I’m following tracks along the Snake River. Too small for coyote. Too clawed for rabbit. Otter maybe. Looking for fish just like I am. I’m on snowshoes so I stay farther from the icy edge than the critter, but we’re heading the same way. Upstream. I lean into the biting northern wind and pursue. Winter plowed into eastern Idaho a few days ago. When snow isn’t falling, the temperature is. Twenty below zero one day. I lasted 20 minutes on snowshoes that day. It’s 16 now. I’ll last an hour if the new coat I’m wearing is warm enough.
My old winter coat is for snowmobiling. I’ve spent countless hours in it for video shoots, but I’ve never fished in it. It’s for warmth not comfort. The zippers in the armpit screw with my fly cast and the bulk of the material screws with my wade walk. I dump it for a fleece layered with a rubber raincoat when I fish in the winter. It’s not ideal, but it works.
Then a Simms DOWNstream jacket arrives described as better because it’s light and warm with all the function a fisher needs. We’ll see about that. I’m testing DOWNstream’s freeze function by heading upstream. Yellowstone is upstream. That’s north of me and the wind working its way down from there is brutal on the facial skin exposed between beanie and buff. No time to waste. Freeze is my last test method. I already performed flood and fold.
I tested DOWNstream’s flood control in San Francisco over Thanksgiving. I rode top shelf on an open-air, double-decker bus in a rainstorm. There was so much moisture sloshing around on the upper deck, a.k.a. bathtub with 20 seats, that when the tour bus stopped on the precariously steep Lombard Street, I was up to my shins in water, not-so-waterproof mascara running down my face, but my core was dry. The DOWNstream jacket is water-repellent. Test one complete.
When the Bay’s rain stopped, I wadded up the coat and shoved it in my backpack. The pack was full of water bottles, snacks, maps, money and the pile of napkins I used to clean the black off my face. There’s no way a puffy, winter coat would fit, but it did. I have to ship my snowmobile coat ahead of shoots with my camera equipment because it doesn’t fit in my luggage, but DOWNstream fits in my small carry-on pack. Test two complete.
I’m wrapping up test three over Christmas break. Fighting cold without bulk. I notice my casting arm moves freely in the Primaloft as I move upstream. I’m not shivering either, but I don’t want ice forming on my eyelashes so I turn my back to the breeze. The jacket insulates my core, but doesn’t overdo it so I don’t start sweating. I’m comfortable and I’m not walking like a weighted-down robot. I’m ditching my old snowmobile coat as soon as I get home.
Women will appreciate knowing that the Women's DOWNstream fits the frame of a small female. It’s not a men’s small shrunk to fit women. There’s no bulk in the armpits and it doesn’t wear heavy. And it dries quickly after a flood.
Internal cuff with thumb slits to keep wrists and knuckles warm when hands are ungloved to change flies would have helped the DOWNstream check all its boxes.
Warm, lightweight and lacking bulk aren't qualities that are easily combined in the same jacket, yet the Simms DOWNstream manages to make it happen, keeping all its promises along the way.