What to Wear Fly Fishing: Fly Angler’s Apparel Guide

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While you need the proper fly rod setup to land fish, you need the proper clothing to keep you on the water. Too often, anglers find themselves with clothing that’s not suitable for the conditions of their fishing. Having to leave the water because of improper clothing is beyond frustrating. Do your part to make sure your fly fishing clothes are suitable for the weather!

Warm Weather Fly Fishing Clothing

Warm weather fly fishing is wonderful. You could be high in the mountains on a summer day targeting trout on a stream or searching the saltwater flats for some Redfish. These days often leave to unforgettable memories, but with improper clothes, you could spend the day in discomfort and go to bed in pain. The bright summer heat and strong winds can do some serious damage to your body. Thankfully, fly fishing apparel has evolved enough to keep you comfortable regardless of the conditions.

Long Sleeved Breathable Quick Dry Shirt

A long-sleeved, breathable, quick-dry shirt is necessary on any warm day. Fly fishing shirts are made to dry quickly, wick moisture and provide necessary sun protection. Some anglers refuse long-sleeved shirts, but the lack of sunburn at the end of the day is well worth the sleeves. These shirts also protect your neck from a heavy lanyard or strap from a pack. Throw them in the washer at the end of the day, and they’ll be ready to go the next day!

Our recommendations: Simms Outpost Fishing Shirt

Shorts or GORE-TEX waders

Quality fly fishing clothing is an absolute must if you want to keep your fishing adventure enjoyable and comfortable.

Depending on the temperature of the water you’re fishing, you can wear shorts or Gore-tex waders. Shorts are perfect for warm weather days where the water temperature is still bearable to wade. Fly fishing specific shorts are moisture-wicking, quick-drying, and usually have pockets for you to store any necessary gear. Some fly fishing purists refuse to move past waders, but shorts can be extremely useful for those extra-warm days. Combine the shorts with neoprene wading socks and boots, and you’ll be good to go.

Gore-tex waders are a nice option when the water is unbearable for wet wading but the outside temperature is still warm. You can roll the waders down to essentially be wading pants if the outside temperature is too warm for an extra top layer. On those above 80-degree days, do your best to avoid waders, but if they’re absolutely necessary, make sure you spend as much time in the cool waters as possible.

Our Recommendations: Simms Guide Shorts and Patagonia Middle Fork Waders

A Fishing Hat

Fishing hats are perhaps the most underrated part of your fishing wardrobe. When asked what to wear fly fishing, I always start by recommending a good hat. I personally am a fan of a standard baseball hat, but many anglers fly fish with a wide-brimmed hat.

Our Recommendations: Simms Trout Patch Cap

A Buff or Neck Gaiter

Buffs or neck gaiters are other small accessories to protect you on sunny days. These will protect you from the sun as well as the wind. They can even work to keep you warm in the early morning. If you start feeling your nose or neck burning, slide the neck gaiter up, and you’ll be covered. Fly fishermen who don’t wear these are unaware of how helpful they are.

Our Recommendation: Simms Neck Gaiter

Wading Shoes or Boots

Wading boots are often the lifeblood of your fishing clothing, so make sure they fit well and are comfortable.

Wading shoes or boots are an essential piece of gear for your fly fishing setup. Wading shoes can include anything from sandals to shoes created by reputable companies like Orvis, Simms, or Patagonia. Wading sandals are comfortable and relatively inexpensive. Brands like Keen or Chaco make great sandals for wading.

A good pair of wading boots is worth every penny. Wading boots are often the lifeblood of your fishing clothing, so make sure they fit well and are comfortable. You don’t want to be complaining of sore feet at the end of the day. You can choose felt soles or rubber soles, depending on your preference. Certain bodies of water require rubber soles, so make sure you check local regulations before you make your purchase. If you love felt soles, you can purchase a set of wading boots with interchangeable soles.

Our Recommendations: Chaco Odyssey Sandal and Simms Freestone Wading Boots

Vest, Pack or Lanyard

Your choice of a vest, pack, or lanyard depends on your preference as well as how you’re fishing. If you’re fishing a warm day, make sure the vest you choose is light! You don’t want to be soaked in sweat underneath your vest. A light mesh vest is ideal. Vests are great for short, half-day trips!

If you’re using a pack, it’s likely that you’re fishing for an entire day or just prefer a pack. Don’t load down your pack too much, but make sure you have water and some extra sun protection.

Lanyards are great for spot jumping. If you’re driving and moving from spot to spot, a lanyard is easy to slip on and off. Plus, it’s the least intrusive gear you can wear.

Our Recommendations: Patagonia Stealth Vest, Simms Freestone Sling Pack, Orvis Fly Fishing Lanyard


Sunscreen should be required on all sunny days. Even cloudy days can lead to nasty sunburn. Make sure you cover your face, neck, and ears well!

Our Recommendation: Fishpond Sunscreen

Polarized Sunglasses

Regardless of the time of year you’re fishing, a nice set of polarized sunglasses is worth the investment. Anglers have no idea how many fish they’re missing due to a lack of quality sunglasses. The sun makes it challenging to see into the water with the naked eye, but sunglasses will protect you and put you on fish.

Our Recommendation: Smith Guide’s Choice Polarized Glasses

Sun Gloves

Sun gloves are a small accessory that can keep you more comfortable. Only having your fingers exposed will eliminate all chances of sunburn on your body. They’re worth the investment for those high-altitude fishing days!

Our Recommendation: Simms Solar Flex Gloves

Cold Weather Fly Fishing Clothing

Thermal underwear fits well under your waders and will keep the coldness of the water and air temperature away from you.

