What to Wear Fishing: A Handy Guide
Oct 12, 2021 | 11 minute read
Reading Time: 11 minutes

Being comfortable in your clothes is always important, but even more so when it comes to fishing. When you’re moving around a lot, sweating even more, and facing the elements, you want to be as protected as possible. But how do you prepare for your fishing trip? Where do you start? Whether you’re a beginner in need of advice or a seasoned angler looking to upgrade their wardrobe, what to wear fishing is a topic worthy of your time and research.

An elderly angler standing in a river holding a fishing rod

Don’t worry! While fishing apparel options are growing every day, it doesn’t have to be a hassle to choose something that works for you. We’ll take you through different pieces of clothing and point out why they’re important. Then it’s up to you to decide on your preferences and go shopping.

What to Wear Fishing – Basics

We’ll start you off with a “beginner’s package.” While the apparel of shore and boat fishermen differs significantly in certain aspects, the basics remain the same. The trifecta of good quality fishing clothes is protection, comfort, and camouflage. These are the things you should keep in mind when choosing what to wear fishing. 

Seasoned anglers swear by layers, layers, layers. A recreational fisherman’s attire usually consists of three layers – bottom, middle, and top. On hot summer days, just two layers will do the trick. Each of these layers has its purpose in allowing you maximum comfort and optimal performance. Here’s what every angler should have in their wardrobe sooner rather than later.

✓ Baselayer Shirt 

Whenever you’re being active, whether it’s running, hiking, or fishing, having a good-quality baselayer shirt can be a lifesaver. These are lightweight, breathable t-shirts, usually made from polyester, nylon, merino wool, or a polyester-cotton blend. These materials help wick away sweat and keep you dry and comfortable. While your first impulse might be to get a good old 100% cotton shirt, we don’t recommend it. You want something that will dry fast and won’t stick to your skin, and cotton is the opposite of that. 

If at all possible, get a sun-protective baselayer with a strong UPF – that way you’re protected from the ultraviolet rays from the start. Some brands offer shirts that minimize odor and are water repellent if you feel like covering all bases.

✓ Long or Short-Sleeved Shirt

A display of camouflage fishing shirts

Moving on to the middle layer, this is the one that serves as insulation in the winter, and offers protection against the elements when the weather is warmer. We’d always recommend getting a long-sleeved shirt because it provides better coverage. If you’re thinking “I don’t want to wear long sleeves on a 90ºF day,” think again. 

These shirts are specially designed for fishing. They‘re made of nylon, and have plenty of ventilation all around the torso. Your arms and upper body are protected from the sun, but you won’t feel stifled or hot. These shirts are made to dry off quickly, and some are stain-resistant, which is always a welcome perk when fishing. Our advice is to choose the color depending on the surroundings of your fishing spot. Especially if you’re doing shallow water fishing, you’ll want to blend in with your environment, so anything that includes muted greens, grays, browns, and blues is a good choice.

✓ Pants/Shorts

Choosing the right pants can make or break your fishing trip. If you think we’re overreacting, just try hitting the water in cotton sweats or old jeans, chances are you won’t be having a good time. Here again, nylon is the preferable choice of material, because it provides freedom of movement, it’s light and quick-drying. Also, nylon doesn’t usually stain or tear easily, plus most of these pants are waterproof. Having quality pants is important on many levels – they keep you warm, dry, and protect you from the sun, insects, and other pests.

Fishermen like their clothes to be on the practical side, so it’s a good idea to get pants with loads of pockets. Another option is to get a pair with a removable lower half so that you can simply turn pants into shorts if it gets too hot on the water. 

✓ Footwear

We could dedicate an article to this topic because there are many different types of fishing-suitable shoes you could use. Let’s start with socks. Just like with other clothes, it’s good to wear thin, breathable socks, and polyester works best. When the weather is colder and you need extra warmth, wool is the safest way to go.

Sandals, booties, shoes, boots, sneakers are all an option when it comes to suitable fishing footwear. What you’ll choose should depend on where you’re fishing. Open, non-slip sandals are a good idea on hot summer days when you don’t mind getting your feet wet. Closed fishing shoes need to be comfortable, quick-dry and/or waterproof, and wear-and-tear-resistant. Anglers are often partial to rubber boots, which will keep you dry, but not necessarily warm. Rubber soles work best because they provide good traction and won’t slip so easily. Avoid boots with felt soles because they can attract harmful microorganisms from different watersheds, and can wreak havoc on the ecosystem. Because of this, they’re even banned in some states.

✓ Other Essentials: Hats, Gloves, Sunglasses

A fisherman in a hat and sunglasses hoding a fishing rod on his shoulder, with water and sky in the background

We can’t talk about what to wear fishing without mentioning hats, sunglasses, and gloves. These might seem like accessories, but trust us, they become essential when you spend your whole day outside.

