I’m not a guy who easily gets chilled, and I surprise friends by wearing short-sleeve shirts all winter long. But, when I do get chilled, I get really chilled and the only thing that brings me out of the shivers is a long, hot shower. Showers aren’t readily available on Pacific Northwest steelhead streams, nor the Rocky Mountain trout streams I frequent, so when the big chill sets in on the water, I’m basically screwed.
For that reason I try not to get cold in the first place. In fact, if I’m heading out in the cold to fish, I always wader-up and then run the heater in my truck at full blast until I’m just on the verge of breaking a sweat. And I always wear a quality jacket to keep my torso warm. And the warmest of the lot is Simms’ Downstream Jacket, which is like wearing a Everest-quality sleeping bag, minus the bulk and weight. The first time I set eyes on it, in 2016, I knew I had to have one. And now I’ve worn it maybe a hundred days and I can easily tell you why you want this jacket and also why this jacket might not be the perfect choice for you.
Here’s the skinny: The Downstream is a combination of Prima Loft synthetic insulation and 750-fill water-repellent down. The outer layer is not a true rain shell, but it is “waterproof” and deflects the wind. So you can’t call this jacket your all-purpose solution to steelhead weather because you’ll need a rainshell, too. That’s the only reason this jacket might not be right for you.
When I fished Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula for steelhead last month, with Trevor Covich of OPSD, I was glad I hadn’t deemed this jacket the all-purpose solution. That’s because it rained more than an inch on Covich and I that day and, eventually, the rain penetrated our high-end rain jackets. By the end of the day we were wet and shivering. However, if I’d warn the soft-shell Downstream Jacket, I would have been wet way earlier in day. So, again, this is not the solution against rain. But it is a great choice to wear under a rainshell, albeit a little bulky.
The Downstream Jacket is an awesome choice for those December, January, February and early March days on Washington’s Skagit River (if/when it’s open), Hoh River, Queets River, and anywhere else steelhead swim; when the sun shines, but the temperature is in the 20s and 30s, with snowcapped mountains resting overhead, believe me, the Downstream will keep your body warm.
When you first put this jacket on you’ll probably notice how comfortable it is. You’ll also note that the cuffs feel a little different. That’s because they’re next level, with an elastic band that snugs to the wrist, keeping the elements off your arm. The rest of the sleeve extends beyond the elastic to keep your wrists and, partially, the tops of your hands warm.
While this jacket is too bulky to pack into its own pocket, it is super lightweight at 26.4 ounces and doubles nicely as a hunting jacket. It can stuff down in a pack quite easily. It’s also the jacket you’ll probably choose when cooking meals, on the tailgate or on a table in steelhead camp. Just last weekend my daughter, who’s 12, wore it while in her 25-degree rated sleeping bag, and was comfortable all night long. Put this thing on and the odds are you’ll stay warm.
Again, this isn’t the jacket to wear in an all-out deluge, but it is the answer on cold days, on the coast or inland, when you’re swinging for steel and the chill is trying to take over your bones. You should note that this jacket does not have the short wading cut. Instead, it’s a little longer, which means it extends down and rests on the hips. Again, this significantly increases your ability to stay warm. This also means you’ll wear it inside of your waders or you’ll be soaking wet, which kind of defeats the purpose, right?
Here’s the hard part. The Downstream retails for $349.95. The equivalent of a major Costco run or a big night at the Flying Beaver or Kito’s Cave. If you’re going to fork out for the Downstream you’ve got to look at it as a longterm investment. This jacket is quality and you’ll likely wear it for 10 years or more.So, the question to ask is this: is being warm on steelhead water and when you’re camping and hunting, worth $34 a year? Available in men’s and women’s.
Want to book a trip with Trevor Covich on the Olympic Peninsula—contact him here firstname.lastname@example.org Covich can get you on steelhead on any number of coastal streams including the Sol Duc, Queets, Hoh, and Bogachiel. Prime time is here for winter steel, with slabs arriving on each new tide.