Layering for Coldweather Fly Fishing

As anglers we are always in search of ways to maximize our time on the water.  One of the primary ways that you can make the most out of any trip is by layering properly.  The ability to take pieces of highly packable, specialized clothing off as the day moves on will keep you comfortable at all times out on the water, allowing you to fish from sunrise to sunset without breaking a sweat or listening to chattering teeth.  But first we need to understand what components one must have in order to make this theory a reality.

The Base Layer:




The Base Layer will be the layer coming in direct contact with your skin. A base layer should be form fitting and snug in most cases because that will maximize its moisture wicking capabilities, (meaning it will draw moisture away from the skin and spread it across the fabric so it can more efficiently evaporate.)  Since this is the layer closest to the skin it’s always nice when it doesn’t hold an odor, so be on the lookout for products that are “anti-microbial”. (note: all wool fibers are naturally anti-microbial, but not all synthetics are so make sure to check when purchasing a synthetic garment to see if it does have an anti-microbial additive to the fabric).  Also make sure to avoid cotton like the plague in a layering situation.  Cottons inherent qualities make it work against you in extreme weather by taking warmth from your body when wet and holding that moisture as opposed to wicking it away. Another thing to keep in mind when deciding on a base layer is to plan on where you are going and whether you will need a lightweight, midweight, or heavyweight base layer.  This all depends on you!  If you tend to run hot sometimes it’s a good idea to jump down a level based on where you’re going and visa versa if you run on the colder side it could be a good idea to wear a heavyweight base layer when most would wear a midweight.

Lightweight Recommendation: Midweight Recommendation:

The Mid Layer:

The Mid Layer will be the layer that will provides the majority of your warmth out on the water.  We like to think about it as the “Loft” layer.  This means that we’re going to be talking about fleeces and synthetic down alternative jackets.  Why not down you say? Traditional goose down is great for most occasions but as fisherman we need to stray away for one important reason.

Natural down loses all insulating qualities once it’s wet whereas synthetic down will retain up to 95% of its insulating nature even after taking an unexpected dip in that cold water.  With any of these mid layer jackets we still want to reduce bulk so it is important to find something that you can still move in.  One of my favorites is the Simms Fall Run Jacket.

 Featuring the best synthetic insulation on the market, PrimaLoft (which is known for being highly packable and lightweight), it will keep you warm while not having you feel like the Michelin Man waddling down stream.Another great option for midweight layer is a good quality insulated flannel.  But just remember, think packable for this layer as well because you might not have it on all day, so avoid bulky mid layers when possible.

Layering for coldweater fly fishing
LCO Favorite Midweight Recommendation:

The Outer Layer:

The Outer Layer, also referred to as a Shell Layer, is going to be your main protection against the harsh elements.  A good Outer Layer should be highly wind resistant and highly waterproof while hopefully being breathable.  As far as hitting all these requirements no product is going to be better than ones that feature a Gore-Tex liner.  Gore-Tex has been so successful for so long because they were the first to create a membrane that was fully waterproof outside but still allowed for moisture from the body to escape through the fabric.  No fishing jacket does this better than the Simms G4 Pro Jacket or Simms Slick Jacket. But they do tend to be a little on the thicker side, so if you are looking for an outer layer that can be packed away in a backpack for a last resort or a backpacker heading into some high mountain water the Simms Hyalite Rain Jacket is an amazing option.  This ultralight jacket by Simms also boasts a breathable construction that can easily pack down to the size of an orange in your pack.  With any Outer Layer Jacket care for the product becomes very important.  With an outer layer the garment is rarely touching your skin so believe it or not, you don’t need to wash them that often.  When washed the DWR coatings, which keep the fabric hydrophobic, start to wear away.  Another thing that can break down this DWR coating quite rapidly is putting the jacket in the dryer so we recommend that when you do need to wash your outer layer try to wash it on a delicate cycle and hang it up to dry.  If you’re jacket does down the line start to absorb water rather than repel it, you can revitalize the DWR coating by washing it with a product like Revivex

Outer Layer Recommendations:

Lightweight Outer Layer Recommendations:

Simms G4 Pro Jacket

Simms Slick Jacket

Simms Hyalite Jacket

Lost Coast Outfitters Top Layering Picks