by Levi Opsatnic
In November, Paul Wagner (a fellow Appalachian Outdoors employee) and I headed out to New York for a day of fishing. We’ll have a recap of the trip next week, but before you ever head for an overnight fishing trip, especially in November, it’s important to properly plan and prepare for the weather. In the world of eastern fly fishing, there are few things more exciting than the thought of a fresh, lake-run steelhead, brown, or even salmon taking off downstream, and you don’t want the weather to ruin your day.
I knew the conditions would be less than favorable and the unaccommodating weather would lead to some serious trip planning. Not only would I need to tie an adequate amount of flies for both Paul and me, but I would also need to make sure that I wasn’t frostbitten halfway through the trip.
I knew to expect soggy feet, cold streams, and chilly blasts from Mother Nature, so I decided to prep from the bottom up. I started with one of the most vital pieces to a cold day of fishing: socks. Not just any socks, mind you, but cozy, wool socks. Merino wool socks are great for these conditions since they maintain a sense of warmth and insulation, even when they are soaked through.
I decided to wear two different pairs of wool socks. My first pair, acting as a nice baselayer, was a pair of Tactical Crew Socks from Fits Sock Company. If you haven’t tried them, these socks are absolutely awesome and filled to the brim with warmth and comfort for any activity. To compliment these socks, I decided on something more burly and thick, so I chose a pair of Smartwool’s Trekking Heavy Crew Socks. Though my feet were destined for sogginess, they were always warm thanks to this combination.
The next vital component to a warm day on the water is going to be something to trap heat in your legs and keep them insulated. While I opted for basic fleece pants — which ended up being one of my biggest missteps — Paul went with a stronger setup of Icebreaker base layer bottoms combined with Outdoor Research’s Neoplume Pants. With his deadly combination, he stayed quite warm all day long; I on the other hand suffered from some cold legs, but nothing too serious. Learn from my mistake and go beyond basic fleece pants.
Moving on up, I focused on my torso: an area that needs special attention as it is most directly hit by the cold and doesn’t have the luxury of being trapped inside of a pair of waders. Unlike my legs, this was a part of the warmth equation that I wasn’t going to skimp on. I chose to begin with one of Patagonia’s Capilene 4 baselayers since it provides excellent warmth retention without limiting mobility or adding too much bulk. From there I added one of Woolrich’s chamois shirts, a raggedy hoodie, a Thermoball Full Zip Jacket from The North Face, and a Mithril Jacket from Outdoor Research. With five layers of clothing, I was well prepared and warm, even when rain was dumping on us for hours on end.
Wearing five layers of clothing may seem like overkill. However, I viewed this outfit as a system that, when operating together, worked to leave me ready for any situation. My baselayer added warmth and wicked sweat to keep me drier. The chamois shirt added extra heat and insulation. My hoodie provided an additional layer of comfort and warmth. The Thermoball threw in that final insulating layer that works even when wet. My Mithril Jacket protected me from wind and rain without adding bulk. We were going to be fishing for hours on end with rain in the forecast; I didn’t want to be cold, and believe me, I wasn’t. All in all, I wouldn’t be caught anywhere on a New York stream without a single one of these components.
The final piece to staying warm is a nice hat for your noggin. After all, our head is responsible for losing around 70-80% of our body’s heat when not covered. With a basic beanie, you’re generally going to be fine. However, when the sun is beaming down, it’s going to create a glare on the water that even the best polarized sunglasses won’t be able to cut. On sunny days, I would recommend putting a baseball cap on underneath or overtop of your beanie. Yes, you may look a little dopey, but does that really matter when you’re warmer and can see under the water better than the rest around you? You’re trying to catch fish, not win style points.
For all of that preparation, I am positive that it was worth it. Not only were we both incredibly warm even in some brutal conditions, but we also got into some amazing fishing that probably can’t be found anywhere else on the east. But to hear that side of the story, you’re going to have to tune in next week for one heck of a wrap-up and some fairly interesting pictures as well.