Tips For Keeping Warm When Fishing

With another summer firmly behind us (for what it was worth!), the temperatures on the bank are starting to dip and it won’t be too long before the frosts and snow make a regular appearance. Therefore, it’s now that I start to break out some of my winter items to have on standby should I need them to ensure I never get cold on the bank.

One principle I always stick to when gearing up for autumn/winter carp fishing is to always plan for it to be five degrees centigrade less than it is forecast to be. This way, should conditions take an unexpected dip, or if I end up setting up with a wind blowing towards me – and thus knocking down the temperature do to wind chill - I’m always able to cater for it effectively.

The main thing you need to remember with regards to kit is that no item of clothing or sleeping equipment will ever actually generate heat – all it can do is help retain the heat which your body is losing. A hot water bottle in the bottom of the bag or a camping stove are the two obvious exceptions, but I certainly would never use the latter as a means of keeping warm as it could cost you your life. Aside from the obvious dangers of falling asleep next to a naked flame, it’s more likely to be a build-up of toxic gases that will end your days!

Winter Carp FishingSo, how to keep warm? Well, my main defence is a decent layered clothing system which I use throughout the year to regulate my body heat on the bank, which really comes into its own when the colder weather arrives. In terms of layered clothing system you have to remember that carp angling is quite passive, so other than a quick flurry of heat build-up when you’re getting all your gear to your swim and setting it up, you’re then pretty much doing nothing in terms of activity whilst you’re in-session. Therefore, it’s vital to hold on to every piece of lost body heat for as long as possible. The best way to do this is to build up a series of thin layers, designed to trap the heat from your body for as long as possible between each layer before it passes through to the next, which creates a thermal insulation around your body. 

Many anglers will go straight into their nearest outdoor shop and buy a load of bits designed for hikers and ramblers, which to be honest, aren’t always the best thing. Such items are designed to quickly wick (remove) heat and sweat away from the body - as a walker will in the most part always be looking to remove excess heat build-up, whereas we’re actually looking to hold on to it for as long as we can.

There’s lots of fancy materials on offer but don’t go overboard. In terms of angling it’s the layer itself that’s important – not what it’s made of. As such, I have a basic layer of thermal underwear that cost me less than twenty quid delivered for top and bottom. Next are my base socks (a pair of thermal liner socks) which in turn have a thicker pair of thermal waterproof socks over them. My preferred choice for many, many years has been SealSkinz, my personal view being that they are unbeatable for angling use – don’t scrimp here – your feet are your first line of defence and it’s worth spending well – trust me you’ll notice the difference!

I then have a heavy duty pair of work-type trousers over the top which help keep out the wind and retain heat. My recommended choice here is the Tuffstuff Extreme Work Trouser. I bought a few pairs of these almost ten years ago and they are still going strong and look hardly worn – they are made using a hardwearing poly/cotton canvas fabric and have Cordura Trim to all the main wear areas – in a word; bombproof. Invest in a pair of these and you’ll never look back. If required, I’ll then have a thin set of waterproof  leggings on top giving three layers in total, but again, the amount of layers will be planned using the ‘forecast minus five’ approach mentioned earlier.

The most I’d ever wear on my top half would be my long sleeve thermal top, a t-shirt, a hoody, and a fleece jacket or soft-shell jacket. If it’s raining, I would then have a thin downpour jacket to wear over the top when I’m outside of the bivvy. Again, the amount of layers would depend on the temperature, but the above is always adequate for me no matter how cold it gets on the bank – and bear in mind I never fish with a front on my shelter. The only addition is a good thermal beanie hat and thermal gloves when required.

The real key is not to get cold in the first place. The biggest enemy is sweat, due to heat build-up during periods of activity. As I say, this usually happens right at the start. I see winter anglers get out of a nice warm car, feel the cold and immediately put twenty layers on and hump all the gear to the swim - at which point they collapse in a sweaty heap. Once the activity subsides the sweat turns to damp and the damp quickly turns to cold and that’s it – they’ve done themselves in before they’ve even started. The message then is to think ahead! If you’re about to engage in activity – remove a layer before doing so, and the sweat won’t build up. Then as soon as you’re passive again, bang a layer back on. It’s not rocket science!

When I get to the water on a cold night I know that by the time I get to the swim I’ll be sweating, so I leave the top layers in my bag. That way, when I get to the swim I’m not already sweating. If I’m still feeling hot on the way or whilst setting up, I’ll quickly remove my hat – the fastest way to regulate heat – and even a top layer if necessary. Then, as soon as start to feel cool again, start building back up.  Once set up I’m then ready for the session ahead feeling nice and snug.

Here’s a breakdown of my total winter layers, which might help you if you’re looking to utilise a layering system this inter;

Top Half;
Thermal Long Sleeve Top
Long Sleeve T-Shirt
Good quality heavyweight hoody
Zip Up Fleece Jacket or Softshell Jacket
Lightweight Waterproof Jacket

Bottom Half
Thermal Leggings
Heavyweight Trouser (Tuffstuff Extreme Work Trouser)
Lightweight waterproof trousers or Lined Waterproof Trousers

Thermal liner sock (Seal Skinz Thermal Liner Sock)
Waterproof & breathable outer sock (Seal Skinz Mid Weight Mid Length Sock)

Julian Grattidge
December 2012