Winter fly fishing isn’t a joke. Choose the wrong gear for the water and no amount of evening festivities will turn your day around.
Choose the right winter fly fishing gear, however, and you’re in for a rewarding experience like none other. For the most part, we tried to keep your budget in mind with this gear checklist. With that same thing being said, however, there are certain things (like your undergarments) that we just won’t skimp on.
How to choose the right fly fishing gear for winter
The biggest key, if you don’t have it and it’s listed here.. buy it. The absolute last thing you want to happen is landing in Denver only to discover you left your base layer top sitting on the dresser at home. If that’s the case, go buy another right away.
As a general rule of thumb, your actual fishing gear can carry over from the summer (including your waders). We kept the boots on a budget, while going pricier on the baselayer/outer garments.
You’ll thank us for that once you’re on the river.
Korkers Wading Boots (under $160 total)
One of the most important pieces of your winter fly fishing gear list, wading boots. Chances are, if you’re like most fly fishermen, your winter wading boots are going to be different than your summer boots.
With that in mind, buying the boots and studded sole combo from Korkers is your best chance to stay under $160 for both.
Best of all, should you decide to stay in Korkers, the soles work with any Korkers model (that offers interchangeable soles). Make sure you purchase these 1 size bigger, at a minimum. Grab a pair of Smart Wool socks to go with these and you’ll be good at just a size bigger.. if you go traditional wool you may want to be 1.5-2X bigger than your normal shoe size.
If you get the boots.. get the studded wading soles as well. Cleats are cheap and they’re the most important part of your winter boot setup.
2. Orvis Foldover Gloves ($35)
If you can’t buy these gloves on Amazon, check Cabela’s.
Quit skimping on gloves for the river. I get it, nobody likes fly fishing in gloves, but you chose to hit the river during the winter, not me. For the record, I typically take two pairs of these for the water.
They’re $35, you won’t go wrong here. Easy to manipulate your fly line, easy to flip back and tie and best of all they’re not super bulky getting in the way of anything and everything you do.
Now, for the record, gloves are really more of a personal preference thing for most winter fly fishermen, but these flip backs from Orvis more than do the trick. I’ve heard of others using a full neoprene like the glacier glove, for me personally taking gloves on and off gets to be quite the hinderance but it is an option.
3. Drake Base Layer Pants ($55)
At $50-55 (depending on where you get them), these pants were pretty much built for life under your wading system. As you can see, they won’t ride up during the day.
These pants are designed to wick moisture from the skin and it actually works pretty well.
Cover them with something a bit lighter or a second pair (depending on where you’re going and the temperatures) and you won’t be more comfortable in freezing water.
4. Under Armour 3.0 Base Layer Top ($20-80)
The 3.0 system is built for “extreme cold”, however, in trying to stay as light as possible for anything under 30(ish) degrees I’d stay with the 3.0. It’s never a bad idea to add something a little lighter to your bag or even your pack just in case you bump into a little sun on the river, but for the most part this setup is going to suit the average (and even extreme) fisherman just fine.
And on top of it, the 3.0 isn’t as expensive as it used to be.
Must buy for any outdoorsman or woman.
5. Simms Rouge Fleece Jacket ($85)
Buy a heavy base layer (see above) and top it with a fleece jacket.
The Rouge jacket from Simms isn’t waterproof, it’s “weather resistant”. Basically, that means it’s going to shed some snow and that’s about it. Don’t get rained on, but if you’re planning on it buy a poncho.
I prefer to stay somewhat on a budget (i.e., avoiding the $400+ winter fly fishing jacket setup) and this fleece jacket offers exactly that. Plus, it’s super lightweight and has a built in pocket for your winter nymphs.
At $85, quit asking questions and go buy it. Oh, and it comes with fleece lined pockets for those of you who refuse to conform to those of us who use gloves.
7. Fishpond Water Resistant Backpack ($100)
Nope, it’s not even close. The key is avoiding having to change your setup 100 times on the river. Save yourself the trouble, visit a local fly shop at your destination and go with their recommendation.
With that being said, you shouldn’t have to carry as much on your chest and a backpack actually becomes the preferred option.
For me personally, I like the extra coverage I get (just bonus insulation) with a backpack and anything Fishpond you’re covered. Realistically, you can go with any waterproof/water resistant backback, but for $100 I didn’t complain with this model.
Planning a winter fly fishing trip? Check out these articles..
- Choosing the best winter fly rod
- Winter Fly Fishing Destinations
- 7 must have flies for winter trout