There's No Such Thing As Bad Weather: Part II. Fishing When It’s Raining or Hot

Guest Blogger: Joe Dellaria, Woodbury MN

In Part 1, we looked in detail at how to layer clothing to stay warm when fishing in cold conditions (25-45 °F). This time we are going to look at how to stay dry and comfortable when it is raining and how to handle those hot, and often humid, days.

Fishing When It Is Raining

I like to think in terms of three types of conditions to worry about with rain:

  • Cold (low-30s – mid-40s) and rainy
  • Temperate (upper-40s – 80) and rainy
  • Hot (more than 80) and often humid and rainy

Cold (Low-30s – Mid-40s) And Rainy Conditions

These conditions overlap with the cold conditions with the only difference being one is being rained on instead of snowed on. One of the toughest conditions to fish comfortably in is when it is raining and the temperatures are between the low-30s and mid-40s. There are two main problems to worry about:

  1. Keeping your hands dry and warm, and
  2. Preventing water from seeping in

This assumes your rain coat does not leak. A key issue is that if you are like me, when you stop fishing in the fall it is easy to throw all your coats into a box or pile and forget about them until it is cold and rainy next year. This often leaves your raincoat crumpled and folded for two or more months. This can create micro cracks in the waterproof fabric which over time enlarge and eventually start leaking. This can be minimized by doing the unthinkable, putting your coats on a hanger and hanging them in a cool dry place. I realize this sounds like a herculean task of insurmountable proportions. You can motivate yourself by constantly telling yourself as you do this, “I hate it when my raincoat unexpectedly starts leaking on a cold rainy day!”

A second way you can help avoid a leaky raincoat is to follow the manufacturer’s instructions (again a nearly incomprehensible thought) and wash and dry your coat. The breathable waterproof fabrics are fantastic but when they get dirty the water repelling channels that allow water vapor to escape from inside your coat can get plugged with dirt and/or dust. The dirt in these channels serves as an escort for water on the exterior to get into the inside and can cause your raincoat to leak. A related point is your waders can suffer from the same problem. It is a good idea to follow the manufacturer’s directions and wash and dry your waders at the end of each season. After two or three years, it is a good idea to treat your raincoat and waders with a good water repellant. Again, be sure to follow instructions (You are probably exhausted with the thought of following all of these instructions. I used to be, but now I can wade and fish confidently in the rain without fearing an unexpected leak. Dry is not only good in these instances, it is best!).

A quick aside here is helpful. No matter how much you spend on your raincoat or waders, eventually they will leak. As the clothing gets past 4-5 years of age, it is helpful to check the linings and seams for cracks or other failures in the materials. It is annoying to do this, but it beats spending most of a day of fishing freezing cold because a new leak has developed.


  1. Keeping your hands warm and dry: This boils down to wearing a good pair of gloves. We looked the pros and cons of wool mitten/gloves and neoprene gloves in Part 1. Make your choice and do the best you can. If it is windy and rainy, you are fairly likely to experience some hand coldness no matter how good your clothing.
  2. Preventing water from seeping in: Tucking in water wicking edges of clothing

Now that we are dealing with a raincoat that does not leak, we can look at the main sources for water sneaking into your warm dry clothing underneath your raincoat. The main culprit I experience is leaving just a smidge of a water wicking piece of clothing exposed to the rain. There are four primary places to watch for this problem:

