Here in Colorado the temperatures are finally offering a taste of winter. With the onset of this season, winter tenkara becomes my focus and passion. Winter tenkara for me is about dialing in my technique to catch fish in a much more challenging environment.
The number one challenge I find as a winter tenkara angler is dealing with temperatures in the low thirties to sub freezing temperatures Fahrenheit. Luckily, in winter tenkara, the angler does not need to worry about frozen line guides or even frozen reels.
Defeat the White Monster
Learning how to keep your body warm in extremely challenging conditions is a key to winter tenkara success. By learning to create a functional layering system a winter tenkara angler can keep themselves warm and dry. Using a functional layering system will increase your enjoyment and success as a winter tenkara angler.
As a dedicated winter tenkara angler myself, I have come up with a layering system that pretty much guarantees my warmth and pleasure while winter tenkara fishing. It has taken me many years as a fly fisherman to get to this point, I hope that this post will help shorten up your test period to create your own personal layering system.
The Tenkara Grasshopper Winter Tenkara Layering System
So what am I using to keep warm while winter tenkara fishing?
My Lower Body Layering System
Starting from the bottom up will get you started with the right gear from the start.
My choice of a base layer for my legs has been the Marmot Dri-Clime Long Underwear. Sadly, the Dri-Clime is no longer available, and because of this I have moved to the Ibex Woolies 3 Bottoms. Ibex is known for their extremely high quality Merino wool blends making the choice of these bottoms very easy for me. Using the Ibex Woolies 3 keeps my legs toasty no matter the conditions.
My feet get extremely cold because of poor decisions I made when I was younger. To keep my feet insulated from the cold I am now using Merino wool socks made by Darn Tough Socks out of Vermont. Darn Tough Socks are not only the warmest socks I have owned, they are also the most durable socks. My favorite style is the Hike/Trek Wool Micro-Crew Cushion Sock for my everyday wear. I really prefer the Hike/Trek Boot Cushion Sock for winter tenkara. With a lifetime guarantee there is really no other reason to buy any other socks. And as a matter of fact, I have replaced all of my socks with Darn Tough Socks.
Using the base layers above keep me warm but I still require something to keep me dry as well. I am currently using the Redington Sonic Pro Wader Pant. These are my year round waders of choice as I seldom go into water more than mid-thigh. To learn more about my reasoning behind my choice of waders check out my Redington Sonic Pro Wader Pant review.
I do not have a specific winter tenkara wading boot. I am currently using the Simms G4 Boa Boot which was a suggested boot by the guys over at Minturn Anglers in Parker where I work as a tenkara guide. As a guide and winter tenkara angler, one of the things I love about the Boa System is that it seldom freezes. Also the Boa System allows me to quickly adjust my boots with little difficulty.
I have found that for winter tenkara I prefer a rubber sole over a felt sole. I feel that rubber is safer when walking snow covered trails or slopes. Now is not the time or place to argue whether rubber or felt soles are better for the environment.
My Upper Body Layering System
Staying warm while winter tenkara fishing is not just about keeping the lower body warm. To truly enjoy winter tenkara, the angler needs to keep their core warm. With a few select pieces keeping your core warm will not be a difficult process.
In my case, I start with a long sleeve bamboo shirt from Free Fly Apparel. I use these shirts as they have amazing wicking properties that pull moisture away from the body. I also find these shirts to be extremely comfortable on warmer days while winter tenkara fishing.
With the Free Fly Apparel Bamboo Shirt I can stay warm or cool as my body temperature and moisture are regulated by this shirt.
If the temperatures are going to be in the twenties to low teens Fahrenheit, my base layer of choice is the Ibex Woolies 1 in a long sleeve because of the properties of wool. Even when wet, wool a higher warmth ratio than bamboo or cotton. There is nothing more annoying than the incessant itch from a rough wool. Ibex uses Merino wool with a very soft hand and no itch factor unlike raw wool or ragg wool.
Wind and Waterproof Layers
Over my wool or Dri-Clime base layers I commonly wear a Marmot Fleece Vest with Gore Windstopper. When I am not wearing my Marmot vest I will use my Marmot Leadville Vest. I wear this as it is very light weight but keeps my core nice and toasty.
To add another layer of warmth I like to wear a Marmot Ether Driclime Jacket for my winter tenkara outings. Being that the jacket is wind resistant, water repellent, and breathable I have not found any other reason to choose any other other layer. To keep me from getting too warm there are mesh underarm vents allowing for an airflow next to none. Most days this is all I need to stay warm for my winter tenkara excursions.
On those days that I know I will be experiencing heavy wet snows my waterproof shell is the Marmot Precip Jacket. Precip is Marmot’s proprietary waterproof breathable laminate. I have had great luck with this material over the last two decades with no problems.
The Precip Jacket is not just waterproof and breathable. It is amazingly packable, stuffing into the left pocket. The stuffability of the Precip Jacket means that it takes no appreciable space in a pack or even in my waders.
Human beings lose 40% to 45% of their total body heat through their head. Anyone who knows me well knows that I lose about 70% of my heat through my head. Most of my hair has gone the way of the snowbird. It has travelled down to warmer climates with no intention of returning. Because of this keeping my head warm is an ongoing struggle.
To maintain my warmth through my head I wear a Buff turned into a beanie. I prefer the beanie as it gives me the needed warmth on almost all my winter tenkara trips. If I need protection for my face I can convert it to a balaclava or a neck gaiter. With over fifteen total wear combinations I can cover most conditions. And with multiple patterns available I can find a pattern for any mood.
I have yet to find the perfect glove for winter tenkara but I am still on the eternal search.
Winter Tenkara Apparel Conclusions
Using the apparel listed in this post I am prepared for almost anything that Mother Nature might throw at me while winter tenkara fishing. I believe that any angler wishing to experience winter tenkara fishing will find this to give them the perfect system to enjoy themselves.
Gear Purchase Links
The links above will give you the chance to purchase the gear discussed in this post from a number of retailers online. I have also provided you with the links to retailers I use myself below.
Wilderness Exchange Unlimited