It seems like winter is already rearing its head across the northern US, and that means that its time to break out the winter fishing gear, shake up some hand warmers and hit the water! Being cold on the water just sucks, so here are 5 tips to keep you warm on the water on the hunt for big winter fish.
Don’t Wear Cotton
Cotton is great for keeping you cool because of the way its made up. But as many of you are probably aware of, it soaks up moisture and traps that against your body. Now moisture is the essence of beauty, but it’s also the essence of the cold. Keeping cotton off your skin is the first step to staying warm out on the water. So stick with synthetic breathable fabrics, or go with wool!
Layering Is King (In The North)
Having a few layers on in the winter is great for a few reasons. First, you can always take off a layer if you get too warm. Build your layering so that it works with you to keep you dry. A simple straightforward, layering technique is all that’s needed:
- Base layer – Moisture wicking fabric (Capilene, polypropylene, wool, bamboo etc.)
- Mid layer – Mid-weight breathable fleece
- Outer layer – Down or heaviest insulation layer
- Shell – Keep everything else dry and out of the wind.
Pro Tip: Make sure your outermost shell layer is over top of your waders. This will ensure that any rain or water that hits you remains outside of your waders!
Keep Your Hands Warm
Gloves are a necessity when fishing in the winter if you want your fingers to keep working. But there are tons of different options out there. Most people seem to prefer to use wool fingerless gloves while on the water to allow them to keep in contact with their line. Wool is a great material because it is warm while wet, which makes it the fly fishers’ best friend!
Handwarmers are also a great tool to keep your hands warm and dry. Keep a pair tucked into your wader pockets, and stay toasty all day long!
One of the best tricks to keeping your hands warm on the water is to carry a small towel with you! I like to keep mine tucked between my waders and my belly so it stays warm. Wet hands are cold hands, and keeping a towel around makes keeping your hands dry and warm a breeze.
Keep Your Head Warm
Did you know you lose almost half (40%-45%) of your body heat through your head, so keep that dome covered! Whether its a thick, baller stocking cap or just the hood from your jacket, you will be amazed how much this changes how cold you feel out on the water.
Food and Water
While it may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about staying warm, calorie intake is paramount for staying warm. As it takes energy from food (or fat) to keep your body warm, so make sure you have plenty of snacks and a big breakfast. Water is also imperative in regulating body temperature, so even if you aren’t feeling signs of dehydration, make sure you are drinking water throughout the day.
Don’t Sleep on Your Socks
Socks are an often neglected part of staying warm on the water. If you ask any skier or snowboarder, they will tell you the key to a comfortable day in cold weather is…warm feet. We recommend using a 2-layer system. A pair of light, silk or synthetic liner socks on the inside, these will work their asses off to wick the moisture away from your feet and keep your feet dry. And on the outside, a pair of thick wool socks. Wool is a fabric as old as time since some weird mountain man decided to shave a sheep, we have been keeping ourselves warm with it. Wool also works hard to wick moisture away from your feet and doubles as one of the best insulators out there. Remember to not make your wading boots crazy tight, a little bit of room will allow free and easy blood flow and keep those toes warm!
Bonus: Bring a JetBoil or Compact Camping Stove
I commonly carry my compact Jet Boil camping stove with me on the water in the winter. It can double as a simple hand warming station, kitchen or coffee pot. All things that can save you in the cold and make your day more enjoyable!
Dan Zazworsky’s passion is sharing his love of fly fishing with anyone that will listen, read or watch. You can find him exploring new waters every day while chasing any fish that will eat a fly!