layers to your feet as needed.
Step 3: Midlayer Tops
After you have your baselayer picked out, it is time to think about your midlayer. Like the baselayer, this midlayer should also be made from merino wool, fleece, or a different synthetic material. This layer should also be snug fitting to trap warmth in and keep cold out. Keep an eye out for options with a zip feature or hood for additional ventilation or warmth potential, respectively. Our favorites in this category include the Simms Thermal ¼ Zip Top or the Howler Brothers Palo Duro Fleece Hoody.
Step 4: Jacket Selection – Under Waders
Now that you have your baselayer and midlayer dialed, next up is a solid jacket. The jacket that you choose is going to insulate you from the wild and cold. Jackets like the Simms Exstream Hooded Jacket or West Fork Jacket are guide favorites for colder January days. If you want something a little lighter, or with less volume, check out the Howler Brothers Voltage Hooded Jacket.
Step 5: Jacket Selection – Over Waders (As Needed)
After you’ve selected the appropriate jacket, you’re almost there. An over-wader jacket is the last layer needed for winter fishing. If there is snow in the forecast, a waterproof, breathable jacket is a must to ensure that you stay warm and dry. A jacket like the Simms ProDry or the G3 Guide Jacket can save the day when the snow flies.
Staff Tip: After you’re all geared up, crank the heat up during your drive to the river. This will get your feet and hands nice and warm.
Step 6: Gloves, Hats, & Other Accessories
Gloves, like a good pair of socks, are essential to keeping your extremities warm and functional. Simply put, it is extremely difficult to rig rods and tie on flies when your fingers are frozen. A vast majority of anglers prefer the classic Simms Wool Half Finger Glove, while others prefer synthetic fold-over mitts like the Orvis Pro Foldover Mitt or the Simms Freestone Foldover Mitt that combine the dexterity of a half finger with the warmth of a traditional mitten.
To round it all out, make sure to keep your face, ears, and head nice and toasty with a warm winter hat. Hats like the Howler Brothers Command Beanie are a staff favorite. For extra chilly or windy days, consider adding your favorite Buff for an added layer of face-hugging warm.
Staff Tip: Find a beanie or winter hat with a little bit of stretch to fit over your favorite ball cap, for a little bit of sun blocking glare reduction out on the water.
There you have it. It is our hope that these tips and tricks help get you out fly fishing this winter season. Take it from us—winter fishing is a great escape from the overcrowded ski resorts. You may even find that winter fishing is your favorite season due to that little bit of extra solitude and productive fishing. For additional info, give us a call at 435.783.6791.