With winter rolling in there’s a lot of kayak anglers will start packing their gear away for a few of the colder and rougher months. There are a few more hardy souls amongst us that see the oncoming cold weather as an opportunity, not a hindrance. Cold water fishing means preparation and through the winter months it is especially true that the best and most sensible thing a kayak angler can do is to keep warm. With this in mind, here are my top five ideas for keeping warm when fishing from a kayak during the colder months.
- Wear a drysuit. Whether it is a one piece or a two piece ensemble, a drysuit will keep water out. Sea water in the winter is cold so in the first instance, you want to avoid contact with it. Secondly, if you do take a dunking and get out, a cold wind on wet clothes will chill you to the bone in minutes. In the event of a capsize a drysuit is the only type of clothing that will keep you dry from the initial fall and from the wind chill that follows. While not necessarily needed during the warmer months, a drysuit is essential for the colder months.
- While a drysuit will keep you dry, it has absolutely no thermal qualities at all. Your warmth comes from what you wear underneath. From years of working outside I know from experience that many thin layers work a lot better than a couple of thicker layers. There are a host of one and two piece suits available to fit under a drysuit but try to stay away from synthetic material. Natural fibres are a far better option because they will wick away sweat as you paddle. Look for materials like merino wool which will absorb sweat and keep you drier and warmer.
- Use your head. Or at least cover it! Heat rises and a huge amount of body heat is lost through your head. One of the most obvious ways to stay warm is to keep your head covered. Choice of head gear is a personal one but just make sure to keep it covered! Also exposed during cooler months can be the neck area and the same applies; keep it covered. Again, choice and style of scarf is entirely down to the user – some use traditional scarves, some use buffs, I like to use an old souvenir head dress brought back from a trip to the Middle East. Whatever works for you!
- Eat and drink well and warm. A solid breakfast like porridge in the morning topped up with a good lunch is a great way to keep warm. Fuel the body well and it will keep performing even in colder conditions. My favourite bit of winter fishing kit is my Coleman petrol stove. Pull ashore to use a stove, there’s nothing clever about melting a hole in your kayak when on the water!!! The petrol stove lights in even the coldest weather where the gas stoves won’t. Cold weather affects the gas flow and really reduces the efficiency of gas powered stoves once the air temperature starts to hit 2-3°C, the Coleman is the perfect solution to this and will work perfectly in sub-zero temperatures. Carry a hot drink in a thermal flask when afloat to keep yourself warm. 1a hot cuppa can be the difference between going home after a couple of hours and staying out for the day.
- This is a tricky one for me. I know that on dry land gloves will keep your hands warm but on the kayak it is a different story. I do wear mitts for paddling with but won’t wear gloves for fishing. I lose all dexterity with gloves on and they are useless for baiting up or tying rigs. I tried neoprene gloves but they are not breathable and end up making my fingers colder than when I don’t use them. Instead, I rely on the fleece lined pockets of my PFD to keep my hands warm. Any time I’m sitting idle my hands go into the fleece lined pockets. On really cold days I sometimes add a handwarmer to each pocket, available in most camping and outdoor supply shops.
The main thing to bear in mind is if you stay dry you will go a long way towards staying warm. Lots of layers under your drysuit are a better job that a couple of thick ones and what you put into your body will contribute towards your level of toastiness! Or you could root out the shore rod and tripod you’ve stashed away in the shed since buying your kayak! Tight lines!