While you might be tempted to wet wade or wear shorts and flip flops in the boat on a nice fall day, the smart angler comes prepared for the worst weather while fly fishing the autumn season in places like Colorado. I’ve guided in snow storms as early as the first week in September and it is not uncommon to start out your morning float on the Colorado with temperatures below freezing in October. In short, if you are not prepared with the right gear, a day on the river that started out sunny with ideal temperatures and little wind can change instantly into a nasty fall storm that makes staying dry and warm a priority.
Here are several pieces of top notch fly fishing gear you’ll want have in your vehicle or in your pack or boat at all times.
Good Rain Gear
For successful year-round fly fishing, staying dry is priority number one. Your arsenal should include a rain jacket designed specifically for fly fishing like the Simms Slick Jacket. The Slick Jacket is made with stretchy, three-layer GORE-TEX Pro Shell fabric so that you can move freely and remain totally dry – even in the worst weather. Its five large pockets are made with a low-profile design so that they provide ample storage for all of your fly boxes, tackle, and tools without getting in the way or catching your line. Other important features include watertight cuffs, a two-way drawcord waist, and interior pass-through zippers that let you gain access to your waders without undressing and getting soaked.
Waders are your next line of defense against chilly wet conditions, even if you aren’t actually wading and are just rowing your boat, quality waders will be appreciated when the mercury plummets and spitting rain changes to swirling snow. While float fishing I used to just carry a pair of rain pants but it’s hard to beat the full foot coverage and increased durability of a pair of wading pants like the Simms Freestone Pants. The Simms Freestone Pants give anglers durable, waterproof agility without the bulk of chest waders. These lighweight, waist-high waders slip on and off easily and stay put when you are on the move with the built-in adjustable belt. Four-layer Toray Quadralam fabric technology provides breathable waterproofing and sturdy abrasion resistance. Built-in gravel guards protect the neoprene booties from sand and debris. Scrambling over rocks and logs is made easier with the mobility-minded center seams and articulated knees. The streamlined Simms Freestone Pants are ideal for active anglers who appreciate functionally superior, minimalist gear that won’t slow them down.
Staying dry is only the first step when your fall fly fishing trip runs into foul weather. Keeping warm will allow you to fish comfortably all day. In addition to what you wear to the river, at the minimum your layering and insulating pieces should provide full body coverage. Start with a warm hat like the Simms GORE-TEX ExStream Hat with 3-layer GORE-TEX fabric that provides 100% waterproof, breathable protection while built-in ear flaps and a quilted fleece lining provide extra warmth. Next keep your torso and legs warm with the Simms Montana Wool Top and Bottoms. Finally with the RepYourWater Trout Skin merino socks your toes will also stay warm no matter the weather.
All of the items above become worthless if they get soaked before an angler actually needs to use them. For this reason both wading and float fishing anglers should store their foul weather kit in some kind of waterproof storage. After proving itself during a two-week stay in the backcountry rainforests of Alaska, I’ve come to love my Umpqua Tongass Gear Bag which combines all the best attributes of a dry bag with the carrying capacity of a big duffel and the shouldering comfort of a backpack. The elongated mouth and dual tarpaulin bands at the opening ensure that water never gets inside, and the padded shoulder straps make for a comfortable ride when loaded down with equipment. It is a simple, rugged way to protect your most important pieces of gear and features a top web grab handle, coated web lash points, dual tarpaulin-banded roll-top with mouth extension for extra water resistance and the 90-liter main compartment fits large items.
Cold mornings at the boat ramp and chilly fall breezes that turn into icy gales mean anglers need more than just warm and dry clothes to stay comfortable. A little piping hot fuel will also make any fall fly fishing session more pleasant when the weather starts to grind an angler down. There’s no better solution for carrying a full day’s worth of coffee, hot chocolate or soup than with Yeti’s Rambler Bottles. The Rambler Bottle is a thermos that offers a wide mouth with Over-the-Nose technology for easy loading, drinking, and cleaning. The TripleHaul cap is comfortable to grip, 1% leakproof, and insulated. You’ll also get all the benefits of a Rambler, including durable 18/8 stainless steel construction and double-wall vacuum insulation that keeps your beverages hot (or cold) while preventing condensation through its No Sweat design. Three sizes are available.
Fall is a favorite time of year for our fly fishing guides here at Vail Valley Anglers. The fishing is great, angling pressure is minimal, the autumn colors are vibrant and for the most part the weather is pleasant. But we always hit the water prepared for whatever Mother Nature has in store for us. The right gear can turn a tough weather day into a successful day of fly fishing that won’t soon be forgotten.
Brody Henderson, Guide and Content Writer