man fly fishing on a river in the winter

Best Winter Fly Fishing Gear

Winter Fly Fishing, especially in Colorado can be very demanding. It is a certain type of person who ventures out to wade in an icy river on a gray, cold day trying to tease slow moving trout to strike. The right winter fly-fishing gear will help this adventurous soul have a fun day casting while staying warm, dry and encouraged.

Winter Fly Fishing Tips to Stay Warm & Dry

First Rule of winter fly-fishing:

Never Wear Cotton. Cotton is extremely hydrophilic, which means it loves to absorb water. Once it gets wet, cotton loses its insulating quality. So if your cotton layer becomes damp from sweat or a leak, your body must work harder to stay warm. Avoid wearing cotton on the river.

Second Rule :

Always Dress in Layers. This way you can add layers or remove layers quickly to react to changing weather patterns and temperatures.

  • Your first layer should be a lightweight, moisture wicking base layer made of a wool/synthetic blend.
  • Over the base layer, add a layer of fleece. Use both fleece wader pants for your legs and a fleece pullover or jacket for your upper body.
  • On top of your upper body fleece layer, add an insulated vest to keep out the cold bite of a blowing wind.
  • An outer layer consisting of a waterproof wading jacket or wind-stopping jacket is a good option to keep out a chilly cold wind that will send you home early.
  • Your feet need to be insulated in high-quality merino wool socks but DO NOT have your wading boots be too tight. If they are too tight they’ll cut off your circulation and make your feet as cold as if you weren’t wearing any socks at all. In the winter your feet need room to wiggle and move.
  • Always carry a spare set of gloves and additional layers in your pack. Something will always get wet and nothing will send you home quicker than numb fingers.
  • Look for a fleece-lined, bill hat with fold over ear flaps, because your head and ears will need protection and a bill or visor is good to keep the sun out of your eyes.

Check out this video with tips on how to stay warm winter fly fishing

See Also: Year’s Top-Rated Fly Rods

Best Winter Fly-Fishing Gear

TideWe Boot Foot Chest Wader TideWe Boot Foot Chest Wader

A pair of boot foot waders is a great choice for winter fly-fishing, but keep in mind, you will probably want to size up because if your feet with socks on are tight in your boots it will slow circulation and your feet will be cold. Also, you need enough to room to layer up. You want to wear a pair of moisture wicking long underwear and a pair of fleece pants under your waders to keep you warm.

  • These waders are 35% lighter than traditional rubber waders due to the durable nylon with two-ply upper fabric. They compress and easily fit into a backpack. The lightweight material does not add additional work which is appreciated when you are wearing layers of heavy clothing to stay warm.
  • Nylon reinforced PVC upper with waterproof boot attachment and taped seams mean waders are 100% waterproof.
  • Adjustable H-back suspenders with quick release buckles, are nice and wide so they won’t cut into your shoulders
  • Flip-out chest pocket is big enough to hold a fly box or tools.
  • The waist belt and chest drawstring pulls allows you to customize the fit
  • FREE 100% waterproof phone case is included.
  • Designed to keep you dry and warm year-round on fly-fishing adventures
  • Perfect for men or women

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Neck Gaiter Neck Gaiter With Breathing Holes

Nothing beats a gaiter when the weather turns on a dime and your beautiful, sunny Colorado day turns into a snowing sideways blizzard. Keep this in your pack for emergencies, you will be so glad you did.

  • Gaiter has small holes over mouth & nose to allow easy breathing.
  • Tighten the gaiter with toggle so you can cover ears and head and the gator stays put. Extra cord so helmet/cap can still be worn
  • Soft brushed fabric inside tube feels soft and warm, spandex stretches so one size fits most
  • Gaiter fabric blocks UV rays, face masks shield skin against wind and dust
  • Ear and neck warmer is perfect for when the temp drops.

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Glacier Glove Flip Mitts Glacier Glove Flip Mitts

Nobody really likes wearing gloves when fly-fishing because they are a pain in the butt, but in the winter in the high country, there is no way of escaping the need for gloves. And bring a spare as they always get wet and nothing will send you home quicker than numb, frozen fingers.

  • Designed specifically for the harsh, unpredictable weather of Alaska
  • Mitts feature G-Tek 2mm Neoprene Sharkskin textured palm is great for grip
  • Windproof fleece keeps your hands warm and snug.
  • Flip Mitt design means fingers can be set free when needed to change out flies or adjust your fly rod. The flip mitt allows you to pull the mitt over your fingers when you don’t want your fingers exposed to the elements anymore
  • Velcro Strap Closure keeps mitts secure
  • Pair chemical hand warmers with these mittens to keep your hands even warmer

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Reddington Fly Fishing Fleece Pant Reddington Fly Fishing Fleece Pant

Fleece pants are definitely a necessity on cold Colorado days. Wear a light moisture wicking under layer, then the fleece pant and then the boot foot waders. These pants will keep you warm and comfy even on the frostiest of days.

