By. Andrew Scrivo
Anytime of year, the answer will be the same, layers.
Our number one concern as guides is the safety and comfort of our clients. If you dress appropriately you are going to have a better, safer time out on the water.
You will want to have with you a minimum of three layers for your top and bottom: a base (keeps skin dry), an insulating (warms/retains heat), and a protective layer (keeps you dry on the outside). For your bottoms, your protective layer will most likely be waders. Now, depending on the time of year, your comfort level with different temperature ranges and the advice of your guide, you may need to make adjustments, such as bringing double or thicker insulating layers.
For the purpose of this article I will just give you the basic recipe for comfort and safety: Base, insulate, protect for your top and bottom. It should also be noted that a hat, to prevent heat loss through your head and gloves, to keep those all-important fishing fingers warm, are recommended any time of year.
Even on a half-day trip, 4-5 hours out in the elements is plenty long enough for hypothermia to set in, and in Alaska, that includes mid summer. So, the most important thing to consider on any outdoor excursion is your clothing (shelter).
Clothing should be layered so that thermoregulation (keeping your core body temp at 98.6) can be achieved by using zippers or buttons on your core or by shedding or adding layers, as needed. The last thing you want to do is get wet in the wrong gear and then not be able to regulate your body temp. The effects of hypothermia begin to set in after a core temperature drop of just 3 degrees, and this will happen 25 times faster if your skin is wet.
Let’s say you are on a hike-in fishing adventure with DFG. The first thing is: we will never hike in our waders, even if they’re “breathable.” That is a recipe for disaster, especially because the same parts of you inside the waders that will be soaked in sweat when you reach the fishing grounds are the same parts of you that will be in the water all day while you’re fishing.
Instead, when you start your hike be aware of your body and as soon as you start to sweat, either unzip or shed a layer. Trust me, taking the time to stay dry on the trail is well worth the comfort later on. You will get more fishing time in if you’re dry and comfortable.
When we get to the fishing grounds, unless you’re actively sweating, you will want to layer up again before you start to feel chilled. Some days once you get that chill, it can be really hard to shake. Also, snacking during the day will be a huge help and a quick bite before we get those waders on is the perfect time to do so.
Okay, we’ve eaten a snack and layered back up. Those stocking foot, breathable waders offer little protection from the icy waters of Alaska; yes, even in summer. I have found the best combination of clothing under mine is a nice well-fitted pair of synthetic base layer bottoms (tights, almost) and then, for my insulating layer, a pair of fleece wading pants, which come in several thicknesses. On my feet I wear Merino wool liners (thinner socks) and depending on the temperature outside another pair of thicker socks once I am wading. Another key if it is cold enough that you feel you need that second pair of socks, you should make sure that they aren’t too thick or bulky; if so you will be compressing them in the booties of your waders, both slowing circulation and counteracting most of their insulating ability. In short, if your socks are too thick, they’ll actually make your feet colder and more numb than without. I should note here that if you’re a foot sweater, and you know who you are, you should change into dry socks after the hike and before slipping into your waders (this is a must if you’re wearing cotton). Once you have those waders on, you will not want to take them off.
Hat? Gloves? These are the last pieces to the puzzle. Now, if you decide you don’t need them now, pack any layers you aren’t wearing into your dry bag and take it with you in your float tube. You will be more likely to put those on if you don’t have to come back to shore for them, especially when you’re catching fish! So bring them with you.
Let’s face it, sometimes when you’re having fun in a group it is hard to admit that you’re uncomfortable, especially when you’re afraid it might ruin or shorten the trip for everyone. I promise, it won’t and the earlier you realize that you’re getting cold, the better. Communicating with your guide is extremely important. I guess the point here is: Don’t be stubborn. The elements in Alaska, or anywhere, are nothing to be toyed with. Being smart and safe about your clothing, your first line of defense against the elements, will set the stage for a great day of fishing.
Going on a multi-day excursion with DFG?
Ask your guide how many sets of clothes to bring and any additional gear that you will need.
*It should be noted that both Dan and Andrew at DFG will be constantly assessing clients’ comfort levels and looking for the signs and symptoms of the beginning stages of hypothermia. Also, it is DragonFly Fishing Guides’ policy to carry extra sets of dry, quality clothing and other survival equipment in the case of an emergency on all trips. All guides at DFG also maintain certifications and trainings in: first aid, CPR, cold-water immersion, and hypothermia.
Andrew’s Daily Layers:
TIP: Hands getting cold or stiff? Andrew asks all of his clients to touch their pinky finger to their thumb of the same hand multiple times per day. Can’t do it? You’re losing dexterity and it is time to take a break, eat a snack and warm those extremities!