Thermal Layers Don’t Have to Break the Bank

Versatility and Layering is Key!

Winter Fishing Week #4

J. Michelle Swope brings us Thermal Thursday for Day 11 of #12daysofwinterfishingThermal Layers Don’t Have to Break the Bank When Winter Fishing.  While fishing in these chilly temperatures, layering becomes key to keeping us warm and dry. Follow J. Michelle at @olywomenonthefly

base layer is a layer of clothing that is closest to your skin, almost acting as ‘second skin’ that can keep you warm or cool. … Thermal clothing is versatile clothing and comes in different fabrics and styles that will benefit various climates, conditions and activities.

Thermal Thursday - Versatility is Key

Before you head out to your next winter fishing destination…. consider some of these ideas first.


Versatility is Key!  J. Michelle’s thoughts are not just on fishing when she purchases clothes.  She also considers what other actives she can wear with this clothing. What clothing can you wear while fishing but also hiking, exercising, eating out or be like @sassymamaonthefly sledding down a hill?


Safety is paramount. The lighter and better layering we can put on prior to our waders, will ensure that we can then safely move and wade, unencumbered by multiple bulky layers. Freedom of movement is very important for wading safety, so let’s layer up wisely!

Thermal Layering Winter Fly Fishing - PC @lindyray01
Photo By: @lindyray01

Base Layer

This is the layer that is closest to your skin. The purpose of this layer is to wick moisture away from our skin, thus allowing it to evaporate without making us cold. If you can afford not to wear cotton in the winter, here are some other materials that are affordable and also effective for wading in winter.


  • PolyPropylene: Great for wicking moisture away from our skin.
    • Examples include Climateright’s Thermal long underwear, that retails for $20.00 per piece. 
    • Target and Cabela’s have similar option available.
  • Polyester: Essentially, fabric made from plastic.
    • It is will keep us toasty even when it is wet, but the downside?
    • Don’t get too close to that warm campfire with it exposed as it will melt if an ember hits it.
    • Polyester blends are readily available, and come in various thicknesses, depending on our needs.
    • Examples include they have an entire section on thermal undies.
  • Wool: Does absorb moisture, but stays warmer than most other fabrics, and stays warm even when it is wet.
    • However, it can be VERY expensive, so looking for used wool clothing is Army Surplus stores, or used clothing stores is a great idea.
    • The down side to wool is it is not very packable, and it is not windproof.

Ask J. Michelle about the time her hands got so cold, that my single hand rod flew out of my hand and into the river. Out of the boat. In front of a premier Steelhead guide. #embarrassed. Guess who ALWAYS wears wool gloves now?

Outer or Shell Layers

For many of us, our outer layer are our waders and wading jacket. A good breathable synthetic jacket will be a great barrier against rain or snow, and windy and cold, regardless of the name brand.

Remember, rain jackets are great for keeping you dry from rain, but if they are not breathable, you will be sweating up a storm in no time if it is a vigorous walk to your favorite piece of water.

Thermal Layering Winter Fly Fishing - @sassymamaonthefly

Layering Resources

And, here are some great links to some excellent articles on options for layering.


Stay safe and warm, my peeps!

Connect with J. Michelle Swope

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