End The Suffering: Take Your Fishing Clothing Seriously

PSA: Stop wearing jeans to fish.

This weekend I had two people stop me and ask about my wetsuit.  “How are you wetsuiting in these cold temperature!?!?” was the general question.

This led to a long conversation with one gentleman much my senior, and a short one with one my junior.

Let me give some clothing tips that I think I’m actually qualified to provide after years of cold wear activities from running, cycling and skiing to fishing, hunting, and hiking.  These will not apply to just wetsuiting, but to Waders as well. 

Clothing should be taken as seriously as the rest of your gear.  I think it makes the biggest impact on 1) how long you stay out fishing and 2) how far you’re willing to go from the car.  Both are important in catching fish, especially in the times we’re in now with limited parking and beach driving access.

Wetsuit Tips
1)                  You can layer under a wetsuit.  It works- well!  I never see anyone talking about this.  I’ve experimented with it a lot over the last season.  I wear rash guard underwear always, and then when it’s cold medium weight lycra cycling tights under my suit (Nashbar brand but Brooks, New Balance, Craft and REI are my preferred brands), always Swiftwick (the best) compression socks, and if cold Darn Tough (the best) wool socks on the bottom.  Then I have various layers on top- two underarmors and a rash guard on Sunday night in fact.  It works well, even if you swim, but especially if you’re only up to your waist and you never get water into your top section.  The key is: nothing with a zipper, highest neck you can get, “slippery” materials work the best in mobility and getting in and out of the suit.  Look, it was 40 degrees Sunday and I survived.  The water is only 51-53.  Last fall in RI Robin and I wet suited down to 32 degrees!  It was miserable at times but we did it.
2)                  I already mentioned it above, but consider compression socks.  They do a few things, but the biggest are a) they help getting on and off the suit, b) they help cut down on ingrown hairs- same concept as the rash guard.  I was a sponsored cyclist for 2 years and was provided Swiftwick socks for no-cost, and I love them.  But I will admit, they are expensive.  You can find other options on the internet.  PLEASE- just don’t buy cotton (see below).
3)                  Buy a warm wetsuit.  Yes, it might cost $50 more.  But 4/3 is a minimum for MA and north.  I think I could wear a 7mm for 60% of the season, but a 4/3 is what was available in the flexibility I wanted.  A 5 would probably be perfect.  I spoke with a well-known Montauk fisherman that wears 5mm + gloves all year.  Only twice last year did I wish I had a 3/2 and that was early September and during the day.
4)                  Buy a warm top to go over it.  Stormr Surf Top is THE BEST top.  Period.  Yes, it’s really expensive.  Stop buying custom wood lures for a month and you’ll be fine.
5)                  Buy a vest too.  I have a 2mm neosport (owned by the same company as Stormr) and it was $25.  It makes that much difference, ESPECIALLY with wind.
6)                  Buy 7mm booties.  If you can’t, buy 5mm.  If you can’t find those, wait until you can.  I have never regretted getting the thickest boats I could.  Cressi are awesome.  They last longer too- I have literally hundreds of miles of walking on mine and they are just now starting to show signs of wear.  $30.  No excuse here.  Same with Cressi gloves.  They make 1mm-5mm and they’re all good.  I prefer the 2mm ones.  If you want the best gloves, get the Stormr ones.  Your hands or feet get cold, you’re screwed.  Don’t skimp.

Wader Tips
1)                  Never.  EVER. Wear jeans.  Just don’t do it.  For the love of GOD, DON’T. There’s no excuse.  At worst wear some sweat pants- but even this is a terrible option.  I mean come on guys, I saw an article recently suggesting thick jeans.  Really?  This day in age the availability of advanced fibers and materials for cheap is endless.  Jeans are heavy, cold, and CHAFE.  They have NO thermal properties at all.  My suggestion?  Fleece pants.  Good ones, but crappy ones work too.  I have Mammut pants.  I also have thick fleece lined soft-shell like Mammut pants that I can wear without anything else down to about 30 degrees and 15mph wind.  Throw waders over those bad boys and you’re good.  I also like thin wicking “long johns” that can go under the fleece pants if it’s REALLY cold.  I have some from The North Face and they’re excellent.
2)                  Stop wearing cotton.  STOP.  Again, there’s no excuse, you can run to Walmart or Target or TJ Maxx and pick up some athletic pants that will a) wick moisture b) breath c) WILL NOT CHAFE and cost less than $25.  I picked up breathable athletic pants off Sierra Trading Post the other day for $17.  Faux UnderArmor is stupid cheap now too.  Look, you have $300 waders, a $800 reel, a $300 rod, $1000 lures and you’re wearing a cotton sweat shirt and socks.  Drives me insane. STOP THE MADNESS.  Honestly?  Many times I will wear running tights.  Yes, I look silly gearing up at the car, but when I’m on the rocks chafe free, comfortable, and warm it doesn’t matter.  And this means I can stay out longer and go further.  Which often means catching more fish.  I really like EMS Techwick shirts for up top.  If you catch them on sale, they’re not too expensive, and they last literally decades.  I still have some that I bought early in College.  Darn Tough wool socks carry a life time warranty and are made in the USA.  Marmot, Mammut, Brooks, Ibex, EMS, REI all are EXCELLENT fleece/tight options, but seriously: Target and Walmart work great.
3)                  Why the hell are you wearing cotton underwear?  Again, are you asking to chafe?  Cheap breathable under-dainties are also inexpensive.  I like longer leg ones that go ½-3/4 the way to my knee.  New Balance and Underarmor both make excellent ones.  Chafing is always my nemesis so I’m hypervigilant about this.
4)                  Consider wool layers, even if it’s not that cold.  Wool is anti-bacterial and long lasting, super breathable, and new manufacturing allows NO ITCHINESS.  I LOVE Ibex stuff, but it costs about ten trillion dollars (no seriously a basic long sleeve top is over $100).  I have 2 tops that are 8 years old that I wear regularly.  However, Icebreaker and Smartwool also make excellent options, as does EMS and REI with their house brands.  Icebreaker underwear rule.  Like socks, you can wear the tops several times without them stinking or causing you to get some kind of weird ocean fungus.  Just…don’t do that with the underwear please.  I think wool gets a bad rap because most remember the itchy uncomfortable socks from their youth.  This technology is long gone.  The new products are outstanding.
5)                  Buy a buff.  Wear it.  Doubles as a hat if need be.

As you can see, I take clothing and layering very seriously, as seriously as lures and reels and spot burning, etc.  I can’t stand seeing article and blogs by other fisherman where they’re giving poor gear advice.  The days of wearing jeans, rubber waders, Helly-Hansen yellow rubber rain tops, cotton socks, etc IS OVER GUYS.  Stop being a dinosaur.  STOP WEARING JEANS.

Here are links to some products I've mentioned.  I am not affiliated nor get any support from anyone, these are just personally what I like.
Eastern Mountain Sports Techwick Tops

*Disclaimer I have not tested these pants myself but will be shortly as part of this post.  I use Mammut and Marmot Fleece Pants.  You can get Marmot at TJ Maxx