If you want a chance at trophy fish, you have to be willing to fish in all seasons and weather conditions. Cold weather fishing often consists of salmon fishing, Steelheading, and trophy trout hunting. You can also fly fish in saltwater in the winter and have success. However, cold weather fly fishing often means low temperatures, high winds, and overall challenging conditions.

Thermal Underwear

Thermal underwear is going to be your best friend during cold weather fly fishing. These fit well under your waders and will keep the coldness of the water and air temperature away from you. Don’t leave your house without them on a cold day.

Our Recommendation: Simms Heavyweight Baselayer Pants

Base Layer Shirt

Similar to your long underwear, a nice base layer shirt is going to help you stay warm. Winter fishing is no joke, so have a moisture-wicking base layer shirt to keep any sweat or precipitation off of your body. If your core starts getting cold, you can guarantee that your time on the water is going to be cut short.

Our Recommendation: Simms Lightweight Base Layer Shirt

Mid Layer (Fleece or Synthetic Down/Down Garment) For Warmth

The mid layer is important! It’s the last line of defense for your base layer. You want this to be the warmest layer of your cold-weather fishing setup. Base layer protection is key, and this mid layer has that job. Depending on your preference, this can be fleece or synthetic. Synthetic down layers usually are able to dry a bit faster than a fleece mid layer. Depending on what you wear, you may want to make sure it’s able to resist wind and some moisture.

Our Recommendation: Simms Fall Run Synthetic Hoody

Gore-Tex Wading Jacket or Shell

Now, if it’s one of those extremely cold days and you’re going to be spending the majority of your time in the water, you want a Gore-tex wading jacket or shell. It’s going to keep you fully dry in case you fall in the water, or it’s snowing. These aren’t the cheapest pieces of attire, but they’re worth it if you spend time in cold weather fishing.

Our Recommendations: Simms G3 Guide Tactical Wading Jacket

Gore-Tex or Neoprene Waders

Waders are a requirement in cold weather fly fishing. While the air temperatures may not be overly cold, the water temperatures have fallen, and it can be quite dangerous to enter without waders. A set of fly fishing waders with neoprene socks are going to work as long as you’re willing to layer underneath.

If it’s especially cold, you may have to purchase neoprene waders. These minimize the risk of getting cold regardless of the temperature. They’re thick and bulky but very protective.

Our Recommendation: Orvis Guide Gore-Tex Waders and Cabela’s Classic Neoprene Waders

Wading Boots

High-quality wading boots are even more necessary in the winter. One slip could mean trouble, so make sure your winter wading boots have the necessary grip. If it’s especially slippery, felt wading boots will keep you protected, but rubber soles with cleats can do the trick. Remember, nothing is protection from black ice, so be careful!

Our Recommendations: Korker’s Devil’s Canyon

Wading Belt

Make sure the waders you purchase have a wading belt. A wading belt is going to prevent your waders from completely filling if you happen to fall in the water. Most waders come with a wading belt!

Our Recommendation: Fishpond South Fork Wading Belt

Neck Gaiter

You can purchase a neck gaiter for winter! These usually have a fleece lining that keeps you especially warm on those cold and windy days. These are small accessories that can keep you on the water for even longer than you imagined. They’re well worth the purchase.

Our Recommendation: Eddie Bauer Neck Fleece Gaiter


Not only does a fishing hat protect you from the sun, but it can also help keep you dry and warm.

Make sure you bring a winter hat on those cold weather days. A beanie is worth it! Even if you don’t think they have the best look, the ability to keep your head cold is an absolute necessity. If your head is exposed, your body will lose the necessary heat.

Our Recommendation: Repyourwater Rainbow Trout Beanie

Vest, Pack or Lanyard

Since all of your clothes are going to feel a bit bulky, I’d recommend a lanyard or pack. A vest is going to add another layer and can make casting more difficult. It’s not impossible to wear in cold weather situations, but it’s not always the most comfortable.

Our Recommendations: Patagonia Stealth Vest, Simms Freestone Sling Pack, Orvis Fly Fishing Lanyard


Believe it or not, you can find yourself getting burned in the winter. The sun in cold weather isn’t as powerful, but it can definitely burn any exposed skin. Bring along sunscreen for your face to make sure you stay protected.

Our Recommendation: Fishpond Sunscreen

Polarized Sunglasses

It doesn’t matter the weather or time of year, sunglasses need to go with you when you head to the water. The winter is a great time to sight fish since fish aren’t going to be overly active. If you can see a fish, you have a decent chance of catching it!

Our Recommendation: Smith Guide’s Choice Polarized Glasses

Sun Gloves

Sun gloves aren’t necessarily needed in cold weather fishing. However, some cold weather fishing gloves definitely help. Stripping in cold lines can do a number on your hands, so a set of fingerless fishing gloves will help keep you comfortable.

Our Recommendation: SealSkinz Waterproof Glove

Final Thoughts on Fly Fishing Clothing for All Conditions

My first time targeting salmon in British Columbia came on a snowy and windy day. I knew I was in for an uncomfortable day, but the potential of landing a dream fish was too appealing. I threw on a completely waterproof outfit and boy, was I thankful. My first step over a boulder led to me slipping into freezing water. My wading jacket and waders kept me from ruining what turned into a great day. Quality fly fishing clothing is an absolute must. If you splurge on it once, it’ll last you for years.

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Danny Mooers is a passionate fly fishing and angling writer from Arizona. Danny loves sharing his passion for fly fishing for trout and other species through his work for Tackle Village.
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