A Plastic Poncho Won’t Take You to Fishing Heaven Anymore — Hook One of These Jackets
The dinosaur anglers who once plunked from the banks of steelhead streams or bent over their boat’s gunwale to crank up their downrigger lead in the dead of winter know all too well how the apparel of today—namely fishing or wading jackets—would have added pleasurable hours onto many quests for their ultimate prize.
During Boeing’s big layoffs so many decades ago, green, brown and black ponchos draped suddenly unemployed anglers—queued up like engine parts on an aircraft assembly line—along the banks of Pacific Northwest steelhead factories like the Skagit, Green and Cowlitz rivers.
They surely could have used the likes of a breathable yet waterproof fishing jacket with enough pockets to avoid their 10-pound tackle boxes.
Today, you might have to set aside a little of your holiday bonus to buy one of these game savers known as waterproof fishing or wading jackets. And, it would be well worth it.
Wondering which one to spend your money on? Try one of our field experts’ top seven picks here.
- Top 7 Waterproof Fishing Jackets / Wading Jackets
- Fishing Jackets Buyer’s Guide – How to pick the Best Rain Gear for Fishing
- FAQs – All Your Questions about Waterproof Fishing and Wading Jackets answered
- Should I just stick with the brands legendary for working in the rain and chill? The tried and true ones like Helly Hansen and Grudens?
- Does the length of my waterproof fishing jacket matter?
- Do I really need a hood when I have a solid rain hat I have used forever?
- Can I ever have too many pockets on my wading jacket?
- Why is buoyancy important in a fishing jacket?
- What Does DWR stand for?
Top 7 Waterproof Fishing Jackets / Wading Jackets
Editor’s Pick: Stormr Strykr Jacket
Best for: Saltwater and freshwater foul-weather anglers or ice fishermen willing to spend the extra bucks.
- Practically infallible in cold, wind, rain and splash
- Corrosion resistance in zippers
- Plenty of waterproof pocket space for gear and cellphone
- D-rings for accessories
- Aadjustable hood and collar to keep out rain and cold
- Hefty price for budget-restricted angler
- A few reports of wrist straps having to be sewn back on
- If you’re a tweener on sizes, opt for larger
If foregoing winter or offshore fishing makes you feel like a labrador locked in a cage while birds drop all around a duck blind, this is your Neptune of a jacket, with one caveat: sub it for something else in the season of cold lemonade and iced tea.
Essentially a flak jacket for any projectiles the water or sky can unleash, the Stormr Strykr puts warmth and dryness before all else.
It is the jacket you want when there is nowhere to hide, such as on an open-deck boat or river bars from where only rock and gravel can be seen for hundreds of yards.
Water- and wind-proof neoprene (coated with a water-repellent finish) joins abrasion-resistant Duratex and a fleece lining to provide dryness and warmth for many seasons. Corrosion resistant, waterproof zipping seals the deal on the saltchuck, especially. Neoprene wrist straps secured by Velcro keep water from rushing up your arms.
Four exterior, large-zippered pockets—complemented with an interior, waterproof pocket for a smartphone or other device—provide plenty of dry storage. For frigid winter steelheading or just cool, windy days afloat, the Strykr provides the shelter you can’t otherwise find.
Though it may feel a bit stiff at first, once you begin to break it in, casting and rowing come easy. Should it end up in the drink, it boasts enough buoyancy (5 lbs.) to keep a lab’s two-week-old pup afloat. For all of this, you pay a couple hundred less than more expensive yet comparably designed jackets.
Frogg Toggs Cascade Sportsman’s Wading Jacket
Best for: Three-season anglers who want a light, waterproof wading jacket.
- Roomy for layers when needed
- Breathes well
- Can be used over t-shirt in summer
- Plenty of waterproof pocket space and D-rings
- Easy to grab, large zippers
- High adjustable collar and hood
- Unless layered, cold temps will penetrate
This is our No. 2 despite touting a price too hard to believe. Indeed, that is exactly why we rate it next best.
Even an unemployed person (what a lucky angler!) can most likely afford this very thorough, light, breathable and roomy jacket.
Just examine its amenities: waterproof zippers big enough to withstand thousands of zips; fold-away, adjustable hood; a record-breaking 25 gear pockets of various sizes and hand-warming cubbies; snug neoprene cuffs, adjustable waist band, D-rings for implements such as clippers, hemostats and the like.
