Henry Gilbey
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What do you wear under your waders? Nearly eight years now with the same “first layer to go on” clothing and I still can’t find anything better

I’m going to be honest here - perhaps one time a year at the very most and when I am in the swing of fishing a lot because of the seasons and conditions, I ease myself into that first (tight) layer I always put on under my waders and for a split second I think yes, I actually am a high performance athlete. Then I catch a glimpse of myself in said tight clothing and I come crashing back to reality and realise that no, a walnut type of figure in tight compression gear does not qualify for athlete status! There have also been a fair few occasions when we have finished a long day of fishing over on the south coast of Ireland and my mate and I who tend to wear the same sort of gear under our waders are now sitting in a takeaway in Dungarvan, waiting for our food. We have taken our waders off and we’re sitting there in a pair of shorts with tight leggings on underneath, and to top it all off we are also wearing the classic combination that is Crocs and socks. To say we have had a lot of strange and sometimes sympathetic looks is an understatement…….

If you are remotely concerned with how you look when you get ready to go fishing then I urge you to stop reading right now, for this is categorically not a blog post about fishing fashion wear. But if you’re wearing clothes under your waders that for some reason drive you mad with how wet they get with sweat or how they just don’t perform properly for you in different temperatures, then do please read on. I have been wearing the same kind of “first layer to go on” clothing under my waders for nearly eight years now, and try as I sometimes have done, I can’t find anything I like more. Note that there are no photos with this blog post firstly because I don’t take photos of mates in tights, and secondly because I refuse to put up screenshots from the internet of models wearing this gear either!

I have been wearing lightweight breathable chest waders for my fishing and work for longer than anybody I know or am aware of, and this is only because I started working with a fly fishing mate many moons ago and what he was wearing for a lot of his own fishing very quickly made a huge amount of sense for my own fishing and photography. I very quickly worked out that wearing jeans or tracksuit bottoms or clothing like that under my waders was a waste of time - it might work for you, but I am not small, I walk a lot, I walk fast, and I sweat. I have worked with companies in the past who were being driven loopy with wader returns that were often turning out to be nothing more than anglers wearing the wrong kind of clothing under their “breathable” waders and then sweating a lot. Something like a pair of jeans of course holds onto that moisture for ages and these anglers then complained that their waders were leaking - when they weren’t.

So I had to find something to wear under my waders that definitely wasn’t cotton based and also wasn’t going to annoy me when my bass fishing might revolve around a lot of walking and scrambling and so on. I can’t for the life of me remember why or how I ended up looking into the sort of tight compression style clothing that a lot of athletes and so on might wear, but for whatever reason I ended up getting some tight leggings and compression-type tops that happened to be made by Under Armour - and I haven’t looked back since. Please note also that this nearly eight year period of time with this gear does include me occasionally trying something else but always coming back to my Under Armour gear which is just so much better for me to wear under my waders. This tight kind of technical clothing works so well for me that unless something utterly magical comes along I can’t see myself finding anything better.

My Under Armour “first layer to go on” under wader clothing is based around their very thin “Heat Gear” (for warmer weather), and their utterly amazing “Cold Gear” which as the name suggests is for colder weather or night fishing etc. To be fair you can most likely find similar compression style leggings out there to the Under Armour Cold Gear ones that are also nice and thin and easy to wear in warmer conditions especially, but because I wore Under Armour from the off and they work so well for me I haven’t gone looking for any other brand. I reckon my first two pairs of Under Armour Cold Gear compression leggings lasted about five years before they literally wore through, so I bought a couple more pairs which after nearly three years now look almost as good as new. I have the two pairs because I swap them around when they need to be washed, and yes, I know this kind of gear is designed for running especially and perhaps because I am not doing that they are lasting so long - but it’s hugely impressive in my eyes, and I wear them a hell of a lot in regular to warmer weather. I do also have a couple of Under Armour Cold Gear compression style long sleeve tops, but I don’t wear them that much as I tend to prefer one of those specialist long sleeve tropical style fishing tops from the likes of Columbia when it’s normal to warm, and then layer up on top of that if needs be.

