Winter. Everyone always shudders when they think of the cold. Especially standing in a cold river. The only people that I am aware of that relish in the idea are die-hard anglers. Fly fishing in Winter can be a thing of mystic and magic for some, filled with solitude and tranquility on beautiful waters. For others, it can be downright miserable since the states they live in have closed seasons for trout. The gang here at Katala are blessed to live in a state that has a year-round trout fishery. No closed seasons, and the fishing is always as good as your comfort level can stand.
Let’s dig into the fashion side of things…
WADERS are a necessary piece of equipment for every angler that fishes in cooler climates. There are countless companies producing waders these days, and almost all of them brag about how warm and dry you will be in them. However, most anglers end up wet and cold by lunch. Why is that?… It all comes down to the type of fabric you wear under your waders and how your under wader garments are layered. First off, denim is a huge no-no. Denim may feel soft to the touch, but it can wreak havoc on the breathable waterproof membrane on the inside of the waders. You’ll be dry one day, and damp the next. Always choose a soft synthetic fabric to wear inside your waders.
Next, let’s talk about LAYERS. Moisture wicking fabrics are a dime a dozen these days. When very warm and very cold surfaces come in contact, there will always be condensation. You can wear 5 different layers of moisture wicking fabrics at one time, and each layer will work together to move condensation and sweat away from your body. Don’t be surprised if you slip out of your coat and your outermost layer feels damp, but your limbs and body feels dry. That means the clothing you are wearing is doing it’s job, and doing it well. I usually wear two layers under my waders, and three layers up top. I start with a pair of thick Capalene long johns, and then a pair of super heavy pants made to wear under waders. I prefer the Patagonia Nano Puff Pants. They are quilted and filled with Primaloft insulation. It’s a really neat filler that is close to wool in its warmth, but most importantly it’s ability to keep you warm even when it’s soaking wet. On my torso, I begin with a thick Capalene shirt, followed by a heavy synthetic sweater, and then a regular jacket or heavy coat depending on weather conditions. One of my favorite pieces to layer is a Patagonia Micro Puff jacket. It’s also quilted, and contains the same Primaloft insulation as the Nano Puff pants. It’s super light, coming in at 3oz., and it’s packable to the point you can stuff it into its own zipper pocket. By far the most important part of my apparel arsenal.
Good SOCKS are hard to beat. Anytime you see a good deal on really nice wool socks, jump on it. Wool is not cheap, and not all wool apparel is made the same. When most people think of wool, they reminisce about the days when wool clothing felt as scratchy as the steel wool you find in the cleaning supplies isle at the grocery store. This is not the case any longer. Major advances have been made with wool, especially at the genetic level. Merino wool is the pinnacle of the wool world. It’s soft, it’s warm, and it feels like you’re wrapped up in a blanket in front of a fireplace, sans the hot cocoa. Wool and polyester blends are out there, and it works great as long as the ratio leans heavily on the wool side. Darn Tough, Wigwam, and Smart Wool are brands that have a wide range of options from summer weight on up to something you’d want to wear to climb Mt. Everest.
Speaking of wool, any time you have an option to wear wool in winter, wear it. Whether you’re stuck on the side of an old Forestry Service road in a broken down truck, Ice skating with the family, or if you happened to fall in the river, wool will keep you warm. It could even save your life in the most dire cold weather situations.
Don’t focus heavily on the aesthetics, even though most fly anglers do. Get the best gear you can afford, and it will repay you many times over with pleasurable experiences on the water. Face it, fly fishing looks cool enough on its own. You don’t have to have win the Mr/Ms American Angler pageant to be comfortable on the river, but good gear still looks… well… good!