  • Layer up with this under-wader fleece pant to help warm your core and stay dry.
  • Keep your mind on your cast and off the chill in the air.
  • 280g, non-pilling Redline fleece
  • Fully elastic waist and a full zip fly, keeps these pants comfortable and easy to put on and take off. The nylon cord with toggle lock adjusts to your waist and keeps your pants from slipping down in waders.
  • Lycra stirrups keep the pants down in you boots and waders so nothing gets bunched up or uncomfortable
  • On-seam side pockets and a back zip security pocket means extra ability to hold tools and important items.
  • This style has a tapered leg so it doesn’t bunch up in the leg

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Frogg Toggs Wading Jacket Frogg Toggs Wading Jacket

You are definitely going to need a waterproof, outer layer to keep you dry. Unless the jacket you choose is already heavily insulated you will need to layer with additional clothing like long underwear, fleece pullover and maybe even a vest. Remember the key is always layering so you can react to changing winter weather conditions.

  • Waterproof wading jacket is perfect for fishing and comes in both camo and block color styles
  • Made from 3-layer submersible wader material
  • 100% waterproof material with fully sealed seams keeps water out
  • Water-resistant zippers with internal/adjustable neoprene cuffs
  • Zippered chest pocket and expandable hand warmer pockets. There is also two larger exterior breast pocket and a smaller interior breast pocket
  • Shock cord adjustable waist
  • 2 lower exterior hand pockets, 2 exterior breast pockets and 1 interior breast pocket. Interior pocket is just big enough for my IPhone 6S but exterior breast pockets are much bigger and roomy. I use interior pocket for fishing license / ID and exterior breast pocket for phone – easy access.
  • The jacket also has a hood that folds into the jacket collar. This is key for winter fly-fishing. The hood has a draw string so it can be tightened over your head and hat when the snow really starts coming down.
  • This jacket is just an outer shell so you will need to wear a fleece pullover or additional layers underneath to be warm.

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Smartwool Socks SmartWool Men's Hunt Heavy Crew Socks

Good, high-quality wool socks are a must, to keep your feet warm, dry and comfortable. Some people like to wear a very thin under sock and then a heavier weight sock on top. Other people like just one good heavy-duty sock so their foot is not so confines. It’s just personal preference. Just remember, your waders are neoprene, which don’t breathe and that means if you don’t have something that wicks your sweat away, your feet will get cold…very cold…very fast. Merino wool is the best choice and Smartwool is a name you can trust.

  • 64% Merino Wool, 35% Nylon, 1% Elastane
  • Merino wool is one of nature’s most advanced fibers, and has a natural ability to breathe, wick moisture and resist odors.
  • Made in the USA
  • Taller crew height accommodates wide range of boots
  • Smartwool socks arch and ankle support helps keep sock in place, they will not creep down.
  • Flat knit toe seam
  • Machine Wash makes these socks easy to care for.

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Stormy Kromer Rancher Insulated Cap Stormy Kromer Men's Rancher Insulated Cap

When you are on the river, you don’t want just any hat. You want a warm, insulated, wool hat with ear flaps that will keep your ears toasty when it’s needed. This is that hat.

  • Made of a blend of 80% Wool 20% Nylon
  • Fleece ear flaps are a small detail but incredibly important to keep you warm
  • The breathable cotton lining insures that hat doesn’t create so much heat that head starts to sweat, it also makes sure that the wool doesn’t make you itchy.
  • Very durable and long-lasting
  • Stormy Kromer products are 100% hand-crafted, not made on an assembly line

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Orvis Fleece Pullover Orvis Men's Signature Softest Quarter-Zip Pullover

Number #1 name in fly-fishing brings a warm, fleece quarter zip pullover that is a perfect insulating layer for under your waterproof outer shell. A Merino wool pullover would be another great alternative.

  • The softest, most comfortable pullover ever.
  • Prewashed for outstanding softness and fit,
  • Reinforced at the seams for durability and long life,
  • Dyed-to-match nylon trim on the zipper,
  • Contrast color inside the neckline and a matching zipper.
  • Rib-knit cuffs and hem.
  • Made of pure Cotton.
  • Washable. This pullover is sized larger because it is expected to have a small degree of shrinkage when you wash it.

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Orvis Safe Passage Sling Pack Orvis Safe Passage Guide Sling Pack

Backpacks are a “Must” for winter fly-fishing. First, you will want to bring back up layers, in case anything you are wearing gets wet. Also, if you begin getting to warm with what you are wearing, you can take it off and store it safely away before you start sweating. A pack is also needed to carry high-energy snacks and a thermos of coffee or hot soup. This one from Orvis is awesome!

