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Fishing in winter – A guide to winter clothing

It’s the time of year when cold damps days and even colder nights lead many anglers to put away their fishing gear and hibernate for winter – but those that do miss one of the most productive and enchanting seasons of the year. Our guide to the best winter fishing clothing will help keep you fishing throughout the coldest months.

It’s time to dress up for winter fishing!

Gone are the halcyon days of fizzy tench bubbles and lily pads, carp cruising the surface or patrolling the margins looking for a tasty morsel. It is now the season of the silver fish, the hard fighting barbel, the wide mouth chub, roach, perch and ide, and the predatory pike and perch.

If you haven’t tried fishing rivers before, Ian Welch’s article is a must. In it Ian explains the best baits and techniques to help you catch a mix of winter fish which will put a bend in your rod. For the fly angler it’s also prime time for still-water trout fishing or heading to the river for brownies, sea trout or depending, on the month, the King of the River – the salmon.

Yes, it may be cold and often wet or windy, but crunching through the hard frost beneath your feet, seeing dried seed heads swaying in the breeze and silvery spiders webs waiting to catch the few insects that may pass their way has its own charm. As long as you’re warm and dry that is!

Don’t be cold and miserable

As many anglers including myself know there are few things more miserable than sitting by your rods waiting for a bite when you are feeling cold or, even worse, wet. Going unprepared for winter can ruin an otherwise pleasant day’s fishing or turn a longer session into little less than a nightmare, especially when you are many miles from home.

Bad weather is bad enough but if you are well prepared even the most miserable of days can be enjoyable. Indeed, there is something slightly perverse in being snuggled up warm and dry under a brolly while the rain is hammering down on the water making it difficult to even see your float amongst the splashing raindrops.

I have had some of my most best days fishing in some of the most atrocious conditions. My personal best tench came in the middle of a thunder storm and a 4lb perch fell to a trotted worm on a small Midlands river while the ground around me was crisp and white in a layer of winter frost.

Fishing in winter can be rewarding, but you need to be prepared.

Fishing in winter can be rewarding, but you need to be prepared and have the right clothing and equipment to ensure you stay safe and warm.

Anglers don’t retain body heat

Anglers are different from many others who pursue outdoor sports. Runners, golfers, cyclists and even horse riders don’t need the same levels of protection against the cold as anglers because their activities build up body heat which helps to keep them warm. You don’t see football players wearing thick layers of winter clothing when they are playing – it’s only the goalkeepers who don’t move around as much who wear an extra layer or two.

With the exception of roaming rivers with a fly or spinning rod in hand where you are constantly on the move searching out the fish, coarse fishing anglers are largely sedentary beasts, staying put in one place. This means they are more likely to lose body heat and can quickly become cold unless they are equipped with the right winter clothing and accessories.

Winter carp fishing clothing

Specimen carp and barbel hunters are probably the two disciplines of anglers who will brave winter weather for long spells by the waterside even in the coldest of weather. It is especially important for them to go fishing with the right winter clothing, especially if they are planning to spend several nights in search of their quarry. Going equipped with the right clothing can turn what could end up as a miserable fishing break cut short by bad weather into a productive outing they will want to repeat.

Getting the basics right is essential. The secret lies in building up layers of clothing rather than wearing a thick woolly jumper and a top coat for protection. It is widely known that several layers of clothing is best because body heat is trapped in the air between the layers and provides added insulation against the cold.

Another benefit of wearing several layers is that one or two can easily be shed if you get too warm and put back on when you cool down. However, when layering up it is important that you don’t wear clothing which restricts your movement, you don’t want to feel that you are wearing a straight jacket even though you are nice and warm.

