Dick Magill presents Cold Weather Prep

Dick Magill presents Cold Weather Prep

From the Chronicles of Dick Magill comes this timely article about dressing properly for the conditions. The fall dn winter conditions that we see here on the river can come in quickly, are far harsher than many first timers realize or recognize, and can be quite dangerous for your health if you believe you are one tough SOB.

Well, many of you are not as tough as you think you are. Just based on the countless underprepared or TOUGH GUYS that we encounter in our boats and in the shop annually.

One tough guy outta Lethbridge stated to me that he was from Canada, and the sleeting skies coupled with 37F wind from the north was, and I quote, summer-like in Lethbridge and we here in Montana did not know real weather like he did. So he donned his cold weather barrier, a plastic garbage bag with holes cut out for the arms, and we dumped the boat in the water. End result: Rive vac at California Island. Shaking violently the blue lipped fella was rowed to shore, and Julie came from the shop and reduced said fella.

Just recently helped a local guide who does lots of work for HH pull his boat outta redacted early in the afternoon. He was walking to get his rig @ redacted I picked up said guide and asked what his deal was. He stated that the two fellas, must a been tough guys in the am, at 10am, now 1230pm, that they could handle it and they were dressed appropriately for the conditions. Well 2 hours till you are bitter cold is not dressed properly. As I was helping the guide lift his boat from the rocks and precarious exit from Mother Mo, one of the anglers was telling me how warm he was in his non waterproof gear. Huh? He was the one begging to get off the river and having his guide walk the last 3 miles to get the truck begging for warmth. Funny how dudes get tougher when talking to a third party.

Guides: Love to get paid for not working. All guuides want the daily wage if they dunk the boat in the water. You want out early? OK. Sounds great. But if you want to fish the entire day…

Dudes: A message to you. Dress warmly. I have not yet had a female lie about their toughness. It is OK if it is too cold. Dress better. Come prepared.

And now Richard, let us in on how you prepare for cold Mo River weather…

Fall is arguably one of the best times to target large trout on the Missouri River. The weather can be volatile with strong north winds ripping through the canyon driving the air temp well below the freezing mark. Yet with a little luck the weather will break, and you’ll find yourself fishing in decent conditions, typically with the entire Missouri River to yourself. It’s by no means for the faint of heart, but with the right gear and a little determination, you can catch some of the largest fish of the year. 

Fishing in colder temperatures requires a bit of preparation if you want to safely stay on the water long enough to find a few hungry trout. The way you layer your clothes as well as the materials you choose to wear can make a huge difference. I start by donning a pair of polypropylene socks, followed by a pair of heavy wool socks. The polypropylene socks are good for wicking moisture away from your feet and paired with the insulating properties of wool, your feet will stay warmer much longer. My socks of choice are the Simms Guide Wet Wading sock warn under the Simms Guide Thermal OTC Sock. It’s a super warm combo that will surly help keep your toes warm.

After my socks are taken care of, I make sure my legs are going to stay warm. I opt out of using one thick layer and prefer to use multiple thin layers. This helps to trap more air, creating a microclimate in your waders that is warmer than the surrounding air/water temps. A great three-layer system consist of the Simms Mid Weight Core Bottom, Fleece Midlayer Bottom, and the Exstream core bottom. 

Keeping your core warm is arguably the most important part of the equation. Again, I use several different layers to maintain my core temperature. Some kind of synthetic shirt to wick moister away. Most sun shirts actually make great base layers during the colder months. I like the Orvis Men’s ½ Zip Fleece Sweater as my second layer. It’s super warm and not too bulky. If it’s really cold, I’ll also throw an old Simms Puffy on. The very last layer is a combination of my waders and wading jacket. I’ve been using the Simms G-3 waders for about a year and a half now and they are by far the best waders I’ve ever used. They’ve got well over 250 days on them and they are still as good as new. My G-3 Wading jacket has been a part of my arsenal for the better part of the last five years and is just now starting to show a bit of wear. 

I do a couple different things to keep my hands warm. Obviously, hand warmers are a must this time of year, but a good set of gloves can go a long way in keeping you on the water. When I’m actually fishing, I don’t like losing dexterity in my fingers. In colder conditions this can happen either by not wearing gloves in cold air or simply wearing bulky gloves. To help mitigate this problem, I use a pair of Nitrile gloves as a base layer. They’ll keep your hands wind and waterproof but still allow for enough manual dexterity to tie complex fishing knots. To further insulate my hands, I like to wear a pair of Simms Headwaters Fleece Half Finger Gloves over top the Nitrile gloves. They are very warm even after getting wet, and they also have a nifty pocket built in for housing hand warmers. 

If you prepare and utilize the appropriate clothing, your fishing season can extend well into winter and maybe even become a year-round thing.  You might even find your new favorite season to fish the Mo.


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  • David Frank Pac
    October 26, 2020 11:37 am

    Excellent advice for staying warm and functional on the river. May I add that keeping your body core warm also requires wearing a very warm hat such as a wool cap with visor or a ski hat under the hood of your wading jacket. Often, I see fishermen wearing warm clothing but they continue to wear a summer type ball cap under their hood.

    • Dave, Mark here and I like hand warmers in my front pockets near my core, my chest. Seems to keep me warmer. Also, a couple in your jacket pockets, and one each in the glove, on top of the hands!

  • Todd M Samson
    October 26, 2020 7:22 pm

    Hey Mark,
    How are the weeds for swinging?

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