When it comes to winter fishing, you need to dress properly in order to stay comfortable and warm. If you are cold and uncomfortable and you lose thermal energy, your motor skills will suffer, and you will be unable to concentrate or be successful.
Conventional wisdom used to suggest that neoprene waders were for fishing during cold weather, and breathable Gore-Tex waders were for the warmer months. That, however, is no longer the case. When worn over the proper clothing, breathable waders are just as warm - if not warmer - than waders made of the old, heavy neoprene material.
Gore-Tex was the first fabric developed that could restrain water on the outside while allowing vapor and moisture to pass through from the inside. This revolutionized outdoor clothing and equipment such as waders, footwear, and high-performance rain gear. When combined with the latest lightweight synthetic underclothing, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts can stay dry, warm, and light in any weather conditions.
When dressing for cold- or wet-weather fishing, you should start from the inside out. The layer of clothing next to your skin, the base layer, is the one you will feel all day. It must have the ability to disperse your own sweat and perspiration, keeping dry contact with your skin.
Microfiber underwear and socks wick moisture away from the body, keeping you dry. The most vulnerable areas of the body to sweating are the armpits, groin area, and feet, so be sure these areas are covered.
Wearing layers of fleece over the base layer traps air, the very best form of insulation. Fleece is an insulating synthetic fabric that is very warm and much lighter than natural materials such as wool. Fleece shirts, jackets, pants, and socks are all necessary and you should wear as many layers as the conditions dictate.
Your outer layer is your first line of defense against the elements. It must be protect you from both the water and the wind. This is where Gore Tex outer shells and breathable waders are invaluable. They keep water from getting in but allow sweat and moisture to escape. This keeps your skin dry and helps you retain your body heat.
Gore-Tex does not stretch, but the articulated knee design employed in many of the latest breathable-wader designs allows for a streamlined fit with full mobility of the angler. A proper-fitting pair of waders should fit your body snuggly, while allowing full movement of your body. Good-fitting waders make you streamlined in the water, which lessens your drag in the water and current. Waders with bent knees allow a better fit than straight-legged waders.
Neoprene waders perform well in cold weather until you begin to sweat. As sweat begins to condensate in the wader's interior, your insulating layers get wet and eventually fail.
Since breathable waders allow the moisture to escape, they will let the inner layers stay dry and remain good insulators. Bottom line: Conserving warmth and staying dry are the keys to staying warm and comfortable in the cold.
Cleanliness can also help keep you warmer and drier when fishing in the cold, so a bath or a shower before getting into your base layer of clothing and fleece will help. Sweaty residue and dirt on your body tends to attract moisture and actually acts as a catalyst to further sweating.
Don't hang up your breathable waders when the water and air turn cold. With the proper clothing underneath, you can have productive winter days on the stream while staying warm and comfortable.