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How To Dress For Winter Steelhead Fishing

When I started fishing for winter Steelhead a few years ago, I had nothing. Until then, I was a “fair-weather” fisherman who didn't really know what cold was. Boy did I find out fast. I will never forget my first time out. I had just hooked up with a longtime friend of mine who I had not seen since grade school. Steve was going to teach me all about Steelhead & Salmon fishing. It was mid December, the 16th of 1999 I think. We met at Steve’s house at about 5 am. All I was wearing was my jeans, T-shirt, baseball cap, regular shoes and a warm weather jacket in the car. Steve just looked at me. “Are you nuts?” He said. “You're going to freeze.” Well, I replied this is about all I have. “Don’t worry about it, I’ll make it. Let’s go” No sooner did we get to the river I was just that, freezing. But hey, I’m stoked because I’m going to catch me a long over-due Steelhead. I remember looking at him as I was just about numb to the core and noticing he was warm as could be. It didn't take long to ask “Ok, how much is all that and where can I get it”. I wasn't going to go through that kind of day ever again. By God’s grace, I did catch my first ever Steelhead that day but not without paying a heavy price. By my next trip out I managed to up my gear with a pair of waders, along with a breathable raincoat. The only thing missing was head wear. “I knew I was forgetting something.” It was another cold day. It was uncomfortable, but at least not unbearable like my first time out. I had a stocking cap, so it ended up being ok. I tell you my friends, there is nothing like the comfort of being warm. When the temperature is in the 30’s with rain, snow, and sleet. (Yes, I have had all 3!). You will be glad you have the gear. Also, being warm gives you so much more of a good time. Here is my suggested checklist when going out for a day on the river.

1. Waders. You can find these just about everywhere. Just like anything else, you get what you pay for. I recommend the breathable Simms brand G3’s or G4’s being the top of the line. They do run a bit high, in the price range from about $350 to $699. You can get the Rivertek Stockingfoots for $299. Rivertek is about as low as I would go for winter. You can also go with the long time stand by in Neoprene 3.5 mm. You can get into a pair of these in the price range of $80 to $200.

2. Rain coat. Another must have. Rain coats really come down to your own comfort. Personally, I need to feel loose, and agile. Therefore, I use a tighter, lighter style in Columbia. The bottom line is dry.

3. Your hat. I like the Henschel. A great, quality oil skin hat that will keep your head dry. A dry head is a warm head. I believe these run in the ballpark of $50

4. Underclothing. There are all kinds of things out there now. I use anything that is designed to keep the moisture out and the heat in. Over that I usually wear something of wool, over that my waders. This all depends on how warm or cold blooded you are. Some people like me need 3-4 layers, while others just 1 or 2. Check your local REI or Sporting goods store for these. One last tip, get yourself a dry bag. You will not regret having an extra set of clothes for the sake of emergency. You never know when you will slip on a rock, or get plain soaked due to heavy weather. Just put your dry bag in the truck or boat. Dry bags can be purchased through Sporting goods store also. Price will depend on size, costing on average $40.


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