A good hat is probably the most important out of three. If you’re standing in the sun for hours on end, you’ll need extra protection. Anglers have different preferences, and anything from a simple ball cap to a buff is a good choice. Some people even use hard hat liners. Light hats with a wide brim seem to be the best solution – they cover your face and neck and protect you from overheating.

Good polarized sunglasses are another important item on every fisherman’s checklist. People often think they don’t make much of a difference until they try fishing in them. Not only do you see your prey better because you’re protected from the glare of the water’s surface, but you look good too.

Having gloves while handling fishing tackle or wearing them in the summer might not make a lot of sense. But in order to prevent sunburn on your hands, having sun fishing gloves is a must. You can get the fingerless kind if you want to handle your hooks and bait without losing your touch. You can also get light gloves with UPF protection. If you’re wondering what to wear fishing and whether a hat, gloves, and sunglasses are essential, we’re here to thell you that yes, yes they are.

What to Wear When Fishing from Shore

Now let’s talk about additionals. We’ve covered the essentials every angler needs wherever they’re fishing, so let’s bring our attention to shore fishing. Simple casting, wade fishing, and fly fishing all require similar attire, so what works for one will work for all.

An infographic with blue background displaying what to wear fishing

Bear in mind that you should bring with you all the “basic” clothes we already talked about. From there, you can continue to add layers depending on the fishing conditions. Let’s see what you should consider wearing when you’re fishing from shore.

Shore Fishing in Spring/Summer

✓ Waders

Shore fishermen are no strangers to spending hours waist-deep in the cold waters of mountain creeks and rivers. In these situations, good-quality insulation and clothes are absolutely indispensable. Along with breathable nylon shorts and shirts, a reliable pair of waders is necessary.

There are two basic types of waders, chest and waist waders. Which one you’ll choose depends on how deep the water is and what you’re more comfortable in. Most fishermen choose chest waders made of neoprene, which are durable, waterproof, and offer better insulation. Other materials to consider are PVC and nylon, which are on the lighter side and more flexible. Chest waders are perfect for deep rivers which require long casts. If you’re staying closer to shore, then waist waders will do the trick.

Another very important component of waders is a wader belt. It allows you to cinch the waders close to your body and prevent the water from spilling in. Keeping water out of your waders is both for your comfort and safety –waders filled with water can weigh you down significantly.

Wader Boots

A fly fisherman standing waist-deep in a river, casting a fly

A lot of waders come with a pair of wader boots, but that’s not always the case. While waders cover your feet to a certain extent, you’ll need reliable wader boots for extra protection and safety. You can take your pick between long boots that go up to your hips, knee wading boots, or even wading booties if you’re staying in shallow waters. These will protect you from insects, potential sharp objects, and barnacles on the ground. You want rubber soles on your boots, and you can even add metal studs for additional traction and stability. 

✓ Fishing Vest

If you don’t feel like lugging around a whole toolbox to the water, then consider investing in a fishing vest. This piece of clothing is not only useful but also provides a bit of extra protection and heat when necessary. Vests sport a variety of pockets and handy lanyards, to hold your tackle and small tools. Some even have a special waterproof pocket where you can store your phone, wallet, and fishing license.

If you want to be prepared for summer showers, a light raincoat is enough to keep you dry during the warmer months. Even a simple waterproof windbreaker would do.

Shore Fishing in Fall/Winter

A person in a windbreaker jacket caught from behind, holding a fishing rod

✓ Long-Sleeved Shirt as a Bottom Layer

Wearing layers is the unprecedented rule of all fishermen and women. Well-chosen layers will keep your body temperature stable and allow you to feel comfortable.

From the get-go, you want the layer of clothing next to your skin to be a good fit, comfortable, and moisture-wicking. Wool or polypropylene shirts are the way to go because they have all of the above. Cotton shirts are not a good idea, because it takes them forever to dry, and you don’t want to be wet in sub-zero temperatures.

✓ Warm Middle Layer

On top of your shirt comes the layer that provides warmth and additional insulation. Wool sweaters, fleece zip shirts – whatever you find appropriate. If you can get a middle layer that can protect you from the wind, that’s a welcome bonus.

✓ Long Underwear & Waterproof Pants

A closeup of man's waterproof pants while standing on a rock with snowy landscape in the background

Another must-have for shore fishermen in colder weather is a good pair of long thermal underwear (long johns, if you will). Insulation is key since you’ll be spending a whole day outside, with nothing but your clothes to keep you warm. Fleece and wool are the best materials for this purpose. If you don’t feel like long underwear, sweatpants can work too. 

When it comes to your bottoms, you want them to be warm, comfortable, and waterproof. And we can’t stress the waterproof part enough. You’ll be outside for long periods of time, getting splashed on a lot, so you don’t want your legs or feet to get wet at any point. That’s why having a reliable protective layer to cover your legs and feet from cold and moisture is a lifesaver.

