A fisherwomen's checklist - Part one:

Being equipped properly on the water is not just a matter of comfort.  It is a matter of safety.  All anglers will find themselves in a risky scenario at some point and that is when you need to be confident that you can trust your gear with your life. 

Let’s review the basics: Polarized sunglasses, stocking foot waders, wading boots, base layers, hat and hip pack

Polarized Sunglasses:
Whether you are whipping fly line around or dislodging a snag, you want your eyeballs to be protected from flying hooks and sinkers.  Shades are essential.  The functionality of the polarized lenses will become apparent as you learn to look through the water versus at the water.  Not only will you be able to spot your target fish in some instances but the ability to see through the water will also give you a boost of confidence as you begin crossing rivers.
Polarized shades are pretty easy to find.  Just be sure they fit your melon well because you’ll sweat and be moving around so unless they are snug on your face, they’ll fall right off and be long gone before you realize they’re missing.

Stocking-foot Waders:
Good quality womens waders are difficult to find.  Cabelas make some that fit well and would suit a beginner just fine.  When purchasing waders, keep in mind that you need enough room to layer underneath for those cold, early spring mornings but don’t want to be swimming in them when you’re rocking the minimum base layers on warm, late spring days.  You need to move freely and comfortably in your waders.  Too much constriction and you’ll blow out the rear when bending over to land your fish. Too much bunching or bagginess will make you feel like an orca in a kiddy pool.  The best way to figure out what size works best for you is by trying them on.  Acknowledging that not all of us are  within reasonable driving distance to retailer’s physical locations, Cabelas, Simms, Gander Mountain, etc. all provide measurements on their websites to help you decide what size to purchase if you are shopping online.
Over time if you discover your waders aren’t holding up to your active angling, my recommendation is to look into purchasing Simms womens waders.  Simms make very high-quality, well-constructed waders for women.  For those of us above or below the “average” height standard, Simms offers both “tall” and “short” sizing.  As a tall woman who spends substantial time in waders, having that extra length goes a long way in terms of comfort and overall function. 

Your wading belt needs to be snug and secure.  In the event you get washed downstream, the purpose of that belt is to keep your waders from filling with water causing you to sink to the bottom of the river. It’s much harder for water to get below a properly secured wading belt, allowing you more time to get out of the dangerous situation. You may smell like a wet puppy once you’re back on shore but you’ll be a live wet puppy.
Wading Boots:
You have two basic options when it comes to wading boots: Rubber or felt-soled.  Some states have banned felt-soled wading boots in an effort to stop the spread of invasive species from watershed to watershed.  Minnesota currently does not have any restrictions so you still have a choice between the two.  Rubber-soled boots have made massive strides over the last decade so the pros and cons pretty well match its felt counterpart according to most people, especially when used with studs for additional traction.  My personal experience has been exclusively with felt-soled wading boots.  Despite different brands, my felt-soled boots have always provided adequate traction and stability on various terrain.  Even if I’m crossing a mucky stream where it’s impossible to see the bottom, I’m confident my boots will perform and help get me to the other side safely.  There are several brands of wading boots (both rubber and felt-soled) to choose from.  My recommendations again are Cabelas womens wading boots or Simms womens wading boots.  Both brands make felt and rubber-soled options and both make wading boots that can handle the rugged hiking that’s required to get to some of our favorite North Shore honey holes! 
Base Layers & Wading Socks:
To stay dry and comfortable on the water you want a fitted, moisture-wicking base layer.  Steelheading on the North Shore in spring can mean you’ll start out fishing in morning temps at or below freezing and by lunchtime you’re basking in 60 degree sun.  Embrace the layering!  If the forecast calls for some chilly weather, I’ll usually throw on a Henley and fleece zip up or hoody over my base layer.  Finally I’ll top off with a light jacket.  It takes some experimenting to figure out what layers work best for you but the key components you must have are your base layer top and bottom and wading socks to keep any sweat away from your skin.  Cabelas, Gander Mountain and Under Armor are my recommendations for finding layering pieces.  **Just because waders have to be boring earthy tones doesn’t mean you can’t rock bright pink thermals underneath.  Embrace your cheetah print loving self in your layers girl!

Worn in addition to your polarized shades, a hat will provide more sun protection as well as reduce glare helping you see through the water even better.  My recommendation: A Minnesota Steelheader hat of course!  Not only are Minnesota Steelheader hats a good luck charm, the proceeds fund steelhead genetics research!

 Hip Packs:
Aside from shore casting, the fishing techniques we utilize for steelheading don’t require us to carry much.  Most things found in a steelheader’s bag of goodies: Scissors, pliers, small tackle box with hooks and sinkers, flies, pocket knife, spawn, file, fishing license (with trout stamp) and perhaps a few more items depending on the individual.  Hip bags and packs come in all shapes and sizes and can be found at any sporting goods store and online.  For a beginner, think simple.  You want a pack that is big enough to hold your supplies but not so big that all of your stuff rolls around leaving you reaching into a dark dungeon of chaos every time you need something.  Your selection should be comfortable to wear and easy to keep organized.

 Rods, reels and other major equipment will be covered in the days to come.  For any new angler, there is a lot of information to absorb and digest so we’ll pace ourselves a little bit.
If you have any questions, need help or have comments, feel free to post to our facebook page: or send me an email at

Tight Lines and Safe Travels,



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