My buddies have been pulling their weight on our steelhead streams. At least that's what they've been telling me. That's certainly what I've be viewing on social media as well. I usually don't steelhead much until after deer season. That's Jan 1st in my home state. Mistake or not I've been deer hunting hard. I fill my freezer every year since I've been on my own and deer hunting is the way I do it. I love to pursue whitetails and it also sustains me throughout the year.
Hunting is winding down and I have a renewed vigor for late season muzzleloader. Weather gets nasty and the deer have to get on their feet to feed - usually right before dark. It has been in the twenties the last couple days and even got down into the single digits recently. Makes for some good but real cold mid-morning hunting and evening sits.
Regardless of the weather - if you’re fishing or hunting, the right cold weather gear is essential. Without it you can't do it well. So being prepared is something I spend a lot of time and resources on.
Hunting for me goes like this: layers and layers, wool vest, gore-tex shell, gloves, mittens, hand warmers, wool socks with merino wool liners, sitting bibs and coat, and gore-tex/fleece face mask.
Fishing goes like this: two pairs of wool blend socks, fleece pants, bootfit breathable waders, wading belt, layers, sweatshirt, wool vest, sweatshirt, wading jacket, hat, and fingerless gloves.
There are a few things that I've learned over the years spending time in frigid water and weather. Those are the things that keep me warm while in the woods and on the water. I know some guys just don't get cold...eye roll.
Wool is warm. Merino wool is an excellent choice for hats, socks, and baselayer. There are a lot of gloves out there. I like the fingerless/ mitten type for fishing and I like mechanic style gloves and mittens for deer hunting – mittens when the temperature really drops.
Hunting late season has prepared me for cold weather fishing as well. Most people think that you just throw on your winter jacket and go but for me there's a lot more preparation that goes into it.
When it comes to fishing I prefer breathable bootfit waders in cold weather. When you walk to the stream you don't overheat or sweat, and it's much easier to move than neoprene style waders. A good pair of bootfit breathables used to be hard to find but more wader makers are starting to offer them due to demand. I wear a base layer and fleece pants underneath my waders in very cold water and don't have a problem with my legs getting cold. My feet is what I have to worry about. The bootfit wader is warmer than a stockingfoot. What it does is keep the cold water layer farther away from your skin, you can add more sock, and a couple heated foot and toe warmers if need be. The whole foot warmer kind not just the toe warmer will allow you to stand in the stream much longer and a lot longer than no warmer at all.
If you are wading in freestone streams or streams with lots of slippery rocks - felt is best. Sometimes while searching for the right waders you can't have everything. Spikes can help and I've even wore those slip over type soles for ice fishing to get traction. A wading staff can be a big help especially in deeper or swift current.
A really nice wading coat over a warm fleece liner with a wool vest and hooded sweatshirt is my choice for my upper body. The vest is important because it keeps your core wrapped up tight with warmth. That's where your vitals are and when your body gets cold it starts to pull your blood away from your extremities to protect your heart and organs. If it's extremely cold another layer will keep the chill off. If you don't have a wading coat - a gore-tex or rain shell will work and will double to block the wind and shed rain. Otherwise snow, rain and wind will cut into you reducing the time you spend fishing.
Preparation is key for my cold weather fishing and hunting adventures. I don't mind toughing it out in the elements but I'm going to prepare the best I can to insure I'm as comfortable as I can be. If I can stay longer in comfort it's more enjoyable and enables for more time in-stream or in the stand.
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The Fly Factor