Dress for Cold Weather Fly Fishing

Any outdoor recreation presents the possibility of getting wet, even if its just from perspiration. Fly fishing probably offers a better chance of getting wet than most activities. Making the right choices when dressing can make a big difference in comfort if the unexpected happens.

Some fabrics retain their ability to insulate even when wet, and dry from the inside out via body heat. Synthetics and wool fall into this category. Synthetics have the edge in that they dry much faster than wool.

Other fabrics get wet easily and stay wet, losing virtually all of their insulating properties. Put cotton and down in this category. The same thing that makes a cotton T shirt comfortably cool on a hot day can make it downright dangerous if you get cold and wet.

The formula is simple. Think in terms of three layers:

BASE LAYER AKA long underwear. Capilene by Patagonia is the best example. This is a bi-component fabric that literally pushes moisture from the inside to the outside. Quick drying, non-stinky, non-itchy. Comes in a variety of weights but the Midweight is the most useful and has the widest comfort range.

MID OR INSULATING LAYER The old heavy wool sweater in your closet will work here. Synthetic in the form of fleece or a quilted fiber are the best choice. Synthetics, usually a polyester -based fiber, retain their ability to insulate even when wet, and dry more quickly (comparatively). Patagonia Crosstrek, Synchilla and Regulator are top choices in fleece. The Nanopuff and Micropuff quilted pieces are also excellent insulation and add a bit more windproofing.

SHELL LAYER This is your first line of defense and should be a waterproof/breathable fabric laminate. Waterproof/breathable laminates have microscopic pores that allow water vapor from perspiration to escape but liquid water, like rain, will run off. You can spend a lot of money here and pick up genuine durability and a lot of features but something like the Patagonia Torrentshell will get the job done at a very reasonable price.

Specific pieces mentioned here can be used for a wide range of activities—from fly fishing to alpine skiing to walking the pooch. We have listed Patagonia brand equipment because of it’s superb design, function, warranty and support of the company for our sport—there are other very good brands as well. Our local Patagonia retailer is Sulphur Creek Outfitters in Heber Springs.