Proper Attire for a Fall/Winter Steelhead
Dressing for comfort
Steelhead fishing is available in Michigan from mid September until at least trout opener every year. While not all annual runs are equal, steelheading is generally very predictable. It is one of our most high demand times of year.
Steelhead fishing, is for the most part, conducted in cool to down right cold times of the year. Dressing for comfort is important for both safety and enjoyment. In this article I’ll outline the way my crew and I dress to fish the Big Manistee for steelhead.
On the Big Manistee we don’t wade for steelhead so I’m going to address how to prepare for a trip using a boat.
Start with a base layer of capilene, I use Patagonia light weight next to my skin both top and bottom..
Next I use a layer of Merino wool both top and bottom, mid weight. Then if it is going to be below freezing all day I go to a heavy fleece pant on the bottom and either a wool or fleece hoody on the top. Final insulation is a very warm, light weight piece of equipment that I don’t go anywhere without, Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody. I carry this coat in my dry bag year round. I’ve used it in almost every month of the year.
The next layer is the outer shell. It needs to be wind and waterproof. We all have our favorite fishing raincoats, as long as it has hand warmer pockets and a quality hood it will work. Most guides wear coveralls of one brand or another. Jon Ray and I have probably tried 3 or 4 brands before we finally found the best, Gill OS1 Trousers. These are completely waterproof, comfortable and the best outer layer we can find. Though expensive they have a lot of uses where wind and waterproof is important.
Now on to the extremities, hands and feet. The feet are easy, high quality liner socks followed by a good wool thick sock and stick them in a great boot that doesn’t restrict blood flow. The best I’ve seen are either Bogg or Muck boots. I’m currently wearing Bogg Buckman, my feet are very warm all day long. Another good alternative is snow packs. These boots have thick felt liners and will keep your feet warm.
Hands are always problematic, it is difficult to keep them warm. You get wet handling line and fish, you need dexterity to present flies and fight the battle of a hooked silver bullet so your finger tips need to be exposed. I’ve tried every new glove when it comes to market. I’ve come to the conclusion that multiple pairs are necessary, the pocket hand warmers are invaluable and I’m glad that all of my guides carry heaters in their boats to take the edge off cold hands.
Finally, your head. I’ve heard numbers as high as 20% as the amount of heat a body loses from the head. I wear a Buff around my neck, a ball cap to keep the sun (hopefully), and a wool knit cap.
Properly dressed for the elements let’s you come north and enjoy the beauty of fall and winter, fish for the finest fresh water gamefish anywhere and be comfortable doing it.
Give us a call, we will pencil in a date, and then check the forecast and make a decision if the weather will allow us to be comfortable on the river.