It all starts with base layers

It all starts with base layers. Few people would normally never admit to wearing thermal vests and Long Johns in everyday life, such items are probably regarded more appropriate for the likes of Albert Steptoe or characters out of a Dickens novel. However, for the winter angler they are essentials, after all, no one is going to see you in them. You can find base layers in most outdoor or sports retailers, including Mountain Warehouse who do a good range of base layers for both women and men.  Good old Marks and Spencers do a very comfortable and warm range of Gen Heatgen™ base layers for men such as these thermal Long Johns and and a range of underware for women as well. We can personally recommend this range as a very toasty under-layer, at a reasonable price.

Marks and Spencers offer a great range of thermals which are ideal for anglers. Their Heatgen range is particularly good.

Marks and Spencers offer a great range of thermals which are ideal for anglers. Their Heatgen range is particularly good.

Warm but lightweight polyester and cotton shirts in the style much favoured by farmers and country landowners can be worn over your thermal vest, topped off with a suitable jumper or fleece under a good quality weatherproof jacket. Lambswool jumpers are ideal as they are lightweight and warm whilst a decent gilet is worth its weight in gold as they help retain core body heat without being too bulky.

Thermal fishing suits

Popular particularly with match anglers, thermal fishing suits and salopettes give protection from the chest downwards and can be worn over base and mid layers. Waterproof and breathable, they are available in camo designs. Bib and brace all-in-one waterproof suits offer maximum flexibility as in cold weather they an be worn over your normal clothing and topped off with a coat for added protection. The Fox Rage Winter fishing suit, although a bit on the pricey side is well designed and purpose designed for cold weather fishing.

Similar in design are thermal fishing suits which again can be worn under waterproofs top coats to give an additional layer of warmth. Thermal fishing suits are ideal for night anglers in winter but be sure to buy one made from breathable material that isn’t too heavy or thick so you are free to move. They are available in all- in-one designs or with separate top and bottoms.

Winter fishing trousers

If you’re happy with the top coat you have but normally wear jeans when you go fishing in winter, it is worth investing in a pair of waterproof trousers in a size which can be worn over your normal jeans or trousers. The obvious benefit is that, unlike jeans which once wet take time to dry out, they will protect you from getting soaked in the first place.

Winter fishing hats

Beanie or Trapper-style hats with ear flaps should also be in your list of essentials and in the coldest of days there are few things to beat a Balaclava, some styles of which these days incorporate a windproof fleece lined neck tube. OK, you may look like a local hooligan out on the filch, but who cares as long as you’re warm and dry!

Thinsulate market a range of footwear, gloves and hats which can often be found on sale in local petrol stations and stores for a few pounds and can easily be stashed away in a car’s glove compartment for use when needed, or Millets have a good range of hat styles that you can order online.

Keep your feet warm and dry

In addition to a couple of pairs of good quality socks, one of the most important items of your kit is at least one pair of thermal boots or Wellington boots. Keeping your feet warm and dry is essential whether you are fishing for a day or for a week so it is worth taking more than one pair of socks and boots if you are going for any longer than a day.

If you already have a sturdy pair of boots it is still worth considering buying some lamb’s wool thermal insoles which come in various shoe sizes and add an extra layer of comfort and warmth. If you’re looking for a pair of top notch thermal booties then Vass offer a great short boot which is fleece lined. Combine these with a paid of thermal heated socks from Vulcan and your feet will almost never get cold!!

If you want a more traditional boot, then we can personally vouch for Gumleaf – a traditionally made Wellington that’s been designed by British farmers (they really know about Wellies!) but go for the Neoprene lined ones, such as their Royal Zip Wellington Boot – as these are that extra bit snug and warm. They also have very grippy and long lasting soles from Vibram. They are not cheap – but they will last for years and years.

Gumleaf boots are lined and will keep your feet warm during those cold fishing sessions in the winter.

Gumleaf boots are lined and will keep your feet warm during those cold fishing sessions in the winter.

Winter fishing waterproofs

The most obvious piece of winter clothing is a quality waterproof top coat or jacket which protects you from the wind and rain while at the same time ensures your layering clothing keep your body warm. When buying make sure you pick one which is made from a breathable material and has plenty of inside and outside pockets, preferably with waterproof zips, where you can store essential items which, if dropped and lost while fishing would leave you with problems.

