When non-fishing friends see weather like this they can't believe I'm still gonna pack my gear and hit the stream.
Ben took this great shot of me once the snow started to fall last weekend. It portrays accurately how severe the weather can be in the winter, but also that you can fish comfortably and even enjoy yourself.
I will fish rain or shine just about every week. So if the weather is looking grim, I need gear that is going to keep me toasty. I've tried a bunch of stuff over the last few years and here are some of the stand out pieces.
From Top to Bottom:
The Hat - Simms Goretex Exstream Hat
This thing is perfect for any sub 30 degree adventures or if there is a windchill. I find my ears and neck tend to get freezer burned if I'm out for hours in arctic conditions. The chin straps keeps the hat on tight even if the wind is howling. No need for ear muffs. Once the sun comes out and it warms up to a balmy 35 degrees you can lift the flaps and get some ventilation.
The Buff - UV XL Buff Santana
I love the classic bandana look. I have one in red, blue and gray. It covers the nape of my neck that is exposed beneath the hat and above the collar of my undershirt and Jacket. It's sometimes just a centimeter of bare skin, but when there is a breeze it can be super irritating. They make a heavier fleece version, but I like the regular UV material since I tend to overheat with the fleece around my neck. I use these in the summer to prevent sunburns.
The Jacket - Patagonia Nano Air Jacket
I've waited a long time for a lightweight jacket that I could wear to work and for outdoor adventures. The new Nano Air Jacket is a great solution. It sheds moisture in the light rain and snow. And it keeps you warm and wind proof. It is designed to vent heat for active sports like cross country skiing or snow shoeing. I did a 3 mile hike along the Provo a few weeks ago and didn't overheat or feel constricted. I was able to wear this jacket throughout the 20 degree to 50 degree span of temperatures that day.
- the light stretchy fabric shell is easy to snag and fray with things like velcro or stray flies.
- they only come in a slim athletic fit, so for non athletic, fat dudes like me you may need a size up.
- the sleeves are a little hard to push up when you want to reach into the stream to unhook a fish, so you either have to get it wet (which I don't love during winter) or struggle a bit to get the cuffs up and over your big guns (fore arms)
- if it's raining hard you will still need a water proof Jacket.
The Mitts - Chota Stow A Way Fleece Mittens
I've tried many other options, going gloveless (too cold), neoprene (too slippery and not warm), Simms foldover mitt (thinner for more feel, but still cumbersome and came apart after a few fishing trips), regular ski gloves - no dexterity.
I was skeptical when the guys at Fish Tech Outfitters recommended these gloves. They said they are the warmest glove they sell. They were right. Made of a windproof fleece they stay warm even if they get wet. Like all the fold over mitten options the mitten cap and the thumb cap can catch your line and tippet, so I will often just remove the whole glove, tie, then re-glove. But I can fish with warm fingers.
The Rod - Any Tenkara rod (The Oni, Ito, Sato are good choices)
Especially one with a little back bone for slinging some weight and a long reach. I prefer a 13 foot or longer rod since I'm pretty much limited to tailwaters in the winter there is no concern for overhead obstacles. The line and flies can freeze, but there are no guides to worry about and dunking everything in the stream for a few seconds usually defrosts your rig.
The Rig - The Smith Creek Rig Keeper for pre-strung nymph rigs and droppers.
This saved my fingers from freezing especially when dealing with tiny flies like size 20-22 zebra midges. I pretie droppers and wrap them around the rig keeper. I even store spare lines pre-rigged with up to 3 flies in case the conditions change like wind gusts or if there is a brief dry fly window. It clips right to my waders so I don't have to fish around looking for it. It just works.