Dressing for Winter

Dressing for Winter
We have been blessed thus far with a very nice autumn weather pattern. Heck, at the time of this writing, November 1st, I went wet-wading last night to gig a couple flounder for the table. Conditions change quickly though, and I awoke to 20 mph north wind. I do not know if I am bummed or excited to have had to actually break out a jacket this morning for the first time this fall.

As fly-fishermen, we have it better than any other group of anglers. The companies that were started by fly fishermen in support of fly fishermen, do not sacrifice quality when it comes to manufacturing the gear that we use. Surprisingly, the only other group whose needs are as extreme (and are as hard on the gear) are Texas wade-fisherman and, guess what? Many of them choose gear (Simms) designed by and for fly-fishermen.

I think I am safe in speaking for everyone in saying, the more comfortable you are, the more you can enjoy an experience. If you are too hot, well, there is not much that can be done about it except to strip down to your skivvies, however, if you are too cold, you can always add clothing. Mind you, there is a point when it gets too cold to do anything in the outdoors. When you get to that point, I think we are starting to talk about survival instead of recreation. And, hopefully, it will never get that cold in Texas.

Anyway, the point of this piece is to talk about clothing that will get you through the months of winter fishing ahead.

The trick to dressing right for fly fishing in cold weather is clothing that not only keeps you dry and warm, does not restrict your mobility, and does not have too many snags. By snags I mean extra pockets, zippers or gizmos that grab your fly-line. This usually happens when you are making that critical cast to a monster fish. In short, try to avoid jackets and parkas with pocket flaps or exposed zipper tabs.

As for warm and dry, I will discuss how I choose to layer my clothing.

I start with a base layer that includes either the old River Tech or the newer Core tops and bottoms from Simms. This provides layering that will not absorb moisture. If it is a particularly cold day, I will trade them out for a Merino Zip T and bottom from Sitka Gear. As for my feet, I like to wear a silk sock liner under wool socks. I have several pairs of socks in different thicknesses to cover a range of temperatures. One tip that I will offer is to size your base layers with a loose fit. Most of these garments are designed for snug fit but I prefer some room to trap warm air and also to avoid restricting blood flow. Also, I prefer tops that zip down so that if I break a sweat, I can zip the tops down and let warm air and moisture escape.

My next layer will be Simms Cold Weather Pants or their newer version, the Exstream Pant. I then like the Traverse Hoody from Sitka Gear for my top. I prefer the Sitka top because when you zip it up, the zipper is off to the side and not on top of your nose. That can be aggravating, especially when a hard wind is pushing it down while running in the boat.

Next comes the Gore Windstopper. Sitka makes a light and a super-light vest called the Jet Stream and the Jet Stream Lite that include the Windstopper laminate. These things are awesome, and in my opinion, one of the most critical parts of my system. The reason for the vest is to help keep things from getting too tight and restricting the mobility of my shoulders/arms for casting or poling. And, while we are on the subject of Windstopper, I will jump ahead and mention gloves and a hat made with the same material. Also, if you are not expecting to get wet, Simms and Sitka makes some great jackets utilizing Windstopper technology. Folks, if you do not have at least a jacket, ask for one for Christmas. You will not regret it.

Next, you need to add an outer-layer to keep you dry while riding in a nasty chop or if it decides to rain. I prefer the Simms Pro Dry jacket and bibs because of the Gore-Tex stretch material in the shoulders and elbows. I find this material to be very beneficial in regards to maintaining mobility. Should I chose to wade-fish, I guess it goes without saying- Simms Gore-Tex waders.

Last but not least: footwear for the skiff. Over the years, I have tried numerous brands, looking for the perfect shoe for winter fishing. For a while, Simms had a high-top Gore-Tex boat shoe that I really liked but it has been discontinued. Had I known, I would have bought five pairs. However, there is a silver lining.

Chippewa Boots make a waterproof, high-top upland boot that is perfect for the skiff. It is marketed as the Upland Waterproof Boot and they are almost criminally comfortable. This boot has non-marking soles and can be purchased in wide sizes. This is great for winter when you might be wearing a heavy sock. In regards to me emphasizing the "high-top" aspect of the shoes that I choose–I find it essential to be able to pull your bibs or pants down over the high-tops so that no water can run into your shoe. I have tried low-top shoes and, I can tell you with great certainty–get you some high-tops for winter. Nothing sucks more than cold, wet feet.

And, one final piece of advice in regards to footwear, it is very important, whether talking about boat shoes or wading boots, do not wear shoes that are too tight. You want plenty of room so that the blood can flow. Good circulation is important when trying to stay warm. Whether you are talking your head, hands or feet–cold extremities will make for a miserable day. Which reminds me, it is a good practice to always carry extra socks as well as gloves and hat.

I assume that it goes without saying that the point of layering your clothing is so that you can remove or add items as conditions change. That being said, I find my system to be very comfortable and have yet to have a winter day in Texas beat it. Even while doing 60 mph into a 25 mph north wind while the thermometer was reading 40 to go wade fishing with a buddy in his SCB. Wowthe crazy crap we do to catch a fish.

Anyway, best of tides, Merry Christmas.and all kinds of stuff like that.