It’s the Under Armour Cold Gear that to me is most impressive. For sure I can’t do without their Cold Gear stuff, but when it gets a bit colder or I am out night fishing and so on, I have two pairs of Under Armour Cold gear compression style leggings that I have had for nearly eight years now, plus a couple of Under Armour Cold Gear compression style long sleeve tops. These items of clothing are utterly brilliant - plenty warm enough for nearly all the colder weather or night lure fishing I might do, so comfortable and easy to move around in, and they don’t feel at all like you’re wearing a heavier pair of thermals. I wear the Cold Gear tops a lot more than I’d wear the Heat Gear ones, and then I simply add various layers on top if needs be. I don’t mean to be remotely personal here, but the trick with all these leggings is to go commando underneath. A friend of mine started off with this kind of gear and got some awful chafing! We spoke about it - and no, I categorically did not want to take a look - and I advised him to go commando. All was just fine after that. Sorry, I don’t want to put horrible mental images into your head!

I think back to those bait days of wearing heavy cotton thermals that would spend half the time falling down my legs and bugging the hell out of me, and I look at how easy and efficient this compression style gear is to wear. I know it was never designed for us anglers to wear under waders, but if you ask me it’s bloody perfect - I don’t know how this gear is so good at getting rid of a lot of sweat when wearing waders, but they do a really good job. For a comparison, I kept hearing that the lightest weight pair of Patagonia under wader leggings were really good in warm weather especially, so I took the £40 or so punt and bought a pair a few years ago - I wore them twice I think it was and they were consigned to my cupboard and are most likely still in there somewhere. The same with some lighter weight Simms under wader leggings I took a punt on. Both pairs of leggings were rubbish compared to how good the equivalent Under Armour leggings are for wearing under my waders - soaked with sweat after a good long walk and therefore really uncomfortable to wear.

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When it gets really cold say for some of the November and December night sessions when you get back to your car and there’s already bit of frost, well then I turn to a Scierra Thermo Body Suit (Ebay link) which is absolutely brilliant. For my winter cod fishing in my bait days I used to wear the previous generation of this ¾ style (no arms, straps over your shoulder) fleece “body suit” thing when waders were called for, indeed I wore the thing that much that I went through the knees in the end. This Scierra Thermo Body Suit is so comfortable and easy to wear, and again, for my top half I layer up accordingly. I haven’t yet fished a winter night session where my legs felt remotely cold underneath a pair of waders when wearing it. And yes, you tough northerners would most likely be night fishing in a pair of shorts when us soft southerners are thinking about turning to something like this Scierra Thermo Body Suit.

I can’t give you the exact temperatures or weather conditions when I swap between the Under Armour Heat Gear or Cold Gear, and that’s mainly because I have been wearing the stuff for so long now that I just gauge what I think I am going to need and go from there. It’s all so light and easy to wear that even if you feel like you might have got it a bit wrong, it matters not. This modern compression style technical clothing just works so well for me in so many different fishing situations here in the UK and then over in Ireland, and many years ago I got over the fact that I look like a pickled walnut under my waders or a complete tit when I am wearing a pair of shorts over some leggings and wandering around in my obligatory Crocs and socks. The gear just works. Hell, imagine if I was able to write the same kind of blog post about a pair of breathable waders lasting for the same amount of time! Please note that there are no links on where to buy this Under Armour stuff because I think you’re best off going direct to the Under Armour UK website if you wanted to get anything.

And yes, I am officially getting very, very excited about the rugby and how we really do seem to be back at the top table. Le Crunch was effectively all over by half-time and now I can’t wait until we head to Cardiff in a couple of weeks for what promises to be one hell of a game. Do Wales stand a chance against us, or are we in danger of getting overconfident? Bring it on!