WINTER Fly Fishing in the Ozarks means being prepared for all sorts of conditions, anything from the teens up to 80 F
It always pays to pack warm. Visitors coming to chase our winter trout often remark that we have a “damp cold” that makes temperatures worse than if you were in the Rockies or northern climes.
Coming from way milder conditions, I’ve had to build myself an assortment of gear to handle the cold I loathe and keep me fishing without grouching (too much).
You will notice most of it is Simms, and a lot of it is old, 5 years or 12 years. Good quality lasts, Simms has built the widest array of products to tackle the problems we face daily (staying warm, dry and comfortable).
Layering is part of it, but having the right options for each layer is equally important, otherwise you end up looking like little Ralphie on Christmas story
Oh and you need some experience out there to find out what works for you so go fishing more this winter. We can help you with that:
1 Baselayer: The foundation of all that is warm and toasty and I have several thicknesses in shirts and pants, varying from lightweight to heavy and varying materials. The Simms UltraWool Core 1/4-Zip Top covers a lot of eventualities, until we get to temps int he 20s all day. The modern wool products aren’t scratchy on the skin to me but lot of our crew have also been touting ExStream Core Top. This I reckon is going to finally replace my ageing heavyweight baselayer from ski company Hot Chilly which I’ve used for years
1a Our Logo Solar Micro L/S Tee has become a solid winter base layer for normal conditions, with its great feel and wicking properties. Slick face also means easy sliding under heavier layers.
2 Socks: Guide Thermal OTC Socks are my newest addition to my lineup of Simms and other smartwool type socks, I have a few brands, The Guide Thermals are going to be saved for the coldest of days. Probably the warmest Simms sock I’ve owned. Just do wool. The other trick is not to wear your fishing footwear if you have a decent drive to the water. Car heaters will make your feet damp with sweat and faster to cool off once you get on the water
3 Pants. I switch between the Simms Coldweather Pants for regular winter days and the super cold days jump over to the 4 Midstream Insulated Pants. The Coldweather Pants are basically fleecelined fishing pants, warm breathable comfy. They tend to the roomy so tucking a baselayer underneath for extra warmth is a nice touch. Then I bought a pair of the admittedly pricey Midstream’s and the world changed. These are a sleeping bag for the downstairs, and will keep you smiling on the coldest days. Truly worth every penny, even if you look like you are headed for a night out at Studio 54
5 Fleece Layer: The grey Sage Hoody has been there for a bunch of big winter fish for over 10 years. But in terms of longevity I have 3 solid Simms Midweight Fleece Tops from 2007, that are still in use. No substitute for quality Polartec. Try these Fleece Midlayer Tops
6 Insulation: I have 4 generations of Simms PrimaLoft insulated jackets and all have held up to seasons of abuse. The new West Fork is my first with a hood. Going up in horsepower on the riverboats meant having to get warmer head protection to stop those icecream headaches. Super warm and super light.
7 Outer Layer: Just about every fly fishing guide on the river is wearing breathable bib and a longer jacket, than the waders and short wading jacket of a decade ago. Bibs win out in terms of comfort, freedom of movement and warmth. The tradeoff with the lighter, more flexible breathable materials is more maintenance to keep their waterproofing in tip top shape, especially when you are sitting rowing in a downpour.
I have loved the Simms ProDry bibs and they have been terribly mistreated over multiple seasons. Added a pair of our best selling Challenger Bibs & Jacket to spread the abuse.
8 Gloves: The Simms windstopper Half Finger Gloves (through 3 incarnations) have been a go to stripping big streamers every winter. Your hands rank up there with eyes and brain in terms on importance in chasing a streamer fish of a lifetime. I will not fish with foldback mitts or finger tips, the only “gimmick” is the hand warmer pocket over your wrist veins. So the downside on these is they will not keep you warm running under power particularly when wet
So carry an second set of gloves for motor runs or when the wind gets too much, ideally a big set of mitts with a handwarmer inside you keep you operating. Try the Simms Warming Hut Glove.
9 Hats: Dally’s logo oilskin hats have been my go to for years but until we locate another viable source, I’ve jumped into the Simms G4 Cap for rainy days. Long brim to help keep my glasses dry, and a built in hat keeper. When its cold but not wet I have been a longtime fan of visor beanies. But the Mack Daddy of winter hats remains the GORE-TEX ExStream Hat .
10 Neckwear: One of the biggest improvements in my winter gear was adding neck protection, specifically the Buff Reversible Polar . Warm soft and pretty wind resistant. You will also find me wearing the Merino Wool Buff’s on cool days, but I’m excited for the new heavy wool Buffs we have just had land we have in stock
11 Footwear: The arrival of the bibs on the White meant a footwear switch. I’ve been wearing America’s Cup style yachting boots and neoprene winter boots. But my goto for all around winter conditions is Simm’s Riverbank boot, which would be described as lightly insulated. If warms up into the 60s the yachting boots come out, if its sub-freezing I’m after an arctic muck boot. The fit needs to accomodate your warmer socks in your winter boots