Layering Clothes - Fly Fishing 101

Layering Clothes: What Type of Clothes Should I Get? - Hook and Fly Apparel

Layering clothes is done by almost everyone in the world, whether they live on the equator with extreme heat or incredibly North where every season makes themselves prevalent. The most common people to layer might have vast differences in life, but they both understand the power layering can have for you.

Fashionistas layer to perfect their outfit and create a new style to follow, while fishermen layer to maintain comfort and efficiency. It’s safe to say though, out of the two, the latter is the most common style being worn around the world. However, just because you layer clothing over each other doesn’t mean you are doing it properly. Layering isn’t just about piling clothing on top of another to keep you warm. It’s about strategically picking the right fabrics able to blend well together for various situations.


The most common fabric used in clothing is cotton. However, cotton will not be your friend if you add it in your layering. Layering is most commonly done when you will be outside for extended periods of time, such as fishing or hiking. Whether you’re standing still by a river fishing under the blaze of the sun or you’re traveling up a mountain in a slightly clouded area, you will sweat. Cotton isn’t hydrophobic, waterproof or even water-resistant, as a matter of fact, it’s hydrophilic.

Hydrophilic fabrics soak up water like a sponge, the opposite of wicking. Once your cotton shirt gets wet, it will soak up the water, blocking the air pockets in the shirt allowing breath-ability. Wicking would have pushed the wetness to the most outer layer of the shirt, keeping the fabric touching your skin dry. Without this insulation you are susceptible to diseases like hypothermia, bronchitis and pneumonia.

Also avoid:

  • Corduroy
  • Flannel
  • Denim
  • Duck

Base Layer

While cotton is a truly popular material used, it’s not the only one. Your base layer is going to be your first articles of clothing you put on: pants, underwear, socks, and shirt. It’s recommended to wear something able to wick sweat and moisture off of you, which is why the clothing should also be snug on you. Don’t have your clothing squeezing you, but just tight enough where the fabric can push off the sweat.

There are a variety of fabrics you can use, but the most common and strongest ones are synthetic and merino wool. Synthetic fabrics vary from nylon, polyester, rayon and many more, but each one is able to do its job to the best of its ability. Synthetic fabrics will truly wick off the perspiration you have, while keeping you as dry as you were in bed. Its dryness can be attributed to its massive durability. The inorganic materials its made from will also allow you to go days without washing your clothes and preventing them from smelling.

However, if you wanted to go with something more natural there is always merino wool. The wool, like synthetic fibers, is capable of resisting odor and wicking away any liquids. Although, it does maintain 36 percent of water when wet, it will still keep you insulated. Unlike synthetic fibers, merino wool is natural, bio-degradable and doesn’t harm the Earth in the long-run. Versatility with comfort is the main component of this fabric.

While the fabric is the key ingredient in this layered onion, the weight is just as crucial. However, this all depends on what type of person you are. If you are naturally always a little hotter than a lightweight option would best suit you. But, if you are the type to always blast the heater, than pick the heavyweight material. Just be aware, you have two more layers left.

Insulating Layer

The insulating layer might be the hardest thing you’ll have to pick out of this outfit. You have to take into account insulation, weight, thickness, durability and even shell material. For example, there is down insulation and water-resistant down insulation. Using the plumules from ducks and geese it creates an ultra-lightweight and ultrawarm jacket. The plumules create air pockets and trap in the heat you radiate. While, a down insulation will keep you warm, you need to avoid getting it wet as it is slow to dry and won’t insulate you. You could get a water-resistant one, but it’s more expensive and might not be as effective as synthetic.

Preventing your down from getting wet could be tricky, especially if you don’t anticipate the weather to shift to rain and snow. This is where synthetic insulation takes the lead. Synthetic insulation might be heavier in order to maintain the same warmth as down insulation, but it will dry much faster than downfrom a day to a few hours. One extra little perk, if you have allergies to ducks this will be your jacket as most synthetic ones hypoallergenic. The insulating layer isn’t meant to keep you dry, but to keep you warm.

Outer Layer

The last layer, while not always needed, can change a dreadful day of heavy rain into a joyous celebration of bass fishing in the snow. The last layer will also do a lot of the heavy lifting when you’re out fishing at 5:30 in the morning. These jackets come in a variety of styles to choose from. A waterproof jacket will be able to prevent your skin from even feeling damp. There’s also the waterproof jacket with little to no breathability.These are the ponchos you see many tourists wearing. Although, you can always get a water-resistant jacket, while it won’t completely keep you dry, it’ll keep light rain out.

Shells are another form of an outer layer and it’s used interchangeably with jackets, but these can also refer to pants. You can wear a hard shell, which is similar to waterproof hardware, but it’s the only thing it will do. You won’t receive insulation from the shell, only from you midlayer and base layer. The soft shell, on the other hand, is more celebrated and used. These are typically more flexible, because it’s using one piece for both the insulation and water-resistance. You’ll have an extra layer of warmth, but you’re trading it for less resistance to the wind, rain and snow.

Trying to have the perfect set of layers can be tricky, but you understand your body the best. Being the type to naturally always be cold, you’ll probably want to wear a heavier shirt, a down jacket and a soft shell. Thankfully, there are more outdoor activity stores, like Hook and Fly Apparel or Coalatree, opening up across the country.