✓ Fishing Rain Gear

Wondering what to wear fishing on a rainy day? Fishermen aren’t afraid of a little bad weather and it takes more than some drizzle to get them off the water. If you’re fishing in the mountains, the elements can be fickle, so it’s better to be prepared for every situation. 

In early spring and fall, with rain comes a temperature drop, so you’ll want a warm jacket to protect you from the wet and cold. Then, you can continue enjoying fishing. Unless you see lightning, in which case, it’s time to go home.

When the temperatures drop and you’re wondering what to wear fishing, put on lightweight long underwear. Pair them with wool socks and you’ll stay warm and dry without feeling clammy in your wader boots.

What to Wear When Fishing from a Boat

Whether you’re hitting the waves on your own or going out with a charter, fishing from a boat also requires preparation. Look through the checklist at the beginning of the article for all the basics you need. Here are some additional guidelines to help you figure out what to wear when casting your line from a boat.

Boat Fishing in Spring/Summer

A deep sea fisherman in a hat reeling in his catch while standing close to the boat rail

✓ Breathable Sun-Protective Clothes

If you’re fishing in the summer, then a quality breathable baselayer shirt paired with a light, long-sleeved shirt with UPF protection will do the trick. Fast-drying shorts are a good idea because you’ll be splashed by the waves and your catch.

As always on a fishing trip, remember to bring your hat, polarized sunglasses, and sun gloves.

✓ The Right Shoes 

You don’t need wader boots when fishing from a boat, but you still need rubber sole shoes to avoid slipping. Non-skid footwear is a must because it’s just good manners. Sandals could work, but they need to be non-slip and of good quality, otherwise, you risk losing your footing and your catch. Please, avoid flip flops, they don’t provide any support and you just might end up going overboard.

✓ A Face Mask (AKA a “Buff”) 

You’ve probably seen photos of people with bandana-like masks on their faces hauling in big fish. Buffs are popular with sport fishermen because they protect your face from the sun, they’re light (made of polyester), and you quickly forget you’ve got them on. They’re also comfortable, protect you from sunburn and bugs, and let’s be honest, they come in some really cool patterns. 

✓ Don’t Be Afraid to Get Messy

This is the general rule of fishing, but on boat fishing trips, it’s a commandment to live by. We strongly recommend wearing clothes you don’t mind getting dirty. Saltwater, fish slime, and blood will probably end up on your clothes, so it’s important to be prepared. Waterproof, stain-resistant fishing clothes are the best way to go.

Boat Fishing in Fall/Winter

If you’re going out to open waters in your boat in the colder months, you want to be prepared. From long underwear and protective overalls to winter jackets, warm caps, and ski masks to protect your face, the winter fisherman’s wardrobe has several layers.

An infographic with a blue background showing what to wear ice fishing

✓ Warm Layers

During the colder months, you’ll want to add warm insulating layers to your basic wardrobe. The good news is that you can dress similarly for your boat trip as you would for your winter shore fishing expedition. We’re talking about a breathable baselayer shirt paired with a warm sweater as the middle layer.

A fleece jacket or waterproof cold-weather coat will do nicely as the top layer. You’ll also want to have long underwear and fast-drying bottoms, usually stain- and tear-resistant pants that fit you well and allow you to move freely. The fishing jacket is the top layer and your final safeguard against the elements, so you want it to be a good one. Materials should be both waterproof and windproof, and well-insulated on the inside. Some jackets are even designed to float, in the unfortunate occasion of falling through the ice.

✓ Windbreaker and Rain Gear

Bringing rain gear with you on a long offshore trip is always a good idea. Even if the weather forecast says otherwise, unexpected showers are common on the open ocean, especially in the colder months. Having waterproof clothing and a jacket allows you to continue fishing even if the weather takes a turn. 

Choosing the right material is important. PVC provides protection, but not breathability. If you plan on fishing from a boat for a longer period of time, you’ll need long-lasting moisture-wicking materials that are also warm. That’s why jackets made of gore-tex or similar material are so popular among cold-weather fishermen. They’re an investment, true, but one that could make or break your trip.

What to Wear Fishing – Start with the Basics

A fisherman on a boat, holding a Northern Pike and a fishing rod, with cloudy skies and mountains in the background

A lot goes into the sport of fishing and having the right clothes is a big part of doing it right. However, don’t be intimidated by the sheer number of information we shared. You don’t have to buy the entire wardrobe right away, it’s rather something you build over time. 

Start slowly with the basics we outlined in our checklist at the beginning, and work your way up. What to wear fishing doesn’t have to be a daunting question, and you can always come back to this article to double-check our recommendations.

What are your recommendations on what to wear fishing? Is there something we didn’t mention? What clothing advice would you give to beginner anglers? Let us know in the comments.

Leave a reply
NameRequired *
Your comment Required *