Here’s the thing about the best wading jackets. They’ve got to tick a lot of boxes.
It isn’t easy finding a jacket that will keep you bone dry while literally stood up to your armpits in water. And it has to be functional too!
I’ve done enough wading to know what works and what doesn’t… And I want to share this knowledge with you.
Below you’ll find some great suggestions and a handy guide so you too will know what to look for.
Table of Contents
- Fly Fishing Wading Jackets – What to Look For
- TOP 7 Best Wading Jackets for 2023
- A Quick Guide to Wading Jackets
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Fly Fishing Wading Jackets – What to Look For
So you are in the market for a new wading jacket?
Great call. They are an absolute necessity. Nobody likes to fish when they are cold and wet.
Here’s a quick rundown of some things that I find most important in a great wading jacket:
- Waterproof – If your wading jacket lets water in, forget it. It won’t be doing its job. You can ensure that your jacket is waterproof by checking its rating and looking for a few extra features that stop water from sneaking in… Anywhere.
- Breathable – Getting wet isn’t just about the elements. You’d be amazed at how much you perspire, even on colder days. Breathable fabrics allow moisture to be wicked away from your body. This makes a wading jacket so much more comfortable.
- A Great Fit – You’ll be moving a lot. Anything that restricts your movement or gets in the way of your fishing is a bad thing. I always look for features that will allow me to adjust my jacket to get an absolutely perfect fit.
- Lots of Storage – While the main purpose of a good wading jacket is to keep me warm and dry, I also like to use it to keep a few bits and pieces that I use regularly close to hand. A few fly boxes and the odd spool of leader are the minimum that you need to fit. Look for things like plenty of pockets and loops.
TOP 7 Best Wading Jackets for 2023
A Quick Guide to Wading Jackets
Still unsure what goes into a really good wading jacket?
Let me help you.
If you are shopping around, here are the things you need to consider:
Sizing is probably more important than you think for several reasons. It isn’t just about looking good.
Go too small, and you are going to be uncomfortable for the day. Go too large, and you’ll create areas where water can seep in. Furthermore, it might actually get in the way of your casting.
But remember this.
The water can get cold, and you will want to water a few layers underneath. Check out this three-minute video to see how to layer up and keep warm.
It pays to work to your size, and depending on the jacket, go up by one size to allow for any layers.
And here’s the best solution…
Get a fly fishing jacket that is adjustable. I always look for waist pull chords and sleeves. As long as they can be kept tight and out of the way, the sizing isn’t so much of an issue.
Color is actually pretty important.
Trout have great eyesight and are easily spooked. Sure, you may look amazing in your dayglo wading jacket, but the trout will be running for cover. Aim for drab, dark, and natural colors.
This should be obvious, but you’d be amazed how many guys get it wrong. Go as high as you can with regards to waterproof ratings.
It is normally a figure given like this:
Both mean the same thing. I’m going to keep it simple. The higher the rating, the more waterproof the jacket is. I’d go no lower than 15000mm if you want to stay dry for the day.
Yup, here’s what to look for… Ignore this piece of advice at your peril.
Make sure that your flyfishing wading jacket has fully taped seams. This prevents water from sneaking in through the tiny holes made when the fabric is joined together.
Let me ask you a question…
Where do you think is the area most likely to get wet on a wading jacket? The shoulders? The waist?
Nope, here’s the answer…
The sleeves. Make sure that any jacket you choose has a lined and adjustable cuff. Your wrists will be pointing skyward a lot, and your hand will get wet when fly fishing.
Believe me, it gets super irritating when you would have been dry except for that annoying drip that has made its way down your wrist and is now soaking your elbow.
There’s a reason we don’t wear any old rain mac when fly fishing.
If you are casting a lot (hint: you will be), it can all get a little warm in that wading jacket. And you’ll start to perspire. If this moisture can’t escape, then you are going to get soaked in sweat. This then cools.
Do you know what that means?
Cold and wet while fly fishing… No, thanks!
Breathable fabrics allow moisture to escape from the jacket. The fabric will wick moisture away in to the fabric, where it can evaporate. Along with taped seams, you must look for a breathable fly fishing jacket.
If you want to see how breathable fabric works, check this out!
