Written by:Kip Vieth, Wildwood Float Trips
It’s that time of year, and you have probably read or seen a hundred articles offering gift ideas for the person who has everything. Well, here comes another one, but with a different slant. It’s based on my experience as a guide. Each year I have clients show up for a trip without what I and most guides would see as basic equipment. I’m not talking about rods and reels, but things that are often overlooked and are crucial for an angler’s success and well being.
I was on a recent saltwater trip when one of the guests of the lodge asked me to name the one thing that I have seen a vast improvement in during my time as being a guide. It was one of the better questions that I have been asked in a while, so I thought about it and said, “protection from the elements.” Yes, there have been outstanding improvements in fly-rod design and other equipment over the last twenty years. But think about where we have come from when it comes to sun, heat, and cold.
Here are my 5 items that are essential to having a great day on the water but are often overlooked by anglers.
If you can’t see the fish, it’s harder to catch them. Sunglasses–and I mean good, polarized sunglasses–can be as important to success as a good fly-rod set up. Not only do sunglasses protect your eyes from the harmful effects of the sun, but they also offer protection from a stray fly. I insist that everyone in my boat wear some type of glasses. You say you already have a quality pair of sunglasses, but what about a pair for low-light conditions or cloudy days? I know I’m a bit over the top on this subject, but I have about seven pairs of glasses in my boat bag for every type of light. They can often be a game changer.
2. Sun Protection
I’m not talking sunscreen here. Today’s clothing designed to protect us from the suns effects is outstanding: comfortable, attractive, and effective. The number one complaint I used to get is that those long sleeves and long pants were hot. That is not the case at all anymore. The wicking technology and protection of new fabrics offer is amazing. Keeping the sun off you on a 90-degree day not only protects you from sunburn, but it keeps you cooler than that old concert T-Shirt you got back in high school.
3. Protection from Rain/Water
Rain gear and waders just keep getting better and better. Nothing is worse than being uncomfortable while fishing. The introduction of breathable fabrics into waders and rain gear might be the biggest improvement in the industry in the last couple of decades. Not only has it made things lighter and more comfortable, but it’s made the sport more enjoyable for almost all anglers. I had a client ask me what is the one thing they should do if they were to introduce their kids or spouse to the sport. I told them to buy quality outerwear. If a person is wet, cold, and miserable miserable, it won’t matter how good the fishing is. Keep them warm/cool and dry, and everyone will be better for it.
The real improvement in the last few years has been the availability of women’s and children’s offering in outerwear. Gone are the days of buying men’s sizes and hoping that they fit well enough. Manufacturers have come around finally to the fact that women and kids need to have functional goods to. Don’t skimp. Buy the best you can afford, and it will pay off in the end.
4. Real Warmth
Drirelease, Thinsulate, Primaloft, Gore Tex, Windstopper, Polar Fleece, and old fashion wool. These are some of the new and old standbys that are available to today’s anglers, so there really is no excuse to be cold anymore. These new warmth technologies offer protection from cold without the bulk of older technologies. Once again, the leaps and bounds that these new materials have provided are nothing short of amazing. Just think of the improvements that have been made in the last 20 years and what might happen in the next 20. These improvements will give all of us more and longer opportunities to enjoy our time in the great outdoors.
Sometimes the truth hurts, but most anglers could take the advice of the greatest manager in baseball Joe Maddon: “Try to suck less.” It might be a casting lesson, a fly-tying lesson, rowing lesson, or a guided trip. The one thing you will never hear a guide say is, “You cast too well.” Even the most experienced angler can always learn something new. This sport can be very humbling at times, and it is always a good idea to try to increase your knowledge and experience. This category could have easily been number 1. All of us have room for improvement … even the guy writing the article.
If you are looking for that special gift for an angler and looking for something a bit different, you now have some ideas of where to begin. Hopefully this list will help and get you to look at options that are just as important as a rod and reel.
Kip Vieth operates Wildwood Float Trips, based in Montecello, Minnesota. He floats the Upper Mississippi, St.Croix, Rum, Kettle, and St. Louis Rivers, chasing everything that swims.