  • The cuffs of your raincoat – be sure to pull the raincoat sleeves past your clothing and cinch down the cuff restraints so they are snug to your wrist. Be careful not to over tighten them as you can reduce blood flow to your hands, which results in cold hands.
  • Your neck – It is easy to leave the edge of a flannel shirt or your turtle neck collar exposed to direct rain. After I zip up my raincoat, I run my hand around my neck and push any exposed clothing edges under the raincoat. Many raincoats have a small swath that goes across the top of your zipper so it is not directly exposed to rain. This is especially important to use when you are fishing into the wind when it is raining.
  • The zipper of your raincoat – Most of the better raincoats have a fold or Velcro strips that button down the outside edge of the raincoat going over the zipper. These protect the zipper from direct exposure to rain. If you don’t make sure these are in place, it is fairly likely you will get some water in through the zipper. It is easy tell when this happens as you will feel a cold spot that grows over time on your chest – that is the telltale sign of a zipper leak.
  • Around your hood – I sometimes use a hooded sweatshirt as an underlayer when my raincoat hood is not insulated. You will be amazed how quickly the sweatshirt material can wick water in. Again, after you pull up your hood and tighten it, check for exposed edges of clothing. Also, I find it very helpful to wear a baseball style cap. It keeps the front of the hood from falling into your line of vision. It also directs water to the sides of your head where it can run down your raincoat as opposed to running down your face and into your neck.

One final thing to watch for is whether or not to wear your raincoat over or under your waders. If you are expecting heavy rain, wearing the raincoat over your waders will ensure no water will follow any channels between your raincoat and your waders into areas you are trying to keep dry. This is particularly annoying when the call of nature comes as it requires you to take off your raincoat first, then your waders. Again you want to take this into account to avoid any unfortunate accidents. If there is an intermittent or very light drizzle, you can wear your raincoat inside your waders with little fear of a leak.

All of this is coupled with layering appropriate to the air temperatures you expect to encounter. All you are adding is a waterproof raincoat as your final layer.

Temperate (Upper-40s – 80) And Rainy Conditions

These are actually one of my favorite conditions to fish under. Most people avoid these conditions, yet they are fairly comfortable to fish in unless there is a downpour (in which case you should be vigilant on the water levels in case the river blows out). At the lower end of the temperature spectrum, it is good idea to wear a little more than you think is necessary. You will not be getting much radiant heat (if any) from the sun so it will be colder than you think. Here the main issue is how heavy of a raincoat do you wear? Here’s how I decide:

  • Light or intermittent rain – If the air temperatures are below 60, I use my medium heavy raincoat. It gives me a little more insulation to keep me warm. Unless it is really windy, I use a lightweight raincoat for 60 and above.
  • Steady all-day rain – I use my medium-weight raincoat. My lightweight raincoat tends to develop a leak eventually under an all-day rain.
  • Downpour - If the air temperatures are 60 and below, I use my heavy raincoat. It gives me a little more insulation to keep me warm. Otherwise, I use my medium-weight raincoat for 60 and above.

Some layering is a good idea in the lower end of this range. As you move towards 80, use incrementally fewer layers. Near 80 I wear a wicking short-sleeve t-shirt under a light long-sleeve shirt. The long-sleeve shirt keeps you from getting that clammy sensation when it is warmer and raining. Even the best breathable technologies will feel clammy if there is high humidity.

The good news for these conditions is that even if you are slightly underdressed, usually you will be fairly comfortable or only mildly chilled at worst.

Hot (More Than 80) And Often Humid And Rainy Conditions

These can be challenging conditions. The main issue is staying hydrated as most people perspire profusely when they are active in these conditions. Be sure to bring enough water and drink a little every 20-30 minutes. Dehydration is uncomfortable and can be dangerous as you get older.

Staying comfortable is an oxymoron for these conditions. The game is wearing as little and as light of clothing as you can. Your rain gear will not be able to keep up with the moisture your body is pouring out so it is expected you will experience some moisture inside your raincoat and even your waders. It is mostly a choice to not let the heat and moisture deter you from fishing. If you can do this, you will often be one of the few (and often only person) on the water.

I use my lightest raincoat in these conditions unless I know it will be pouring. Follow all of the procedures above to make sure closures are tight or sealed, your zipper is protected, and no clothing is exposed at the edges of your rain gear. This is where I like to remember this beats rain at 40! I have had some tremendous outings in these conditions so I would encourage you to steel yourself and give it a try. You can always stop at an air conditioned restaurant or bar on the way home to cool off. That can be very satisfying after a productive day on the water.

Hope this helps. As I said, I am not an expert that can recommend specific makes of apparel. Feel free to ask questions if you like; I will do what I can to give an answer.

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