Sometimes a product purchase leaves you smitten. Eddie Bauer’s First Ascent Cloud Layer Fleece is one of those products. Billed as ‘the lightest, softest alternative to a sweater you’ll find’ by Eddie Bauer’s First Ascent product designers, this is one cold weather garment that should be in every fly fisherman’s closet.
Eddie Bauer, the company, has been outfitting sportsmen since 1920. The company has had an interesting past, building everything from tennis rackets to military gear to professional expedition clothing and equipment. Eddie Bauer, the legend, drove the business for years and was known as an avid sportsman and outdoorsman. The company’s First Ascent line has a host of world-class mountain guides behind it, and the Cloud Layer Fleece certainly shows it.
The Cloud Layer Fleece is 5.89 ounces of microfleece, brushed on both sides. The fleece is supersoft, breathable, quick-drying, and anti-pilling. Most of all, it is simple, with a welded chest pocket that’s handy for small items such as lip balm or car keys. There are several versions: a 1/4 zip pullover, full zip jacket, and full zip vest. I have purchased and used both the 1/4 zip pullover and the full zip vest. Both products have proven exceptionally warm, light, comfortable, and rugged. I’ve worn these products on chilly fall mornings fishing for smallmouth or spawning browns and in the late fall and early winter fishing for steelhead, and they have always come through for me.
Microfleece is just one of several fleece weights that are available on the market. This very light-weight fleece is best used as the first insulating layer next to a good wicking baselayer, such as merino wool. The baselayer serves to wick moisture away from the skin, keeping it dry, while the insulating layer retains body warmth, yet breathes, allowing this moisture to escape. Higher weight insulating layers are added as necessary, and removed as conditions warm.
The 1/4 zip pullover is ideal for fly fishing in cold weather. Use it atop a good baselayer and fish a cool fall afternoon in total comfort. If temperatures rise, or wading and hiking cause overheating, the 1/4 zip is perfect for ‘dumping’ heat. The sleeves are very pliant and easily rolled back as well. There are up to 9 colors offered, from mute tones that won’t scare the fish to bright and rich colors that look great on the ski slopes or in the lodge.
The Cloud Layer Fleece serves dual roles. Wear it as a first insulating layer in comfort and be confident in being able to fly fish while keeping warm. At the end of the day, wear it over a T-shirt and feel right at home relaxing by the fire. The Cloud Layer Fleece makes a great companion on and off the stream.