Simms Clothing Winter Layering Systems

The first consideration of winter fishing is making it enjoyable, but being cold and damp just doesn't cut it, and why should it with all the readily available technical clothing available these days? You can wear the most hi-tech breathable Gucci waders but if you aren't wearing the right clothing beneath, you will become as wet and uncomfortable as if you were wearing a sack.

Basically gumboots, jeans, cotton T shirt and a hoody just won’t cut it unless you've a hankering for hypothermia. So, let’s talk layering systems for winter fishing.


  1. THE BASE LAYER -  which is closest to the skin. Its primary function is to keep you dry by wicking moisture away from the body
  2. THE INSULATION LAYER - this provides warmth
  3. THE OUTER LAYER - then finally the outer, barrier, or shell layer to protect you from the elements

Simms Layering


Your base layer should be thought of as your wicking layer, there to quickly move any moisture away from the skin and through to the outer layers. It should also sit close to the skin to afford some insulation. In this regard, your base layer, more than any other layer is responsible for keeping you warm. Polyester or polypropylene synthetic materials, or a natural fibre such as merino make for superb, moisture wicking base layer garments, the synthetics providing fast dry properties, and the wool remaining warm while wet.

Yoshi Nakagawa Fly Fishing The Twizel Canals In Winter


Your mid layer should be thought of as your insulation / warmth layer, trapping body heat amongst its fibres whilst allowing moisture to pass through. Fleece style garments like the Flyweight Access Hoodie are perfect here and multiple layers are easily added as needed. I often wear a Simms Rogue softshell style fleece jacket which also provides wind protection and DWR finish for more pleasant days where this is all I wear, or a Simms Exstream insulated down jacket on sufficiently colder days. I prefer multiple layers rather than just one thick mid layer for warmth, for items can be shed as the day warms up or for the big walk home, or added as required.

Simms G3 Guide Jacket Outer Layer


Your outer layer is your protection from the elements. Your weather layer and having a couple of options in the truck is often a good idea. Windproof is a must. Water resistant fleece is great for one option and full waterproof like the G4 pro Jacket is essential for the other, allowing you to dress to the conditions. Breathable to allow moisture to pass through from within but keep moisture out is a given, and for me it is hard to go past Gore-Tex, or Gore Windstopper garments here.

Simms Gloves


A good hat and gloves will help retain a lot of body heat to the point where you can often cut back on your mid layers. A simple wind-stopper fleece beanie and fleece lined, windproof fingerless gloves hold place in my day pack even throughout the summer months.

A pair of quality Simms merino socks too add to your overall comfort, wicking moisture from your feet and keeping you warm in the process. Once the feet get cold ones level of comfort deteriorates fast and home-time often beckons.


A good pair of breathable waders worn in conjunction with a considered clothing system will often keep you warmer, and yet remain much more versatile than the best neoprene waders out there. You can layer up in the cold and layer down on those warmer days, especially if there’s a bit of a hike to that river-mouth or if you’re clocking the k’s walking the canals.

For my money it’s hard to beat Simms breathable Gore-Tex waders, for their durability, and degree of waterproofing whilst maximising breathability - plus they are just so easy to repair when needed. Check out the Simms Guide Classic wader for affordable Gore-Tex breathability, the new G3 Guide model for increased robustness and breathability,  or the Simms G4 Pro and G4Z for maximum features and comfort.

For the occasional angler, The price pointed Freestone model features rugged, breathable japanese manufactured Toray Quadralam, designed specifically for fishing waders that will keep you comfortable and dry, and most importantly out there, for longer.


And remember that correct layering is not just for cool, winter conditions, but help regulate your body temperature and increase comfort during the height of summer too. Here a moisture wicking base layer and mid / outer layer will allow your body to breathe whilst staying dry. Add a breathable windproof and water resistant shell and you will remain more comfortable, and less fatigued on the river for longer. And that means more fish!

Now layer up, go outside and get some!


Chris Dore is a battle tested fly fishing guide with over 15 years of professional guiding experience, battling the demanding, ever changing conditions that our New Zealand rivers throw at us.

In 2006 Chris became one of the first New Zealanders to successfully pass the internationally recognised Federation of Fly Fishers Certified Casting Instructors examination and has since taught many thousands of anglers to up their skillset.

For more in person and on river fly fishing advice and upskilling why not book Chris for a day or three?