A Guide on Fly Fishing Clothing

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Dress for success and you’re sure to catch more fish. Look and feel like a professional with all the best gear by following this guide to fly fishing clothing.

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Ready to take your first fly fishing trip?

Fly fishing is a truly rewarding endeavor. From watching your line arc out and lay down on the water to seeing a fish rise to meet your fly–there’s a lot to love about fly fishing.

Thankfully, there’s a ton of great places to enjoy the sport.

Just like many other sports or outdoor activities, gear is a big part of fly fishing. While the sport centers around the fly rod, there’s a few other pieces of gear that can really round out your experience.

Whether you’re taking your first trip or already have some experience in the stream, fly fishing clothing is an important consideration as you head out onto the water.

Keep reading for a deep dive into fly fishing clothing–both what you need and why you need it.

Do You Need Fly Fishing Clothing?

But first … why?

Why do you need any specialized clothing for fly fishing?

Don’t you just need a fly rod, reel, line, and some carefully chosen flies?

Technically, yes. All you really need to go fly fishing is a rod and reel. But just like a good net or a pair of forceps can really make retrieving or releasing a fish much easier, a good pair of boots can make your trip a lot easier and safer too.

If you’re just getting started, or just want to give the sport a try, investing in waders or a vest may not be necessary–and the cost may even feel prohibitive.

But if you’re serious, good fly fishing clothing can make all the difference in the world.

The Basics – Dress for the Occasion

There are a few items of fly fishing clothing that will go a long way toward making your fishing trips safer, more productive, and more enjoyable.

Whether you’re headed for the stream, a lake, or the coast, it’s important to dress appropriately. While shorts and sandals might be comfortable in the flats out in the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll probably be a little chilly in a mountain stream in Colorado.

Picking the Right Footwear

Besides your rod and reel, good footwear is probably one of the most important investments you can make in fly fishing.

Since the conditions and nature of fly fishing often require you to get wet, it’s important to choose footwear that will keep you grounded in swift moving water or on slippery rocks.

Wading boots are the best choice in cooler water and offer excellent traction.

Wading boots are available with felt, rubber, or studded soles.

Felt is the traditional choice, and often the most affordable. Rubber soles will give a bit more traction–especially with metal studs–and reduce the chance of spreading water born diseases from stream to stream.

Fly Fishing Vest or Pack

The fly fishing vest is perhaps the most quintessential piece of fly fishing clothing.

When most people think of fly fishing, odds are, they picture a guy standing in a stream with a fishing vest on.

Fishing vests became popular for good reason–they provide a very practical way to carry a wide array of fishing gear.

More recently, the fly fishing pack has overtaken the traditional vest with most anglers. And with good reason–fly fishing packs are bigger and allow you to carry more gear more comfortably.

Vests and packs range widely in price, so finding one to fit your budget and needs shouldn’t be hard.


After the vest, waders are one of the most recognizable–and perhaps essential–pieces of fly fishing clothing.

In cold conditions, waders are a must. Discomfort aside, cold water can bring on hypothermia quickly. So if you want to stay comfortable while fishing, a good pair of waders will go a long way.

Waders are available in a variety of options. The most common choices are neoprene, rubber, and breathable waders.

Rubber waders are by far the most affordable option and provide a good deal of durability.

If you’re expecting cold conditions, neoprene waders are probably your best option. Neoprene provides great insulation and works well with additional under-layers.

Breathable stocking foot waders provide the highest degree of versatility. Warm or cold, they’re a great option.

The biggest downside to breathable waders is the price–they’re by far the most expensive, but the versatility can far outweigh the price.

Don’t Forget the Little Things

If you’ve spent much time outdoors, you know anything can happen. Whether it’s sun or wind or rain, you’ve got to be prepared.


Much like vests, hats are synonymous with fishing. And for good reason.

Sun on the water can be brutal. Make sure you’re protected with a good hat.

While a baseball hat protects most of your head, a wide brim hat will give you ultimate protection from both the sun and rain.


Cold hands can ruin a fishing trip real quick. After all, you kind of need your hands to fish.

Be prepared and keep a pair of gloves stashed in your fishing bag.

Rain Gear

Ever been caught in the rain without a raincoat?

It’s no fun.

Even if you don’t plan to keep fishing if it rains, it’s nice to know you can stay dry if you get caught in a sudden downpour.

Final Thoughts on Fly Fishing Clothing

Fly fishing is a fun, rewarding pastime that you can enjoy for years. While you can certainly enjoy the sport with minimal gear, the right tools can make the experience that much more enjoyable.

While fly fishing clothing and gear can get pricey, the right pieces can give you years of use and value.

Do you have a favorite piece of fly fishing clothing or gear?

Let us know in the comments!

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