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Winter Wear

No matter where you are in the country the inevitable truth is winter is on its way. While winter and winter weather can be a relative term depending on your location throughout the country. It still means one thing, colder weather! As we prepare for our first measurable snow of the year many begin the hard task of battling cabin fever. For the past 2 years I’ve been lucky enough to extend my season fishing for Steelhead here in Northeast Ohio. Through that time I’ve amassed a decent amount of gear for safety that’s allowed me to fish until the rivers are frozen solid. Here are some of my favorites!


Base Layer

A solid foundation is extremely important for both your warmth and safety on the water, as you’ll hear me repeat over and over “cotton kills” in cold weather. Cotton does not retain much of its insulating properties when wet. I’ve tried a couple different alternatives to cotton and they all have positives and negatives. Polyester products have decently warm and insulating properties and do a good job wicking moisture. But when wet, while better than cotton, still do not hold enough heat. In my experience the best option I’ve found is wool products. Wool provides great warmth and does a tremendous job retaining heat when wet. The drop back is price and wool does not wick moisture as well as polyester. For my best layer I start with a pair of wool legging style underwear. I also wear 2 sets of heavy weight wool hiking socks. For a base top I wear a 250 weight wool top. In temps below 45 degrees I will usually throw on a Under Armour cold gear base layer shirt on top. While the UA shirt is lighter I like to keep the wool closest to my body. There are a couple great companies that make wool products but so far my favorites areSmart Wool and Darn Tough. Both companies stand behind their products and have great replacement warranties.

Mid Layer

When temperatures get below that 45 degree mark I’ve found snow pants work well for a mid-layer bottom. I use Columbia snow gun pants which I believe have been discontinued. I went with them because the waterproof outer shell and synthetic insulation. The only drawback is they are a bit bulky but still over good range of motion. For a top in that same cold weather I throw on an Under Armour quarter zip pull over made of synthetic wool and polyester.

Outer Wear

This is where a lot of people cut corners because of both cost and comfort. If you plan on fishing well into winter especially with water temps below that 50 degree mark I believe a Dry suitis a must. They are very expensive and are a pain to put on but if you are spending time in your kayak in these potential life threating conditions it is well worth it. There are several companies that now make these suits but when dropping that kind of dough sticking with reputable brands like Kokatat and Stohlquist is a good bet. I also recommend quality footwear; I really like my Simms wading boots especially if I have to spend any time out of the yak, if I am spending time outside the kayak I will also throw on a pair of breathable waders. The extra protection and layer of insulation against the cold really helps. Last and certainly not least a quality PFD, I made the switch to the vest style Astral Ronny Fisher this summer after I decided to spend more time on rivers.  


I’ll be honest my biggest struggle has been finding a quality pair of gloves that is both waterproof and offers enough dexterity to perform the tasks needed while fishing. I recently got a pair of NRS HydroSkin gloves and after only a couple uses seem to be the real deal but the jury is still out. For a hat you guessed it a wool beanie, I also throw on a polyester balaclava in windy or snowy weather. I always keep a couple dry bags onboard as well as my NRS co-pilot knife attached to my PFD in case I need to get out of my waders quickly.

This can be a rewarding time of year whether its fishing for steelhead, trout or salmon around the Great Lakes or big largemouth down south. But the dangers are real and require a high level of preparedness and vigilance as well as the right equipment for the job. Things like bringing an extra set of clothes in a dry bag. Letting someone know where and when you’ll be home as well as making every effort to fish with a buddy cannot be taken for granted. It’s your life and your responsibility, so do it right and do it safely!

I’ll see you on the water!