Here’s what I hate. A jacket that rides up or chafes as I am casting. I used to have one that fit like a glove, except when I cast, the armpits used to pinch.
Guess where that jacket is now?
That’s right, in the trash.
Look for wading jackets that allow full and free movement, which is what fly fishing is all about. You’ll notice in one or two of my suggestions above that they are made with ‘drop shoulders’. This means there is an overhang of an inch or two beyond the edge of your shoulder, allowing you a full range of movement regardless of where you are holding your arms.
A jacket isn’t just a way of keeping dry. It’s a storage solution. Look for wading jackets that have plenty of pockets.
I have a general rule.
The bigger the pockets, the better. I’ve never once said, ‘gee, I wish I had smaller pockets’! You want to be able to fit at least a fly box or two in there, not to mention other accessories that you’ll often need, such as sunglasses, spare leader and tools.
It isn’t just about the pockets either. If you’ve read any of my other posts, you’ll know what I love a D-ring or two. This gives you real versatility as you can add zingers or other items easily to suit.
If you’ve found a jacket that you really love but it lacks storage, this isn’t game over. Consider a really great fly fishing vest. This is a fantastic way to add extra pockets and loops.
Are zippers really important in a fly fishing jacket?
One key area where water can make its way in easily is through zippers. Any old zipper just isn’t going to cut it when it comes to staying dry.
Here’s what to look for…
First, try and find a jacket with sealed zippers. You can easily spot these as the outer edges are often lined with a waterproof covering.
Second, when looking to buy a wading jacket, keep an eye out for a storm flap. In its most basic sense, this is a piece of fabric that covers the entire zipper and prevents moisture from pooling on it.
Both work well, but for the most waterproof solution, get them as a combo.
Still got questions?
Here are the things I get asked most often:
What is the purpose of a wading jacket?
A wading jacket is simply a means to keep your top half dry. They are normally cut or feature pull cords to allow them to sit a little higher on your waist. This way, the pockets (and whatever you have in them) are kept clear of the water.
What is the best wading jacket?
For me, it’s a choice between two.
For a premium offering, I really like the Simms Freestone wading jacket. It’s really waterproof, very adjustable and breathable too. I normally supplement the storage with a vest. It might be a little more pricey, but you’ll save in the long run as it’s unlikely that you’ll need another for a good while.
If you are looking for a budget wading jacket for fly fishing, you won’t find far better than the Frogg Toggs Pilot III jacket. It has plenty of premium features, such as fully sealed cuffs, D-ring storage attachments, and fully taped seams. The best thing is that it is light enough to be stuffed into a bag, so if the weather is variable, you are covered in both instances.
Do I need a wading jacket?
Do you like being cold and wet?
If the answer was a firm ‘no’, then you really do need a wading jacket. You will be stood in water all day, and believe me, you will be getting wet. Throw into the mix the possibility of rain, and it is an obvious choice.
Wading jackets tend to be pretty lightweight, and there is no reason not to have one.
Provided you make a good choice, you’ll also find that they are useful as a means of storing and carrying your tackle while you are on the go.
Why does my wading jacket get wet inside?
Ah, this is a common problem. There are a few reasons.
- Water ingress from outside. This might be a tear or areas that aren’t properly sealed, such as the seams. If you have a jacket that doesn’t have taped seams, this is the likely cause.
- Water from the cuffs. You’d be amazed at how much water can drip from your hands into your jacket via the sleeves. Your hands will get wet, and that water will always flow downwards. Like toward your wrists and forearms. The way around this is to make sure you have cuffs designed to be tight and stop water from penetrating deeper into the jacket.
- Wading jacket breathability. This is the most common cause of your wading jacket getting wet inside. If moisture can escape, it will condense, leading to that sticky wet feeling (which we all hate). The solution is to choose a wading jacket that has excellent breathability. A good second option is to choose a jacket with side vents and panels to allow perspiration to escape.
The best wading jackets will keep you dry, allow you to store some gear, and allow you to fish freely.
As you will have seen, they don’t have to be super expensive to be effective either. All of the suggestions on my list will work well and allow you to get out wading.
What are the worst conditions you’ve ever waded in? Did your wading jacket work?
Let me know in the comments below. I love hearing from you guys.