Barbour are a well known and trust brand and offer a range of waterproof jackets and traditional waxed jackets. But if that isn’t your style you can always go for a Korum Neoteric Softshell – which will keep you toasty and warm and is designed specifically for the angler. At the lower end of pricing scale Regatta offer a suitably coloured durable waterproof jacket that has good pockets and would be ideal for an angler who needs something for a winter fishing session.

Modern technology keeps you warm

One company which is using modern technology to keep anglers and other outdoor pursuit enthusiasts warm is Vulcan Sportswear. Their range of infrared heated clothing uses carbon fibre technology to generate Infrared heat. Powered by Li-Ion batteries, the company says its heated gloves, socks and gilets are guaranteed to provide warmth for up to six hours or more whatever the sport or activity. What’s more Vulcan have been very kind to offer all our readers a 10% discount for items purchased via their website. Just use the code ‘fisheries10’ when you checkout.

According to the company, infrared rays are invisible waves of energy that can penetrate all layers of the body, right into the inner-most regions of the tissues, muscles and bones. They generating heat naturally by causing the subcutaneous proteins, collagens, fats and water molecules to vibrate, elevating tissue temperatures and causing the blood vessels to dilate.

They say their sportswear has a wealth of other wellness and well-being benefits in addition to keeping you warm in cold weather including helping recovery from sports injuries, reducing pain, reducing swellings and many others.

Heated Infrared Leisure & Sportswear Clothing – Vulcan Sports Wear have a range of products designed to keep you warm even on the coldest of fishing trips in winter.

Vulcan Sports Wear have a range of heated clothing designed to keep you warm even on the coldest of fishing trips in winter.

In these days of crippling energy costs their range of rechargable heated clothing can also be worn at home to keep those heating bills down!

Warm padded gloves may be excellent for keeping your hands warm while you are waiting for a bite but can make re-baiting hooks or making changes to terminal tackle cumbersome if not downright impossible. Whilst fingerless gloves may seem very old fashioned these days they are excellent for when you need to carry more intricate tasks – simply whip off your insulated gloves, pop on the fingerless ones and when you’ve done go back to the warm and cosy ones, your finger tips will be grateful for them.

Other useful accessories

In addition to winter clothing there are other useful accessories worth taking with you. Reusable or disposable hand warmers are a great addition to your gear and are available in several different styles. Zippo, probably the original hand warmer manufacturer, still produce a modern version of their original hand warmer which uses lighter fuel to produce flameless heat for up to 12 hours. Its latest products are battery powered USB chargeable warmers which have three heat settings and can be recharged from a USB port or cigarette lighter point in the car.

A good light is essential, even if you’re not planning to fish into the night. Low level lighting in the winter makes it easy loose things when you put them down and doing intricate work like tying on hooks or threading bait is so much more easily done under a bright light. A good head lamp such as the Fox Halo 200 is a great addition to your kit bag and a multi purpose light such as the Fox Halo Power Multi-light will definitely in those cold dull winter days.

“Fail to plan – plan to fail!”

When getting ready for a winter session, whether it is for just a few hours, a day or longer period, it is worth drawing up a list of the clothing items you need to take with you and to check them off as you pack them up. The old adage “Fail to plan – plan to fail” is very true as there are few things worse than getting to the bankside and realising that you have left an important piece of equipment behind.

It is also worth having a list of other essential you will need including thermos flasks, sandwiches, chocolate bars, a fully charged external USB portable power bank charger and Polaroid sunglasses. Having done all the above you should be all set for an enjoyable, and hopefully successful, session by the waterside.

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Written by Peter Cliff
With career in Public Relations and journalism, Peter worked for local, regional and national newspapers before moving into Public Relations. A regular contributor to several major angling publications over the years, he launched in 1999.


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