Why is such a winner ticketed at less than a hundred bucks? The Frogg Toggs Cascade is void of insulation layers—this is on purpose. It leaves room for the angler to layer up with fleece, neoprene, wicking underwear and the like.
Its collar is ample, so no layering needed there. When those warmer spring and fall days grace the water, you can just wear the jacket sans layers or insulation, posing much more freedom to cast and wiggle around without overheating.
For value that pays attention to most every comfort, including Frogg Toggs characteristic dryness, the Cascade earns a worthy second-best among our testers.
Simms G4 Pro Wading Jacket
Best for: Year-round fly fishers and sea-going anglers.
- Excels in resistance to nature’s worst
- Corrosion resistant zippers
- Dry pockets aplenty
- D-rings for accessories
- Protective, retractable hood
- Warm yet breathable; durable fabrics
- Opens your wallet wide
- Sleeve pocket awkwardness
If money is no object in outfitting yourself, the Simms G4 Pro will meet everything you demand of a wading and fishing jacket, whether a pro—as in guide—or a fishing fanatic undaunted by the nastiest of weather.
Only its price keeps it from winning editor’s pick. Like the Strykr, this is a jacket you can test with your garden hose pointed full blast on front and rear without dampening your interior layers.
However, the G4 is noticeably light for its ruggedness—sporting a three-layer Gore-Tex Pro shell and 100-percent nylon rip-stop face.
Breathability, augmented by pit zippers, deserves an A grade as fishing rain jackets go. A tight, water-resistant cuff casts off all fears of water leaking into your sleeve when hoisting a prize catch from the water for a quick photo.
The two bellowed, waterproof, chest pockets are large enough to store the biggest steelhead fly boxes you can find while smaller vertically zippered pockets adorn the outside of the chest pockets. Two tippet pockets, one sleeve pocket, an internal storage pocket and a roomy storage pocket consuming practically all of the back bring the total pocket count to nine.
You might call it 8-1/2 in reality, considering how awkward it is to access a sleeve pocket and actually pull something out of it. The tuck-away hood with three adjustable points can protect as much of your head as any other jacket in a horizontal downpour at sea.
This is a trooper for any conditions, though not clumsy at all. But, be willing to shell out around five smackers for the Pro.
Orvis Clearwater Wading Jacket
Best for: Three-season anglers who don’t mind layering up in colder weather.
- Great fit
- Fleece-lined handwarmer pockets
- Easy to store in a daypack
- A bit spendy for a shell
- Collar a bit weak
- Zippers could use a bit more length/girth for easy grabbing
Steering away from herculean shells, we pick the Orvis Clearwater for the angler avoiding heft who fly fishes and traverses river banks regularly, or spends a few summer days a year on saltwater.
Basically a windbreaker made of polyester with a three-layer membrane, the jacket’s fleece-lined chin on its collar and its hand-warmer pockets host the only insulation to be found.
Totally waterproof (including zippers), the Clearwater will require some layering during the cold season. It possesses no shortage of pocket space with two large bellow chest compartments, with one donning a vertically zipping small pocket.
Watch out for loading the collar with a chest pack or anything that pulls on the collar, which can widen it to allow rain to enter. The full-coverage hood is roomy, but hangs and rises in a tail wind because it can’t be rolled up and tucked away.
Patagonia SST Waterproof Fishing Jacket
Best for: Anglers needing an easy to pack shell for wet days in spring, summer or fall and who need a lot of freedom for rowing.
- Very light and tough
- Highly breathable 3-layer nylon double ripstop
- Hidden rod holder
- Fleece-lined hood
- Zippers on the small side
- No lining in hand-warming pockets
- Hood doesn’t roll away
For putting down a few hundred bucks, the Patagonia SST looks and feels a bit too space-economic. Pockets are just big enough for fly boxes, tippet storage and other fly-fishing accouterments.
Hand-warmer pockets provide ample space but lack warmth without some kind of lining. But, it is obvious that Patagonia leaned toward lightness and freedom of motion when designing the SST.
The zippers are not quite bulky enough for easy grabbing, especially when having to wear gloves for lack of lined warming pockets. The pocket design, with waterproof, corrosion-resistant zippers, cedes to the rower who disdains catching oar-handles in excessively bellowed, loose pockets.
Your head will not suffer the same chill factor as your hands: The jacket’s non-tuck-away hood includes a fleece liner.
