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Old favorites are new again for cold weather fishing

John Berry

Recently I had a guide trip that included a very cold start. The temperatures began at about forty three degrees. In addition, it was raining. This made for a potentially miserable day. The trick to make it through the day was to dress properly. I chose to wear long wool underwear, a light wool sweater and a light down sweater under my rain gear.

Years ago, I had switched over to polypropylene base garments (underwear). It was the new miracle fiber it was machine washable, breathable and could wick moisture away from the body and it could be made from recycled plastic soda bottles. It was considered to be the thinking man’s alternative to wool long handles. Wool was itchy and not machine washable.

I was introduced to wool long under wear, when I was drafted into the Army in 1966. I found it to be really warm. My grandfather wore them during every winter. He would don them when the leaves turned yellow on the Sycamore tree in his back yard and would trade them for cotton when that same tree budded out in the spring. When the new polypropylene underwear came out most outdoor enthusiasts switched to it.

A few years ago I noticed that a lot of the big outdoor clothing companies were introducing merino wool under garments. Patagonia, Simms, Orvis, and a host of others now offer them. The merino wool clothing is not itchy and is machine washable. I believe it is warmer. It is certainly more attractive. It dyes well and doesn’t tend to pill like the polypropylene.

About the same time that we were introduced to polypropylene underwear, we were also found polar pile. It has the same qualities and is made basically the same way. It was found to be warm and easily washed. It was not a perfect outer garment because it was not wind proof and could be a bit bulky. Before this we wore wool shirts, wool sweaters and wool coats. Wool never went out of style for dress clothing but lost some of its allure for outdoor clothing. Now tightly woven woolen sweaters and pants are a popular item, due to the introduction of merino wool.

For me the ultimate cold weather garment is down. This is made from the under feathers of geese. It is a natural source of insulation. It is incredibly warm and light. In addition it is very compressible. A down garment can be stuffed into a small space for easy storage or transportation. It seems like down fell out of favor for a while.

Now it seems that companies like Patagonia are making several down garments in new innovative styles. The thick overstuffed down coats of yesterday have been replaced by sleeker and even lighter down sweaters and shirts. L. L. Bean has always produced down coats and vests but has added the lighter sweaters to its line and has even created water proof down.

I have embraced down. I have a down jacket, vest and sweater. I have found the sweater to be new favorite cold weather staple. It is warm, super light and will stuff into its own pocket. If the day heats up I can easily carry it in a fishing vest pocket. I also wear it around the house or when I am working at Blue Ribbon Fly Shop. My wife Lori also favors a down jacket and sweater. We both have down sleeping bags and sleep under a down comforter.

Give the new old standards, wool and down, a try. You will be glad you did.

 

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