A man standing along a river side in the woods, holding a fishin rod and wearing a army green puffer jacket and grey pants.

What to Wear Fishing

Angling apparel must-haves for any day on the water

More often than not, fishing puts you right in the middle of the weather. Wading across a stream, working the end of a pier, or floating in the middle of the lake, you’re exposed to all the elements. That’s part of the draw. But if you’re not prepared with the right clothing, head to toe, some of that love can be quickly lost. Shorts work well until you’re sunburned; jeans are OK until it rains. Suddenly, the wrong apparel choice goes from uncomfortable to unsafe. Maximize your time on the water by making sure you’re outfitted for whatever Mother Nature throws your way.

In the Heat: Think Sun Protection

Regardless of the type of fishing, if the sun is shining—especially during longer summer days in warm climates—your clothing needs to protect you from the sun. Even on warm days, a long-sleeve (and often hooded) shirt makes a big difference. Look for technical fabrics with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating of at least 30. Many should also have cooling and sweat-wicking properties. Something loose-fitting will keep you comfortable, and synthetic fabrics like polyester will effectively move moisture from your body and dry off quickly if splashed. 

The same goes for your pants: Long, light, and loose-fitting will do a better job of protecting you in the heat. In warmer waters (where you don't need waders), sandals or water shoes are a nice way to keep cool—though don’t forget about sunscreen on the tops of your feet and toes, especially in shallow and clear water. 

Find a good hat to protect your face from the sun (the more brim, the more protection for your face and neck), and consider some lightweight gloves. You can find fingerless gloves made of the same wicking, sun-protective materials as your shirts, which will keep the often-forgotten backs of your hands from burning. And rather than dealing with sunscreen or full-brimmed hats, many anglers opt for larger neck gaiters, often made of wicking synthetic materials, to protect the neck (and face, too) from sun and wind burn, as well as biting bugs.

In the Cold: Layer Up

In colder waters, you’ll likely be wearing waders to keep you dry. Many popular waterproof/breathable options don’t do much to insulate you, however, so you need to add layers underneath. Wear materials like wool or polyester, which will stay warm even if they get a little wet. Avoid cotton items when fishing on colder days—any water on the fabric will sap the warmth from your body. 

You can actually wear a lot of the same sun-protective layers on cold days as you might on warmer ones (you still need UV protection). From that base, add on more layers (rather than a single jacket), which allows you to customize the amount of warmth needed for changing temperatures and activity. Insulating layers like polyester flannel, wool sweaters, fleece, or down jackets all do the trick with varying degrees of warmth. Again, steer clear of items like cotton sweatshirts. Pick a pair of gloves and a hat that match the conditions

A man smiling wearing a navy blue rain jacket and light blue hat.

Be Prepared for Rain

Whether it’s a hot summer afternoon or gray wintery morning, be prepared for rain. It’s easy to get caught out in a rainstorm or snowfall—and one of the most dangerous contingencies during an otherwise ordinary day of fishing. Without the right layers, you’ll end up cold, losing energy, and potentially hypothermic, even during the summer. Especially in colder weather, it takes a lot longer and a lot more energy for your body to get dry.

No matter the forecast, it’s never a bad idea to carry along a waterproof rain jacket and pants (if you’re not wearing waders). You’ll be prepared for any wind. And you can find jackets specifically designed for fishing. The burliest of these are often referred to as wading jackets. Wading jackets are ideal for the cold, blustery, wet days of the shoulder and winter seasons. Look for lots of useful pockets, a snug hood, a good waterproof/breathable membrane, and even neoprene cuffs, which allow you to get your hands wet without the fear of chilly water dribbling down your sleeves into your other layers. 

Don’t forget to add a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket if you plan to fish offshore on a boat, board, or kayak. An inflatable collar-style vest is lightweight and low profile for all-day comfort—and gets the job done should you go for an unexpected swim in open water. 


No matter the day, or the type of water you’re fishing, come prepared with a good pair of sunglasses. Not only will they protect your eyes and reduce strain in the sun, but polarized lenses can even remove the glare on the water, allowing you to see deeper and pick out your target fish. 


Consider where you’re going to be, the terrain you’ll be on, and what you’ll be doing to get there. If you’re wearing waders, the answer is easy: Wading boots. In warm waters, watersport sandals that offer serious traction on slick surfaces and heel retention (sorry, flip flops) will keep you from twisting ankles, but may not be super comfortable if you’re hiking to and from your fishing hole. Closed-toe water shoes are a good compromise: They’re supportive enough to hike in, give you good grip in the water, drain fast and dry quickly if they get wet—always a good idea, whether you plan on getting your feet wet or not. 

If you don’t plan on wading, pick supportive, comfortable shoes with good grippy soles, capable of skipping you across rocks, a wet dock, or a slippery boat deck. 

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.