The SST keeps the rain out but may not be the most convenient or warmest fishing shell on the market. For its lack of bulk, it is relatively tough with a three-layer, nylon, seam-sealed, double rip-stop construction that proves extremely breathable.
Frogg Toggs Hellbender Wading & Fly Jacket
Best for: The angler who layers up in cold weather and wants a light, multi-pocketed jacket in warm weather that keeps them very dry through storm and wavy sea.
- Plenty of storage
- Keeps you dry
- Tuck-away hood
- Lightweight, breathable and durable
- Some small pockets
- Its roominess may seem a little cumbersome sans layers
Anglers on a budget will enjoy the amenities and performance of this slightly less-endowed, similarly priced cousin to the Cascade.
Made of durable, lightweight and very breathable polyester, the Frogg Toggs Hellbender provides a lot of room for layers, just like the Cascade. It rates lower on our experts’ scale mostly because of fewer pockets—i.e., less convenience—than the Cascade.
The two chest pockets, however, are plenty spacious with two smaller, vertically zippered pockets attached to one. Fully taped, waterproof seams and a DriPore, breathable polyester keep anglers comfy and dry.
A full zip-front closure with a button-down storm flap and rain gutter further ensure a bone-dry interior. An extended hood bill that tucks away provides decent facial protection from the elements.
Its adjustable neoprene and Lycra sleeves keep splashing, rain and quick wrist dips from dampening the arms. Three D-rings, two on the chest, provide ample accommodation for accessories such as net or retracting devices.
This jacket is not shy of features normally touted by high-end jackets. It’s a sweet deal for the money.
Helly Hansen Impertech Fishing Rain Jacket
Best for: Anglers at sea or ones who simply want to stay dry without the need of much gear in their pockets.
- Extremely dry material
- Easy release hood
- Adjustable sleeves
- Roomy enough for many layers
- Can prove hefty for a jacket without multiple insulation
- Low-lying pockets
- Not many storage pockets
- Lacks D-rings
- Requires layering in extreme cold
Helly Hansen waterproof gear is normally associated with bulkiness and hefty despite its apparent thinness. This is mostly due to the components that make it so waterproof: circular-knit polyester backing and a polyurethane coating with a dab of PVC coating for durability.
The Impertech fails to win raves for its looks compared to our other picks, but it is—after all—a Helly Hansen, known for keeping sea-going and otherwise water-exposed workers dry.
Spare on pockets (four total), the Impertech’s two main ones reach precariously low, around water level. That aside, the jacket will keep an angler dry with its microweld seam construction, which eliminates any pores in the threading.
This is your basic “I just want to be sure I stay dry” jacket without fancy interior gadget pockets or D-rings for attachments. Its lengthiness and low-set pockets may actually seem more appropriate to offshore fishing adventures rather than stream wading.
It certainly excels when on an open boat deck. Just add some fleece layers to this roomy shell on extremely cold days. Its Velcro adjustable sleeve cuff can be adjusted to comfort level and how tight you need them to keep water out.
In case its length poses an issue for your type of fishing, the Impertech offers a variety of sizes, from extra-small to 6 extra-large. Its attached hood is simply tucked into the collar for easy release.
The Impertech is basically your down-to-business, no-frills, fortified defender of dryness for under $100.
Fishing Jackets Buyer’s Guide – How to pick the Best Rain Gear for Fishing
The poncho may be dead when it comes to foul-weather fishing, but its intent is still quite alive and being extraordinarily advanced with all the modern science, technology and tools a sleek fishing-wader jacket can pack into its shell.
Today, if you want to stick with a poncho or a Hefty garbage bag—like a throwback hippie backpacker—and it serves your fishing purposes, kudos to you.
- But, what happens when you want to reach for something, like a new leader or hemostat to release a fish?
- Where do you put that stuff on your person while a tent of plastic bellows around your entire body?
- How do you keep the bottom of your poncho snagging on a downrigger or other items along a gunwale as you bend over to net a fish or release it?
In much fewer square feet, a fishing-wader jacket resolves all the “wrong” things about a poncho or even some modern, standard raingear, not the least being appearance. Today’s jackets, in fact, correct all the inadequacies of jackets a couple decades ago. Technological advancements in fabrics, designs and waterproofing combine to bring anglers the most agile, dry and accommodating fishing jackets ever.
