Writing about winter fishing, in late summer seems strange. But this is the time of year, when many manufacturers announce their winter line-up of clothing and over the following weeks it will start appearing in stores.
I can sense fall in the air, the suffering temperatures of the Summer heatwaves seem to be over, replaced with a nice chill in the air. These cooler temperatures will soon be reflected in the water temperatures and the trout will once start become more active. At this time of year, the trout feed strongly to get ready for spawning and the lean winter months ahead.
As fishermen, we can also use this time to plan ahead, and get ready for the freezing months. Some fishermen get excited, and get out their ice fishing kits. That is certainly not me. I prefer my water liquid.
I know many trout fishermen who simply pack away with rod and reels, and wait until the warmer months to return. In normal years, some will choose to escape the cold entirely and escape to the Southern Hemisphere to explore the trout rivers of New Zealand or Patagonia.
This year, most of us will stick close to home. S to enjoy winter fishing, we must dress appropriately and do our best to avoid getting wet. So lets discuss what to wear when cold weather trout fishing.
Fishing Brands vs outdoor brands?
Most fishing brands will be releasing their outdoor collections, and they will be appearing in stockiest across the country. A question, I have often pondered, is there any reason to buy a Simms or Orvis clothing instead of an outdoor brand targeting hikers.
Will, there is not much difference between the material, construction and basic fit. They are all just clothing after all. A Simms fleece hat, will not keep you any warmer than a Marmot one.
But, there are a few reasons why as fishermen will prefer to buy and wear the clothing from the fishing brands. The biggest reason is color, clothing targeted at trout fishermen is usually more natural, designed to blend into the background rather than to stand out.
Secondarily, fishing brands often include additional small accessories. While not essential, it does make them slightly more useful.
The final reason, is that we get to support the brands and fishing shops which provide the rest of the gear. If I was to spend $60 on a new fleece, I will rather it goes to my local fly shop than to a hiking store. But, if I can buy a comparable product elsewhere, for a considerable saving I will likely do that. I like to support the fishing industry, but I support my wallet first.
Best hats and headwear for winter fly fishing?
My favorite way to keep my head warm on a cold winters day is a wool beanie. They fit snug, covers the ears and provides and excellent warmth to weight ratio. Not to mention they stay warm when wet, naturally breath and is odor resistant.
Wool typically costs slightly more than synthetic but I feel it is worthwhile. There are many options on the market, and there is not much that separates them so I am not going to recommend any particular model.
Another option, are insulted caps. While not quite as warm, they do provide a peak which can help spotting fish. Simms makes a few good ones.
Best face covering for winter fishing?
I usually do not cover my face, but I try to avoid fishing when it is extremely cold. If I do find my skin starting to burn, I find a wool neck gaiter does a great job blocking the wind. For people with wool allergies, there are synthetic alternatives. I personally been wearing a Smartwool Unisex Merino Wool Neck Gaiter.
I find full balaclavas a bit too restricting and they can interfere with my hearing.
I mostly just wear layers. That way, if I get a bit warm I can remove an out layer. Some people might disagree, but I usually wear an insulated down jacket then throw my fishing vest on overtop.
If it is windy and freezing, I simply will not be fishing. A cold wind simply cuts through all but the most impenetrable of clothing making for very unpleasant fishing conditions.
Good quality gloves in my opinion are the most essential piece of gear for enjoyable winter fishing. They are also the piece of clothing I struggle most with. There is simply not a perfect pair of gloves, they are all compromises.
My fingers, get cold faster than any other part of my body and fingerless gloves simply do not keep me warm. If I want to be able to tie knots, and use my hands I need warm hands but if I cover them with thick gloves I lack the dexterity to tie knots.
I have found that fold over mittens are the best compromise. My fingers still can get cold, but they are much warmer than the alternatives. Orvis and Simms both make several versions. For the money, I am quite fond of the Orvis Softshell Convertible Mitts, but I still try and keep them dry.
If I know I will get wet hands, I wear neoprene gloves and simply forget about changing lures.
Pants and feet
Keeping warm is all about keeping dry. If I have to wade, there is no chance I will allow my pants to become wet. Waders are all but essential at this time of year.
Beneath the waders, I will wear fleece pants, and beneath them a woolen or thermal base layer.
If I just plan on walking the backs, I sometimes get away with insulated gumboots. To keep my feet warm, I generally wear thick woolen socks.
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