  • Sling it over one shoulder, stays completely out of the way, while allowing quick and easy access to gear.
  • Large capacity means a place for all your gear-fly boxes, extra layers of cold weather clothing, lunch.
  • Enjoy the cushy, foam-padded, streamlined design for all-day comfort.
  • A bright interior allows you to easily spot stray flies.
  • Shoulder strap features a magnetic anchor for easy access and securing.
  • Unique zinger and tool attachment system allows easy integration of your favorite tool into the pack, providing quick and easy access to the tool while minimizing the chance catching.
  • Strategically-designed water bottle holder makes it easy to grab your water bottle without turning the pack around.
  • Cord loops allow the addition of a tippet bar (which is not included with the pack).
  • Fly drying patch on the top of the bag.
  • Internal pockets and dividers help organize your gear.
  • Chest straps prevent excess movement of the pack while fishing.
  • Tough, durable 410-denier nylon with  a water resistant coating on the bottom of the pack.
  • Size 19 3/4 “L x 11″W x 7 1/2 “D. 1,391 cu. in. Weight: 1 lb. 5 oz.

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Stanley’s Ice Off Paste Loon Outdoors Stanley's Ice Off Paste

Loon Outdoors Stanley’s Ice Off Paste

This paste was designed for the sole purpose to keep ice off fly rod guides.

  • A non-toxic anti-freeze paste
  • safe for the environment
  • Keeps guides clear of clogging ice
  • Apply to your guides and line to prevent icing, so you can be ready to make some casts when winter midges start to hatch.
  • Must be applied every time you go winter fishing to consistently keep rod ice free-ish
  • Stanley’s Ice Off Paste works well

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See Also: Winter Fly-fishing in Colorado

Comments man fly fishing on a river in the winter

What type of winter fly-fishing gear do you use? Do you own or have you used any of the above winter fly-fishing products? What are your thoughts about winter fly-fishing? Do you fish in the winter or are you a strictly fair weather fly fisherman? We would love to hear your thoughts and comments.

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  • Kim

    Thank you for the timely post about winter fly-fishing gear.  My boyfriend has just begun fly-fishing in the winter this year, and he really does enjoy it but he does not have the right equipment as he always come home freezing.  His birthday is coming up next week and so I have taken your advice and bought some gear to help keep him warm.  I picked the Boot Foot Chest Waders as he only has tall boot waders and I don’t think that is cutting it, as regular waders let water in and doesn’t hold heat in.  I also picked the Stormy Kromer Rancher Insulated Cap because he usually just wears a baseball cap or a handkerchief, I think if he keeps his head warm the rest of him will be warmer too. So excited to give him these gifts, I think he is going to LOVE these items and find them super-useful to his new hobby.

    • ThinkVail

      So glad the post about winter fly-fishing gear was helpful to you. I think you picked some great items to keep your boyfriend warm and to increase his enjoyment of this challenging winter sport. Another great gift idea that he could use would be some winter flies as he probably only has flies that work well in the summer when insects are plentiful. Different flies are recommended for winter success. Check out the post Best Winter Flies for Trout for some winter fly ideas so he can catch more fish.

  • Chrissie Spurgeon

    Great post about winter fly-fishing gear. I just started fly-fishing this year so I am a total newbie.  I would like to try fly fishing in the winter as I loved it this past summer but I am very concerned that I will be just too cold.  What do you recommend for a woman, to really stay warm while winter fly-fishing?

    • ThinkVail

      Hi Chrissie, great question.  It is so important to dress in layers, avoid all cotton material, wear the right winter fly-fishing gear, and bring some disposable chemical hand warmers along with a big thermos of hot coffee or soup. The most important gear to start out with is the boot foot chest waders, good merino wool socks, a warm hat with ear flaps and also a gaiter to keep your neck and face warm if needed.  I would also read the post Winter Fly Fishing in Colorado for more tips and advice for successful winter fly fishing.  I hope you learn to love fly fishing in the winter as much as you do in the summer.

  • Clement

    I have finally decided that I have to get some gloves for winter fly-fishing.  I have always just suffered through it since I really don’t like anything to do with fishing while wearing gloves.  But this year my fingers just get so cold that it sends me home sooner than I plan because I just can’t keep my hands warm.  I saw your recommendation for Glacier Glove Flip Mitts and they look like the perfect answer.  I think I am going to give them a try, so thanks for the suggestion.  I will let you know how they work out for me.

    • ThinkVail

      Hi Clement, so glad you found a solution to your cold hands in the Winter Fly-Fishing Gear post.  Yes cold, numb  hands suck.  These Glacier Glove Flip Mitts will solve your problem, but remember to keep wearing them because you will have to get use to using them.  In the beginning, they will seem cumbersome and annoying because you are not use to wearing gloves.  With practice you will find you can do everything almost as easy as without gloves.  

  • abioye olalekan

    Interesting post about winter fly-fishing gear.  I am an angler from the east and have always just worn thick cotton socks when I go fly fishing.  Granted, my feet are always cold but I figured that was just because I was standing in a freezing river in the middle of winter, would Merino Wool socks really make a difference?

    • ThinkVail

      Hello Abioye, thank you for the question. Yes, Merino wool socks make a huge difference and for the better.  When you wear cotton socks they soak up water from when your feet sweat, which they will, no matter what, in waders.  This water sits there next to your skin and makes your feet cold.  Merino wool wicks moisture away from your skin and keeps your feet warm and dry.  If you haven’t give them a try, I HIGHLY recommend Smartwool socks, they are so warm and comfortable you will replace all of your cotton socks with Smartwool socks.

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