In short, a fishing-wading jacket is not just rain gear.
Once you accept this fact, your only remaining task is to define your needs, thus your jacket of choice.
First, know what you can afford in between expenses for waders, wading boots, new fly line, the gasoline your fishing addiction guzzles and anything else fishing related.
Once you set a range you are willing to spend—$50-$60, $100-$200, $300-$400 or, yes, even more—you can begin to set your sights on a jacket.
Create a needs list
This includes what time of year you like to fish, the kind of water on which you spend the most time, the type of fishing you prefer (e.g., fly, offshore, wading, baitcasting).
All of these types of needs must be met by the design, durability, waterproof abilities and amenities of the jackets that fall into your price range.
Winnow your choices down to a couple or three jackets. Try them on in an outdoors store rather than buying blindly online. How do they feel? Do they give you room to move, as in cast, row, turn and even walk around obstacles with rod or staff in hand?
Reach into the pockets. Are they conveniently located?
Once you establish the jacket’s overall ability to meet your standards, then go online. Read reviews; watch YouTube water-hose tests; browse the brand offerings. Then, after physically testing the jacket for size and feel, feel free to find the best online deal for that particular jacket.
To create some shortcuts, talk to your angling buddies. Ask them if they like their chosen fishing jackets? Find out the best and worst of their jackets straight from their own mouths.
Even if you find a shortcut to decision-making, it still makes sense to know what goes into a jacket that fills your requirements and desires. Examine its construction, facet by facet, to understand what it will and won’t offer.
You will find some products claiming to be waterproof that aren’t exactly so when it comes to their entire composition. In terms of fishing or wading jackets, all nooks and crannies must be sealed from water, if not simply because of how much you are exposing every square inch of fabric.
After all, you are raising your under arms to rain or splashes when you cast; you are tugging on the back tail of the jacket when lunging forward to row; and you are brushing against rain-soaked vegetation if trying to wend your way to the next best drift on a stream.
Waterproof integrity starts with the shell’s fabric, which can be confusing when so many trademarks are assigned to materials found on your favorite brands of jackets.
Of course, Gore-Tex is a household name to even those that don’t fish or hike. It passes the waterproof lie detector test with flying colors; it’s 100 percent waterproof while allowing body moisture to escape.
Simms is one outdoor product manufacturer specifically licensed to use Gore-Tex in fishing apparel. Enter the confusing names for similar materials in other brands that emulate Gore-Tex. Some mimic it quite well and sometimes at a lower price than its Gore-Tex bound competitor, but sometimes not. For instance, Patagonia touts H2NO.
You will read or see a lot about breathable yet “microwelded” or “micro-porous” membranes and multiple membranes. We’re talking microscopic pores in these materials that are just big enough to allow moisture molecules to escape from inside. These are commonly laminates applied to the outer fabric before the jacket’s shape is even cut.
Some brands, such as Stormr, even coat these laminates for added protection from moisture. Overkill? Maybe. But, most anglers are addicted to confidence.
When you see initials such as PTFE or DWR, the product refers to these laminates and coating, respectively. Note that coatings can attract tiny debris and oils, for they are not waterproof, but only meant to reduce condensation in pursuit of breathability.
You can eventually see it creating a filmy, sullied area on a jacket. Therefore, you must clean such jackets with light cleaners, lest your outer jacket and its breathability be compromised.
Of course, all jackets contain seams. These must instill confidence in an angler as well. Look for seams completely sealed. The smaller the pores or gaps in the tiny stitches, the more waterproof the seam in general.
So what is just the right number of pockets? The number that keeps your line in the water as much as possible without heading back to the river bank or the cabin of the boat.
Fly fishers like more than just two or three pockets. They like retractor stations for such items as hemostats or clippers. D-Rings often serve this purpose. However, they may carry more than one fly box into the stream. Two sizable chest pockets serve this purpose well.
Auxiliary pockets attached to the chest pockets amply store leaders, tippets, float enhancers and even lead ribbon when needed. Chewing gum? Why not?
Next, most anglers today can’t leave civilization totally behind, nor can many mountaineers. An interior waterproof pocket is therefore de rigueur in today’s jackets.
If you are near your tackle box constantly or carry a chest pack or belly bag, then pocket numbers become moot. However, if you can’t resist the fishing bug during winter, you at least want to dip into some hand-warming pockets, no matter how nearby your tackle lies.
Again, pay attention to sealing around pocket seams and coatings.
Not much to stress here, except for the size of zippers on the jacket and their ease of grip. Many manufacturers skimp on this aspect of their fishing jackets, much to the chagrin of anglers in a hurry to unzip or zip while changing a fly only to find the chill of the morning is impeding their grip on a dainty zipper.
Small zippers usually prove less durable than larger ones as well. They are easier to break after countless zipping.
The bigger and wider, the better when it comes to jacket zippers.
Nothing is more disturbing than feeling the wind blow your hood up against the back of your head every three seconds when it isn’t raining and you are concentrating on your fly’s or lure’s presentation. One hand off the rod while pushing your hood back down can cost you a hook set on a nice hit.
If for this annoyance alone, look for a hood that rolls up or tucks away under warm or sunny skies.
Make sure your hood covers the optimal amount of your face without covering your eyes and that it is adjustable to minimize water entry around its perimeter. A high collar with a good insulating lining helps keep your chin warm and dry.
Make sure the sleeves include a strap that tightens enough to keep water from filling your arms should you have to stop a full face plant into the current with your hands. Velcro is often used to secure the cuff strap. Straps and cuffs of neoprene work well when tightened down sufficiently. Water-resistant sleeves also accommodate the anglers releasing their catch without lifting the fish out of the water.
And you thought it was just fishing rain gear
In all, your fishing or wading jacket should be customized to your fishing preferences: what kind of fish you seek, how you fish for them and where. Some anglers require a lot of amenities in a jacket while others mainly want to stay dry and warm with no need for many bells or whistles. The market is flush with variety in this regard. You need not fret about finding the one just right for you and your pocketbook.
FAQs – All Your Questions about Waterproof Fishing and Wading Jackets answered
Should I just stick with the brands legendary for working in the rain and chill? The tried and true ones like Helly Hansen and Grudens?
Remember that fishing requires particular features in a jacket for convenience sake, warmth on or in the water and mobility of the arms. If your type of fishing proves less active than the average angler, a straight-up stalwart with few amenities might work. But, if you wade a lot or even mix some wading with boating, you need the mobility that an angler-tailored jacket design offers. Simms, Frogg Toggs, Patagonia, Stormr, LL Bean and Orvis, among others, incorporate fit with water resilience and convenience (i.e., storage via pockets and D-rings).
Does the length of my waterproof fishing jacket matter?
Depending on how you fish most often, length can be an issue. However, a jacket tailored to hold around the waist securely negates any worries about the rear of a jacket riding up on your back, especially if rowing. Some of the top brands account for exposure on the back side in these instances by designing jackets with just the right taper and snugness, all without impeding your freedom of movement.
Do I really need a hood when I have a solid rain hat I have used forever?
An integrated hood on a fishing jacket, first and foremost, eliminates any chances of forgetting your headwear back at home. If lined, an adjustable hood can also provide protection from the chill that many brimmed rain hats cannot. The best hoods are the rollup or tuck-away kind because they are less distracting than a hood flapping in the wind.
Can I ever have too many pockets on my wading jacket?
Actually, yes, you can have too many pockets. For one, if your jacket sports two dozen or so pockets, like the Frogg Toggs Cascade, the chance of zipper failures rises a bit. You must also fish around—pun intended—for the item of pursuit, unless you wear your jacket so much you can consistently keep the same items in the same pockets and memorize all of them.
Why is buoyancy important in a fishing jacket?
If you never drop your jacket in the water or never fall into the water, the jacket’s buoyancy is moot. If you are as wise about safety and saving money as you are about fish, you will try to find a jacket with at least a few pounds of buoyancy. In case it should fall into the drink you can retrieve the $400 gem and in case your waders can’t recover from a fall, you can use all the buoyancy you can muster in order to keep from being slammed and caromed from rock to rock in a swift current.
What Does DWR stand for?
Durable Water Repellency refers to a final defense against water in the form of a coating over the face of a jacket.
As technology in waterproofing evolves, some brands that may seem unfamiliar can pop up in the best-jacket conversation. Don’t limit yourself to only a few brands unless you have tried so many brands that you are just fine and dandy with your favorite each time you buy a new one.
The science of materials keeps advancing. Don’t pass up a new innovation that can add any ounce of enjoyment, comfort and safety to your fishing.